Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ever have lions, hyenas and leopards with your cornflakes?

I woke up at 4am today to the sound of multiple lions roaring. Lions roaring at night is pretty common, but these sounded as if they close enough to be looking in my window. The roaring continued off and on for about 30 minutes, then a chorus of hyenas whooping broke out and was quickly answered by more lions roaring. The never-ending battle between lions and hyenas was on in full force this morning!

Lesingo, our fearless askari (night watchman) told us the lions had killed a zebra about 200m from camp. We have two askari in camp, Steven and Lesingo, and I am amazed that these guys walk around camp at night chasing lions and elephants away carrying only a flashlight and a spear. We certainly don't want to kill any of the animals that wander into camp, so these guys keep the animals at bay without ever actually using the spear. Experience and the ability to stay calm go a long way in the bush, not that I would consider myself to have either of those compared to Steven and Lesingo.

Ben and I got in the car and headed out to investigate. We had driven about 50 meters when we saw a hyena lope across our driveway. We then drove around in the bushes and saw 5 more hyenas and 4 lions. Even the lions were running around this morning. This is unusual, because normally the only thing lions do is lay around, just like a lazy house cat. We continued circling the bushes for a few minutes and then found the whole pride.

There were 4-5 adult lioness, 3 young males and 4-5 lion cubs, 12 lions total. The 3 young males were getting pretty big, but not large enough to have their own pride yet. I suspect they will soon be kicked out of the pride by their fathers. Such is life in the Mara.

An hour later we found an even more rare occurance. For the first time since I arrived this year I saw a leopard (Sorry you missed it Leslie). It was up in a tree, just waking up from a nap. It stood up on the branch, arched its back to stretch and then quickly disappeared into the bushes. Leopards are not that uncommon in the Mara, but seeing one is uncommon and I think they are the most striking animal out here. They are very stealthy, active mostly at night and spend most of their time in bushes and trees. Don't be surprised to see a leopard in one of the future "Those things can come out of nowhere..." blog entries.

Ok, so I didn't have cornflakes today, but all of this occured before 7:05am today. How is that for a morning commute?


Leslie said...

Blast! I'm happy you guys got to see one though, that's cool. Nice shot of the arched back. No leopards here in New England but I'm up to my ears in snow and loving it.

Katy said...

I'm so glad you finally got to see a leopard! Aren't they beautiful? All my love for hyenas, leopards really are my favorite, maybe because it feels so special the rare times you get to see them.

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