Heritage Hotels Big Cat and Migration Updates

News from Maasai Mara, Kenya October 29th 2008

by Heritage

30 October 2008

The final herds of migrant herbivores are now exiting the Mara. The short rains that washed the plains over the last couple of weeks have just stopped, and it is drying up fast.

The herds can now be distinguished between the Loita from the Serengeti ones from the direction of their final exit. The Loita herds are heading east, while the Serengeti bound herds are heading south. There is still a concentration south of the Mara Triangle, south towards the Mara Bridge, and along the Mara-Serengeti border around the salt lick area. There is a high concentration of zebra around Paradise crossing point that is coming from the Mara Triangle heading east across the Mara river. All the herds seen between Talek and Sekenani Gates are heading east, meaning these are the Loita groups. There are also small herds between Talek and Sand Rivers all heading south into northern Serengeti.

The departure of the wildebeest from the Mara this month is normal, albeit a little earlier than usual. They will be away till June-July next year, when they will come back again to new pastures. After the long rains of April-May, the Mara plains will be transformed into a sea of grass just before the arrival of these natural mowers, and then once again it will be another season of plenty for all, herbivores and predators alike.

From now onwards the Mara predators will have to devise smarter methods of hunting for the elusive resident animals. At times they may have to go for longer periods between meals, but they easily adapt to this though the weak ones may never make it to the next season. This is a natural selection at its best!

Big Cats Update:
The Mara cats are having their last easy meals before the last of the herds leaves. Many skeletons still lie across the plains as an evident of a big feast that was in the last season. Lion prides will be highly mobile in search for food especially the ones with cubs. This is also the time when the larger herds will split due to competition for the few available resources.

The Olkiombo pride was seen regularly over the past two weeks along the Talek River east of Mara Explorer. We are going to follow them keenly to watch how they adapt to the lean period, especially considering the pride is quite large with about six cubs that require regular meals.

Olive, our female leopard star is still at the junction of the Talek and Olare-Orok Rivers with her cubs Kali and Ayah. Binti, her older sub-adult daughter, is seen regularly near the same location hunting and keeping to her own.

Shakira, the female cheetah has now settled near Mara Intrepids with her three cubs, who have survived many dangers from lions and hyaenas. The present location is safer since there are fewer hyaenas that would normally pose a threat to the cubs and also steal her kills. The three brothers (Honey’s cubs) are also in the same area and were seen yesterday killing a full grown wildebeest.

This is the last issue of the Wildebeest Migration. We hope it has been enthralling to you as it has been for us. All pictures featured were of the actual characters taken by Paul Kirui. We look forward to keeping you informed on how the Big Cats cope with the this exit, and more importantly, other interesting sightings of all the other wildlife within the Mara Reserve, Samburu National Reserve, Tsavo West and Naivasha in the Rift Valley.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other animal sightings in the Mara

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News from Maasai Mara, Kenya October 15th 2008

by Heritage

15 October 2008

The past week has seen the wildebeests slowly exiting from the Mara and heading back to northern Serengeti. Most of the plains are now empty with only a handful of herds in isolated pockets in the reserve.

The nourished herds have left plains are bare of grass in their wake. A change in the rain patterns in the region has been a factor that contributed to the endless mass movement across the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Overstaying in a place results in exhausting of the grass and hence a migration into new areas becomes necessary.

Many animals crossed the river at Paradise crossing point over to the Mara conservancy. From here the herds head towards the border around Engoikwateet salt lick. The herds on the eastern side of the river have split up, taking two directions. The Serengeti ones are heading south, while the Loita ones have taken the usual eastbound route - both going to their calving grounds.

There were other crossings at the lower Mara Bridge over the past week. However, these were not as spectacular as it was earlier, since they only involved a handful of animals each time. This is expected to continue in the next couple of weeks before the herds finally leave the Mara. This exodus has come a little earlier than expected, but Mother Nature works in her own unique way, and we just take a comfortable front-row seat to appreciate her marvels!

Big Cats Update:

The Big Cats have started preparing for the imminent departure of the herbivores, as they face another difficult period of food scarcity. The past week was full of predatory activities as these super predators took the last chance of the season of plenty to feed. They will now have to survive on whatever is available and adapt to the tough hunting strategies if they have to live till the next season of plenty.

Olive, our female leopard star who featured over the week on BBC Big Cat Live was always around Mara Intrepids over the whole filming period (www.bbc.co.uk/bigcat/animals/leopards/index.shtml) . On some of the days, she and her cubs were just barely a hundred metres from the tents next to the river, where they have been seen every day for the last three weeks. Currently this location is a popular landmark for many driver guides in the Mara looking for leopards, with some traveling up to 90 kilometres just to get here.

Lion prides were also quite active over the past week. Our guests and guides witnessed three cubs escape death from some marauding males that found them east of Mara Explorer along the Talek River. Other lions in our game viewing locations treated our guests to plenty of shows with hunts and their social interactions.

Our cheetahs were seen over the past week. However, there was an unfortunate incident where one cheetah female, Shakira, lost two cubs to hyaenas.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other animal sightings in the Mara

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News from Maasai Mara, Kenya October 4th 2008

by Heritage

4 October 2008

Just as our guides had reported last week, the herds have now started streaming back into northern Serengeti. The concentration of animals on the Central plains decreased remarkably in the last few days. River crossings have reduced as the herds now concentrate on feeding, but even with a few animals, it still is interesting for first timers.

The second exodus of the migration could mark the end of their stay in the Mara, albeit a little earlier than usual. Most years the final exit is in November. It is not known if these animals will return for a third time, but there are still a few animals on Paradise plains and scanty concentration in various areas

There have been sporadic showers across the plains in last few days. If this continues, then all the overgrazed areas will soon be teeming with new and lush shoots of grass. This in return will also bring forth flowers mainly, cycnium tubulosum (tissue paper flowers), scadoxus mulitflora (fire ball lilies) and crinum macowani (pyjama lilies). This ushers in the season of regeneration, when the plains are carpeted with flowers as far as the eye can see. It is also the best time for birders since the migratory birds from the northern hemisphere are usually resident in the Mara at this time for a period of about four weeks.

Big Cat Update:
Predation activities by the big cats hunts were reported throughout the past week. Most of the prides have to hunt to feed their young. All the lion prides in our game viewing areas have now settled in their usual territories. With food in plenty, they are expected to maintain their territorial space until the migration ends.

The deaths of many cheetah cubs from being trampled by buffalo have not affected the survivors. Our guest at Mara Explorer and Intrepids witnessed a lot of hunting activities over the past week, with varying degrees of success. With young cubs, which are now learning hunting skills, the mothers have to be busy. A female cheetah normally catches gazelle fawns and brings it to the cubs to play with as they hone their hunting skills. Many gazelles, especially Thomson’s, are giving birth this month, and this will provide a good training opportunity to the cheetah cubs.

Leopards were also seen throughout the week. Our main characters, Olive, Ayah, Binti and Kali were seen regularly near Mara Intrepids camp. In fact some days they were just 50 metres from tent 29 & 30 when the BBC Big Cat Live team were filming. This is the location where they were filmed for four consecutive days in the past week. The three were seen walking together most of the time, a rare sight for leopards.

The Big Cat Live program will be on air from the 6th-12th October and will be showing these characters filmed just next to our camp and whom we see regularly.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other animal sightings in the Mara

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