Heritage Hotels Big Cat and Migration Updates

Big Cat Update:Maasai Mara, Kenya Tuesday 31st January 2006

by Heritage

31 January 2006

Despite the biting drought, the Maasai Mara is still teeming with game. Contrary to some reports, in fact, there have been more animals in the Mara this month than there have been in January for many years. The wildebeest are still here, with many opting to have their calves in Kenya ”“ rather than their traditional birthing grounds in the southern Serengeti. Due to the poor rainfall and grass cover, the southern Serengeti has seen very few wildebeest this month, with most herds remaining in the north or west of the reserve. In the Mara, at least, we have had some rain in the past week ”“ giving rise to lifesaving pools on the plains and in the stream beds.

Lions
The Ridge Pride has kept our guests excited throughout the past week, with hunts along both the Talek and Olare Orok rivers. The two males that dominate the pride have been moving over to the Olkiombo Pride, which has no permanent males at present. On January 25th, the two prides again had a fierce fight, with a lot of injuries sustained on both sides. Interestingly, the males did not step in to stop the warring parties, preferring to sit on the sidelines and watch!

Our guests at Siana Springs meanwhile have been enjoying regular sightings of three prides, one west of Keekorok, one south of Talek Gate, and a third near Roan Hill. All these areas still have large herds of herbivores, including wildebeest and zebra, providing the lions with superb hunting opportunities.

Leopards
Bella, our star leopard, has spent the past week patrolling up and down the Talek River, dodging the Olkiombo lions that share her territory. An encounter with these lions a few weeks ago left her with an injured hind leg ”“ but fortunately that was all! Her son, Chui, has not been seen regularly over the past two weeks, and we believe he has now permanently left his mother’s home to look for his own territory.

Another female leopard with a small cub has also been spotted a few times by our Siana guides in the Hammerkop area, in addition to the one traditionally referred to as the Kissinger female, which also has a sub-adult cub.

Cheetahs
Cheetah sightings have also been good this week, with Kike still settled close to the Intrepid and Explorer camps. We’ve seen her on chases, at kills, and of course sitting in her favourite position atop the Intrepids vehicles! Of course, she remains our guides’ frontrunner in the quest for Kenya’s 2006 Miss Tourism!

That’s all for this week ”“ happy cat hunting to all our visitors and operators!And remember: please send us any news of your own cat sightings, to pkirui@mitsuminet.com .
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Big Cat Update:Mara, Kenya Thursday 19th January 2006

by Heritage

19 January 2006

The Maasai Mara has been abuzz with activity over the past week, and the Big Cat scene has been no exception. With the first of what is believed to be the short rains falling on the parched plains, the herbivores are becoming restless in anticipation of the first new shoots of grass sprouting over the coming days. The situation has been very bad, particularly for the poor hippos, many of which have been seen in the middle of the day, in temperatures of up to 35°C, frantically scrabbling for a few shoots of dry grass. We have counted quite a few hippos dead, either on plains or near the river. The vultures and hyenas are, of course, having a feast.

Lions
The lions too have rarely had it this easy to bring down prey. The prides close to the rivers have taken to hunting those hippos too weak to fight them off. We have also seen a few gazelles coming down to the river to quench their thirst in the remaining pools, and getting stuck in thick mud. The lions then literally walk up to them and take their pick. Realising this opportunity, one clever female from the Ridge pride moved her cubs close to a pool just north of Mara Intrepids/Explorer and laid in wait for the animals to come to them. She has so far killed several gazelles and a zebra in the same spot.

There was some dramatic action on the night of January 8th, when the Olkiombo and Ridge prides met along the Talek River just behind Mara Explorer. There ensued a serious territorial fight that saw one female from the Ridge pride killed. We believe this was in fact a revenge mission, because last year the Ridge pride killed a female from the Olkiombo pride. The cause of the conflict are undoubtedly two brothers from the Ridge pride, which have been moving in on the Olkiombo females in recent weeks. Their chance came when the two dominant males from the Olkiombo pride disappeared south, for reasons unknown, giving the brothers a chance to oversee both prides. Although the situation may work out well for the two males, it has created a great deal of animosity between the prides’ females ”“ the results of which have already proved fatal.

Leopards
Bella, our main leopard star, was seen throughout the past week, as was the Kissinger female with her sub adult cub. Chui, Bella’s male cub, has stayed away from his mother for a month now, which we see as confirmation of the beginning of his adult independence. He is not seen as often as his mother, which is typical of male leopards.

Ntito, Bella’s previous female cub, has also been seen in the past week, albeit irregularly. On January 15th, she killed a zebra foal just in front of the dining area at Mara Explorer, much to the excitement of our guests, who had to abandon their lunch to witness the drama. When we went to check on the scene later, we found another two dead zebra foals at the same spot. Unbeknown to us, Ntito had established a regular hunting spot right underneath our noses!

Zawadi, meanwhile, is said to have given birth very close to Olonana Camp.

Cheetahs
Kike the cheetah came and settled near to our camps this week. Although this was a welcome development for our guests and guides, it was unfortunate to see her without cubs, confirming our suspicions that she has lost yet another litter to the lions at Bila Shaka. The three male cheetahs were also seen this week, as was another female towards Lookout Hill.

Be on the lookout for more Big Cat news in next week’s Cats’ Cradle ”“ exclusively through the eagle eyes of the guides and guests of Heritage Hotels! And remember: please send us any news of your own cat sightings, to pkirui@mitsuminet.com.
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Big Cat Update:Mara, Kenya Wednesday 11th January 2006

by Heritage

12 January 2006

Happy New Year, and welcome to our first Big Cat Update of 2006! There has been no shortage of predator action in the Maasai Mara in recent weeks ”“ fuelled by the extraordinary wildlife movements caused by the drought currently gripping much of East Africa. In particular, there remains an unusually large number of wildebeest and zebra inside the reserve, which have returned from their usual grazing grounds in the Serengeti due to the lack of grass there. Most of the herds are currently concentrated in the Mara Triangle, as well as around Musiara Marsh, Rhino Ridge, the Central Plains and Sand River.

Lions
All of the lion prides in our game-viewing territories have been busy hunting through the high season ”“ much to the delight of Intrepids and Explorer guests. We have seen many kills in recent days, particularly in the mornings and late afternoons when the sizzling daytime temperatures have cooled enough for the lions to engage in their high-energy hunts.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Ridge Pride has been roaming between the southern base of Rhino Ridge, Mara Intrepids and the Double Crossing area. There is one female with six-month-old cubs and one with four-month-old cubs. All of the lions had a productive festive season, preying on the large numbers of herbivores coming to the watering points to drink. With most of the plains now dry and bare, many of the herds are now also grazing along the riverbanks ”“ and there is no more perfect place for lions and leopards to lay their ambushes.

Leopards
Bella, our female star, and her male cub are still together and continue to patrol their old territory along the Talek River. They have also been busy targeting the wildebeest that come down to the river in large numbers to water. Ntito, Bella’s female cub from her last litter, has also been seen quite regularly between Mara Intrepids and Explorer. It is encouraging to see that she is becoming more relaxed at the presence of vehicles. She treated us to an eventful morning one day last week, playing hide-and-seek with a female cheetah that had inadvertently wandered into her territory.

Guests at our Siana Springs camp over the Mara’s eastern boundary have also been enjoying regular sightings of a female leopard with a sub-adult cub in the Kissinger area, as well as one of the largest Mara lion prides in the Keekorok area.

Cheetahs
Kike, our beautiful female cheetah, who also plays a starring role in the BBC’s Big Cat Week, has been spotted only occasionally in recent weeks ”“ leading some guides to speculate that she may have given birth. We will try to confirm this rumour for you in our next Update. In her absence, three male cheetahs have given us several sightings in the recent past ”“ showing themselves to be daring hunters, targeting large ungulates such as topi. We are hoping that this year will continue to offer the record-breaking cheetah sightings of the past season.

Thank you for following the antics of our favourite animals with us over the past year, and please keep us posted of any interesting sightings you may have had while on safari in the Maasai Mara. Emails may be sent to our head guide, Paul Kirui, at pkirui@mitsuminet.com.

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