MAY 2014 - Botswana Lions
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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Dear WILD4 Team, thanks a lot for making our anniversary holiday so special. The sightings were superb and your company was very enjoyable. We cannot wait for the next trip to arrive. All the best. Graham & Caroline
Graham & Caroline, UK
If you are serious about nature photography, you can't do better than booking with Wild 4. Wild 4's itinerary provides sun-up to sundown quality photo-ops, and you feel you are traveling with good friends who are showing you their favorite spots. This was our fourth African photo safari (three others in East Africa) and we could not believe what a difference it makes, when a professional photographer, who understands light and animal behavior, just happens to be your driver, in a photo vehicle he designed himself. There was super spotting work from Ann from a separate radio equipped vehicle. We were the first on a leopard / impala kill thanks to one of Ann's incredible sightings, resulting in a sensational series of images shot over 45 minutes of the leopard dragging her prey to her den. After an exciting, productive day in the field, we were treated to friendly conversation, sitting around a campfire, and wonderful feasts magically prepared by Ann. Wild 4 is a totally professional and very special company. Thanks Stu, Justyna and Ann for a sensational safari.
Lee & Doris Wiese, USA