23 February 2006
Since our last update, not much has changed in terms of the amount of game present in the Maasai Mara Reserve. The wildebeest are still here, which is very unusual for this time of year, and several have given birth over the past fortnight, which is something that normally only happens in southern Serengeti or on the Loita Plains. There is still a large concentration in the southern Mara triangle, where we have witnessed hyenas, jackals, cheetahs and lions go after the helpless calves. The terrain in the Mara makes them much more vulnerable, especially when they go to the river to drink. The southern short grass plains are naturally ideal to bring up the young as the predators have little chance of approaching the herds without being seen. However, the toll on the calves has not been too heavy here, because the predators have had continuously easy meals for several months due to animals getting weak because of the biting drought.
All of the prides in our game viewing territory are still around and have been relatively active. It is unusual to see lions so healthy at this time of year, as they would normally have started getting thin with the departure of the migratory herds. The Ridge pride has established itself around Mara Intrepids and Explorer to take advantage of the local light showers (and attendant herbivores) ”“ but has in the process also been giving some guests sleepless nights with all their roaring! The two brother lions crossing between the Ridge and Olkiombo prides have continued to cause hostility between the resident females, which has so far resulted in the death of one female from each pride. We expect this animosity to continue for as long as the brothers continue playing their ‘game’. What we need is some other males to take over the other pride to bring some order here. The Shonko pride at Ol Keju Rongai River have also been having a good time feasting on animals coming to quench thirst in the remaining pools of water. It has been almost predictable to find them either hunting or feeding on a recent kill.
The three male cheetah coalition has been quite an attraction of late, hunting everything from year-old wildebeest to fully-grown topi, impala and gazelles. Their determination is a wonder to behold; once they set their sights on a prey animal, it seems that nothing will stop them until they get their target! Kike has also been around for the past two weeks, continuing her favourite habit of using guests’ vehicles to scout for prey. Although it is delightful to see her, we remain saddened by the fact that she had to lose her entire last litter. There has also been one male around Rhino Ridge and another young female towards Paradise Plains, which have both been making regular appearances.
Bella has not been seen too often of late, but otherwise leopard sightings have been very good. Chui, Bella’s male cub, has now moved downstream along the Talek River and settled between Mara Intrepids and Rekero camp, where he has been cautious not to venture into other males’ territory. On one occasion, he killed a dik-dik and two days ago he killed a serval cat, which was in the process of hunting a dik-dik fawn! Taking after his mother, he is not as shy as most male leopards and we have been able to enjoy long sightings as long as we keep a respectable distance. Ntito, the young female from Bella’s previous litter, was also seen recently between our two camps. One morning, she killed a bushbuck just below the restaurant at Mara Explorer. Our guides have also reported seeing another leopard on several occasions at Ol Keju Rongai, and I think we can safely say we are now enjoying better leopard sightings than virtually any other place in the Mara!
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