Still Searching

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 3:50 PM

It’s been a while since we heard news of the dead lioness within the Marsh Pride, and I’ve been trying to work out her identity. I visited the pride to find out who is still around, and I know many of you are anxious to know who still remains in the pride.

Early yesterday morning, snorting zebra and wildebeest revealed the location of the lions strolling across the plains by the Musiara Airstrip. I counted eleven lions in total – several females and a gaggle of cubs of varying ages.

The Marsh Pride
I started to identify individual lions as they crossed the Bila Shaka lugga to lay up. First I saw Bibi, one of the oldest lionesses. she has the end of her tail missing, whilst years of thickets and cat fights have left her with characteristically tattered ears. She was busy hassling a group of buffalos alongside her sons and nephews.

Bibi winds up the locals
Next to appear was Charm, with her characteristically straight nose, varying from the typical ‘M’ shape at the top of the fleshy part.

Charm led the pride towards trouble
She had led the pride to bigger game in the form of a herd of elephants, who weren’t best pleased with their new playmates. Chaos quickly ensued, with one grumpy teenager chasing the adolescent lions out of the picture. Even the buffalos joined in the chase!

marsh ele
Someone’s not welcome…
marsh ele chase
Even 11 lions are no match for an angry elephant!
The action over, it was time to find the rest of the pride. Only Bibi and Charm were accounted for. Soon I tracked down White Eye, who was resting with Romeo. There was tension between the couple, and it looked like they were about to mate. Even though White Eye is well over 12 years of age, she’s still a key breeding female in the group. The strength of the pride means that each female is supported with food and help with her litters.

white eye
White Eye is still within the core of the pride
Finally, I tracked down Clawed, with his tied, scruffy mane peeking out from behind the thickets. Resting with him was an unknown female. With only some spotting of the nose to identify her, I ruled out that it was Lispy – as an older female, her nose is almost completely black. It also wasn’t Joy – there was no cut in the left side of the nose, no heavy tail tuft, and her coat wasn’t characteristically light. Could it be Siena? Possibly although I couldn’t see her tell-tale floppy ear. I just couldn’t tell.

clawed female
Clawed’s mystery female
So it appears that the missing female is either Lispy or Joy, or possibly Siena. I’ll certainly have to do more investigating. Hopefully I can enlist the help of neighbouring camps to search out the missing lionesses.

Even if Lispy is dead, she has made a huge contribution to the Marsh Pride. Ousted on several occasions, she hung in to finally be reaccepted into the pride. As an old female, she has raised numerous healthy cubs and protected the pride from takeovers.

I’ll let you know if I find out more – the search isn’t over!


White Eye’s Fate and a Warm Welcome

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 7:32 PM

It has been a long time since the last post, and I must apologise for the long silence! I am now back in the Mara North Conservancy and resuming monitoring of the local lion population. Already I have seen some old faces, and some new ones!

There is a lot of news to be shared. Some of you may be concerned that White Eye was dead, but I believe that she was seen yesterday with Romeo around the Musiara Marsh. This is fantastic news, as she plays an essential role in the pride, and is still producing healthy cubs. We still do not know who the dead lion was, found in the Marsh, and I suspect that it was a female from the Marsh Pride. It is important now to track down Lispy and Siena – Joy and Charm I believe have been seen healthy and happy. I’ll post news if and when I hear it.

In the conservancy, the Cheli & Peacock Pride are Rver Prides are doing well, each with their new males. The three brothers, Ajani – Shambe and Samir – have been pushed across to the River Pride territory, and have been spending time on both sides of the Mara River. Last night I found Ajani and Shambe striding across the plain in the darkness – a nice surprise!

night roar
Ajani and Shambe appeared in the darkness
Just before my encounter with the two brothers, I found members of the Cheli & Peacock Pride on the ridge below the camp. Amber and Saba were resting with Akiki (one of the three brothers who now reside with the pride) and their mother, Nura. A bout of roaring soon alerted us to more pride members over the next hill, and the quartet moved off at a fast pace towards the incoming bellows.

Nura leads the rest of the group to the distant roars

There’s a lot of exploring to do to find our resident lions, so I’ll keep you posted with the developments. It’s good to be back in the Mara!