On our twice-daily observation drives, as you might expect, we spend a lot of time at the dens, observing hyenas. But their territories are vast, and in our time exploring them, we often come across other mammalian carnivores that are of interest to us, and we record the number and locations of these for population estimates. Some of the more common sightings include a few of the small canids: black-backed jackals, which are often seen in groups of two, as they are monogamous,
Slightly more rare is a lion sighting, usually either eating or sleeping: a lion’s two favorite activities.
|Lion at sunrise|
Rarely, we’re lucky enough to spot cheetahs, or a leopard.
|Cheetah with her cubs, Photo by: Eli Strauss|
Both are very difficult to find; there are only about 60 adult cheetahs in the Mara currently (as reported by the Mara Conservancy in their monthly update), and leopards are in similar scarcity and are solitary hunters. Catching a leopard at a kill is very exciting, because often to protect their kill, they will carry the carcass up a tree. At that point their dinner is pretty secure, because anything with the gumption to scare off a leopard, like a lion or a hyena, isn’t going to make it up the tree; and anything that can make it up the tree that may be interested, like a baboon or a vulture, isn’t going to mess with a leopard.
One of the most common carnivore sightings for us, and also one of my favorites, is the banded mongoose.
|Mongoose cuddle puddle|
One of these mornings, if I happen to be greeted by a black mamba when I step out of my tent, I hope there’s a mongoose around to save the day!