Lion Series 2: “WHEN LION HATE SUPERSEDES PROTECTION”- Grumeti 30 Sept to 4 Oct 2017

East Africa is without a doubt the lion capital of the world, if one is calculated in one approach and building on the vast CNP experience reservoir in East Africa the type of lion action, inter action and and lion stories available to photographers are astounding. Unfortunately not all of these lion stories are easy to stomach.

It is so easy when one witness’s male pride lions bullying lionesses off hard earned kills to think of them as redundant, apart from territorial duties, not so? The Grumeti Pride is arguably the largest on the African continent with numbers exceeding 60. To survive they need to break up in smaller groups that fluctuate all the time. The prides senior lioness of one such group disappeared never to be seen again. At the time of her disappearance she had two sub adults under her care. When I arrived at Grumeti both were in bad shape and the one had severe bite marks on the back. At first I did not understand what was going on with them and then it happened.

19:05:01

A lioness with very small cubs introduced the cubs to the pride. The two subadults ran over enthusiastically to great the lioness with the small cubs. The pride female immediately attacked the sub adults. By the time I arrived on the scene the pride male had already intervened and reassured the lioness that her cubs are ok while he is around. Just look at the subadults behind the male on the ground scared to death.

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F16 @1/250 sec /ISO 500  /EV -1.0

19:07:26

With the male’s back turned on the other pride lionesses they move into attack the sub adults. 

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F8 @ 1/2000 sec /ISO 800  / EV -1.0

19:07:27

The male confronts the one lioness while the sub adult’s attention is focussed on another lioness. For the moment the male’s intervention halts the lionesses attack. He leaves the scene thinking his job is done.

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F8 @ 1/2000 sec /ISO 800  /EV -1.0

19:09:37 

The lionesses immediately re-engage the one subadult and attack.

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F13 @ 1/800 sec /ISO 800  /EV -1.0

19:09:50

The lionesses attack from all sides.

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F13 @ 1/800 sec /ISO 800 / EV -1.0

19:09:53

The male once again intervenes and saves the sub adults life. Look at the aggression demonstrated by the lioness on the left as if she is saying to the pride male “stay out of this!” 

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F13 @ 1/1000sec /ISO 800  /EV -1.0

19:10:03

After breaking up the attack the male roars to confirm his dominance with both the lioness and subadult taking submissive note. 

Nikon D810 with Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 +1.4 X Converter /F8 @ 1/1000sec /ISO 800  /EV -1.0

The male’s fatherly heroics to protect his subadult cubs from the deceased pride lioness did not deter the pride lioness’s next attack. They relentlessly chased the one subadult away over a distance of kilometres. I unexpectedly found the two subadults on the last morning’s game drive, both in a terrible shape. They were doomed and were either going to die of hunger or more likely be killed by hyenas. If their mother was still alive they would have been enjoying a happy lion life, but her disappearance left them vulnerable.

Warmest photography regards.

Lou Coetzer

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