Posted by Wild4 Photo Safaris on 1st May 2014
I thought I would post a short blog on an interesting sighting we had last year in the Moremi Game Reserve, on the eastern fringe of the Okavango Delta.
As usual our mornings start early on safari and we were huddled around our morning campfire to keep warm and enjoy a nice cup of coffee and a few rusks. We were interrupted by a Lion roaring very close by. We went to see if we could spot the culprit, and sure enough, there stood a male lion about 80 meters from our camp, looking in our direction and he roared again.. if you have ever experienced a Lion roaring close to you, it is an amazing experience !!
We then hastily collected our equipment and clambered aboard the vehicle in pursuit of the male who had started to walk with purpose away from us - perhaps he had heard something ?
We soon caught up to him and our guide - Pat very carefully passed the Lion so that we could be on the other side of him and take photos as he walked towards us.
We did a couple of these walk by's when Pat spotted a Leopard at the base of a tree. On the other side of the tree we could see a couple more Lions who appeared to be feeding on a kill. Closer examination of the Leopards face through the binoculars indicated that it had also been feeding and our presumption was that it had killed something and was feeding when the Lions had stormed in and stole its food (most likely having heard the commotion of the kill)
Observing the animals closely (this is where a pair of binoculars becomes very useful on a safari) is very important as once you can fit the pieces of the puzzle together, you can then predict the animals next move. This is important when you are trying to get your vehicle into the best position so that you have a clear view of the animals behaviour.
The Male Lion we had first seen, had obviously heard the commotion of the two Lions taking over the Leopards kill and that is why he had walked with a purpose, not just ambling along, he even trotted a few times whilst we followed him. This was indicative behaviour that something else was going on.
Knowing that the male was on his way, we predicted that something might happen when he arrived at the kill site. He may or may not have known the Lions that were there, so we prepared ourselves for some kind of interaction.
There was another Male Lion and one female at the kill site. The Male was dominant over the female at the kill and was refusing her access to the kill, although she looked as though she had been feeding at some stage.
The look of both the male Lions struck me as being quite unusual, they both looked as though they had been to the barber and asked for a buzz cut !!! I had never before seen such unusual manes on male lions and they clearly shared a similar gene. They were most likely brothers.
However the Male we had followed did not rush in to the kill, indicating that he was perhaps the less dominant of the two (one is usually more dominant) and he hung back at a safe distance observing.
Both the female and Male at the kill observed the new arrival closely to determine what his intentions were. When he showed submissive behaviour by lying down in the grass, the male with the kill continued to feed.
After a while the less dominant male got up and walked around the pair at the same safe distance and came across a place where the Lioness had urinated, this triggered another behaviour known as the "flehmen response" where the animal draws the scent of the urine through a small duct just behind the front teeth, into a special organ above the roof of the mouth known as the vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson's Organ. The top lips are pulled back, the nose closed and the teeth are exposed during this response. It is done to transfer air containing pheromones and other scents to this chemosensory organ to provide chemical cues which animals use in a variety of ways, such as identifying reproductive status.
The female who was on her own with the male might have already been mating with the male (they normally leave the pride during the mating phase and would explain why the female was on her own). Depending on where she is in the mating cycle, both male and female do not usually show much interest in hunting or eating. In this case however, the Leopard who was certainly unaware of the honeymoon couple's presence, made her kill which attracted the sleepy couple and their instinct was to chase their competition and steal the food.
We of course do not know that this was the scenario for sure as we did not witness it, but it is a strong possibility.
Eventually the Male we had first seen roaring near our camp, walked away from the pair and we followed him until he went to rest under a bush.
Observations and interactions like these are what make a photo safari in Africa so appealing, you never know what you might see and each day is totally different to the next !!
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If anyone is contemplating a photo trip to Africa, then we would have absolutely no hesitation in recomending Stu Porter and Wild4 Photographic Safaris. It doesn't really matter what your level of skill is you will get as much or as little help and advice as you wish to receive. Nothing is thrust down your throat and Stu doesn't spend all his time taking his own photographs as some do. Stu has taken a huge amount of time and trouble in customising and setting up his safari vehicle and the effort he's put in makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable. Tethered bean bags are provided and secure plate mounts on the side of the vehicle will also take your tripod head ensuring a rock steady platform and Stu most certainly knows where the animals are. Particularly enjoyable was the time we spent at the Big Cat Reserve (part of the 4 night extension) which is an unbelieveable photographic experience. Many thanks WILD4 !
Rob & Sue Brookes, UK
Bastian and I enjoyed the Migration photo safari very much. We realize that we have been very fortunate to see so many crossings and animals in such a short period of time. The safari was well organized, all accomondations were first class and the food certainly a nice surprise. One could not have expected such good food in the wilderness! James and Julius took good care of us and were one reason that we saw so much different and exciting wildlife. You picked a great support team for this safari! Bastian and I learned a lot of new photo techniques from you, which we will use in the future to improve our photographic results. Bastian for sure got hooked on time lapse, I'm sure he will be back in touch with you, sharing some of the work I expect he will create soon. Thanks to you and all your preparation, your guidance and support, this was a once in a life time experience. We will never forget these fantastic sights and animals and our photographs will always remind us of you and the great time we spent together. Now we have the difficult task to sort through thousands of images. One day it will be done and I hope my DVD will do justice reflecting the beauty of Masai Mara. Not an easy task but a welcomed challenge.
Bastian & Matthias Freund, USA