Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In and around Urikaruus - part 5

Well having given you some bugs (spiders!) and birds in my previous post, we'll move to the bigger beasts again for a while! As I had said we were told that there had been a kill just 8km from our camp. There were apparently four lions (Panthera leo) that had taken down a blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and were busy eating it near the road. Now I must warn you, some of the images I will post here you may find a little upsetting or disturbing. It is not my intent to do either, but to simply illustrate what we saw and how nature operates in these wilderness areas. If this concerns you, please skip this post and come back tomorrow when I've posted the next installment!

So we headed off in the direction towards Mata Mata hoping that the lions would still be there and we'd be able to see them nice and close. We had seen lion a few days earlier, but they were so far away and lying still in the shade, so we could not get a decent view, never mind a picture, of them.

Well, just as described about 8km up the road we came across the lions and their prize!
This picture is of the younger female (in the foreground), and the two young males behind her. There were fours lions in total. Two older females and two young males. The three in the image above were lying right on the side of the road. The sandbank you can see in the foreground of the picture is the edge of the road!

The older of the two females was still nibbling at the carcass of the wildebeest. From this picture and the one following it you can see that the lions had eaten the rump and stomach areas of the wildebeest.

But what I found facinating were the butterflies that hovered around the kill area. Clearly in a world where moisture is at a premium these delicate creatures find something of value in the fluids distributed after a kill like this. Did you notice them in the images above? Take another look, click on the image to get a larger view.

After this lioness had eaten a little more she nochalantly picked up the carcass in her moth and dragged it into the shade of the nearby thorn tree. Now an adult wildebeest, which this clearly was, can weigh anything up to 274kg and the maximum weight a female lion is likely to reach is only 182kg. Ok, sure they had eaten a significant amount of meat off the carcass, but chances are that what remained was as heavy if not heavier than the lioness.

Here she is clearly enjoying another nibble after the exertion of moving the carcass.
What followed next was also, for me, an interesting interaction. Firstly, the lions, all four of them, seemed totally unperturbed and uninterested in the four or five vehicles that had gathered around their lunch table, despite the close proximity. Plus the camera lenses sticking in their faces and clicking sounds of photos been taken and the hum of voices from the various ocupants in the vehicles, all seemed to be of absolutely no interest to the lions at all. But I digress! The lioness that was at the carcass had gotten up and one of the young males had started to move towards her and the wildebeest. 

As he moved past the lioness that had been lying in the shade beside the road with him, he lent down and rubbed his face against hers as she lay there, totally unmoved.   He then moved towards the other lioness near the carcass, her reaction was completely different! She pulled back her ears and snarled at him!
 He simply responded by turning around again and going to lie back down where he had been before!
Just as a matter of interest, for those of you that are a little technical, the shot above of the snarling lioness was taken with 160mm focal length and has not been cropped at ALL. In fact the only shots cropped in this post are the one of the butterflies and the portrait of the male cub. That's how close we were to the action!

all the best


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