On my CNP Safaris (www.cnpsafaris.com) blog entry on our recce trip to Masai Mara in January 2015 I shared my initial concern for the well being of the Mara pride members in the the Kichwa concession area. On our first encounters the pride looked depressed with some of them seriously underfed or ill. What worried me the most was that the joy of life was totally missing from the prides behaviour. No playing , play-fighting or head rubbing or any bonding activity what so ever. The previous afternoon I just learned what a killing machine the Marsh pride can be. Before their brutal demonstration of predatory prowess I could not understand why they were laying so far apart. Some pride members including one of the males were laying together close to me with another male 50 meters from them totally on his own with a further three females scattered across the savannah laying hundreds of meters apart. It was only when the closest lions to me jumped up in unison that I understood the hunting strategy. As I looked up the one pride male had a Warthog piglet in his mouth but that was not all -so did two adult lionesses! The lions were actually setting a trap by spreading out and the moment the Warthog family that live their lives close to the ground strayed in amongst them no matter what direction the warthogs run into the lions had them covered. What really amazed me was that not on a single occasion did any lion tried to take a adult Warthog. They were simply not taking the risk of injury that would accompany a confrontation with a adult warthog.What also amazed me was that not a single cub or other pride member even tried to get a piece of the piglet action. The lions that caught the piglets were left in peace to have their meal as if the pride was under instruction to save vital energy. It was only the seriously underfed sub adult that begged the one lioness for a morsel of piglet- never to be seen again.
The previous night it rained hard but to our surprise the next morning we had good early light interspersed we overcast light . We found the Marsh pride in good spirit running and playing in the first light.
Wether it was the welcome rain that lifted their spirits or wether they had a bigger meal the previous night that we did not know about was unclear but their behaviour was now that of a happy pride of lions. The pride lionesses were focussed.
It did not take them long to hunt down some Warthog piglets but this time around not only was the piglets shared they were used to sharpen the cubs hunting prowess. On catching a piglet a lioness gave the piglet alive to her male cub who really got stuck into the piglet but struggled to kill it. As other cubs wanted to join the action the lioness aggressively chased them away. SHE caught the piglet and this was a private lesson for HER male cub. But a smaller niece of the male cub was not taking no for an answer although she has been mauled by the female. The little cub got stuck in the piglet and in process got her little left paw into the much larger male cub’s face as she was trying to take the piglet with the female giving the male cub some vocal support.
After this incident the pride now far apart just kept on strolling over the savannah with frantic photographers in pursuit. This time around I understood the hunting strategy better and I could place the vehicle
better for action and in no time more piglets were taken.
What a privilege ! I have racked my brain for many hours since then to explain to myself why the death of the piglets did not bother me nearly as much as the death of the leopard cub. All to no avail.
Yes the Masai Mara in January do not have a White-bearded wildebeest migration, in fact the only wildebeest that we saw were around fifty of them close to the Serengeti border, the weather is difficult to read and atmospheric haze can make photography difficult but the Mara is alive in January. So why not join me next year in the green season on a CNP Safaris trip to photograph the spectacle. Warm Masai greetings. Lou Coetzer