Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Close encounters of the wild kind

On Sunday we were conducting evening observations, driving down a the main road from Talek to Keekorok, when Ben casually said "lion." Not big news, since we see lions regularly. There was something different about this lion. It was about 2 meters away, at our eye level and looking like it was about to pounce on Ben (lucky for me). Maybe it did not want to eat us and simply wanted to take its first ride in a car.

At first I drove a few meters past it, because I was busy scanning for hyenas on the other side of the vehicle. I backed the vehicle up, so Ben was nearly face-to-face with the lion. I was a bit surprised when Ben rolled the window up. I whipped out my camera and took a few shots of Ben with the lion sitting in attack position and peering in the window. The shots were not turning out well because of the glare from the sun on the window, so I coaxed him into rolling the window down.

It was quite close to us

In other news, we were chased by a 1000 kilogram buffalo on Monday. The weight is actually a guess, since we did not get the buffalo on a scale, but it was pretty big. Buffalo are notorious for bad tempers and unpredictability. I have heard this many times, but had never seen a buffalo do anything except sit, stand and/or eat up to this point. Well, this one apparently was in a bad mood for some reason, or maybe he just didn't like the way we were eyeballing him.

Anyway, we were driving around looking for hyenas as we always do and the buffalo was about 100m away when he started ambling towards us. We kept driving thinking it was a mock-charge. It was not a mock charge. He picked up the pace and I could see him closing the gap between himself and mutilated versions of our car and ourselves if he managed to catch us. I looked in the side mirror of the car and it looked like he was about 50 meters away, but then I remember that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. I did not actually think that at the time, but while I was writing this it reminded me of the scene in Jurassic Park where the Tyrannosaurus is chasing the car. He approached to within about 20 meters before giving up the chase. Lucky for him Ben and I didn't have to throw down on him! (stop laughing Leslie and Katy, we are pretty tough)

This is what a cape buffalo looks like for those of you that have never seen one.

Side note: There are no water buffalo in the Mara. Almost every visitor we have had thinks these buffalo are water buffalo. I have never seen one in water.


Unknown said...

Great photos of the lion!

My students from last year will be mad to see all those birds on the buffalo...they did a project on it last summer, and of course then we couldn't find a buffalo or a zebra with a single bird on them!

Anonymous said...

Like I have always said, those Mara buffalo are Satan's Spawn

Anonymous said...

Objects in the mirror...

Leslie said...

Wow, that link just reminded me of what a great movie JP is. Now I want to watch it.

Note: I want to watch it, not experience it in the flesh (emphasis on flesh). So you tell those buffalo to knock it off before I get back.

Anonymous said...

Andy, you are right. Ben is the best dressed hyena researcher ever! Is this a passive aggressive way to indicate to the hyenas that we do not appreciate their coats of mud?

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of working in South Africa. We were looking for cheetahs I think, and one of the buffalos we saw decided that he didn't like our presence at all and proceeded to charge us, we drove off with him literally running after us and eventually managed to lose him. About an hour later we stopped to check for radio signal for the cheetahs and had not stopped more than a few minutes before the same buffalo came crashing out of the bushes towards us. Now THAT is a grudge.

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