Heritage Hotels Big Cat and Migration Updates

Wildlife Update 7

by Heritage

17 June 2009


We have come to the end of the rains in the Mara and the plains have transformed into a sea of grass. The resident animals, mainly herbivores are congregated into groups where the new grass has sprouted. This short and highly palatable grass is much favoured by the small and medium sized herbivores such as the gazelles, warthogs, hartebeests and the wildebeest. The rest of the reserve is still covered in long and overgrown grass, which the larger herbivores such as the elephants and buffaloes graze on and therefore you can see them easily.

The rains that pounded the Mara in late May and early this month were unusual. We do not normally have rain at this time of the year. Even as late as early this month, there were heavy thunderstorms in the afternoons, which continued into the nights. The Mara’s long rainy season is from mid-March through to April. However, the situation now is back to normal though the ground is still wet especially in areas where the marshes are.

With the weather back to normal, the skies are clear on most days, interspersed with a few cloudy days. On some days we have sporadic drizzle in isolated areas. As July approaches, we can feel the temperature changing. The last few days have been cold in the mornings with temperatures reading as low as 13°C. But this changes within the first two hours after sunrise and by noon the temperature rises between 25-28°C.


The Lions

All the lion prides in our game viewing territory are still around. However, they have been highly mobile in the last few weeks, with some prides splitting up into smaller groups. This is due to the scarcity of food. With most of the herbivores concentrated in certain areas, the lions are finding it difficult to hunt. Lions are territorial and will chase away other lions not belonging to the same group or pride if the outsiders try to hunt in their territory. Even then, the lions in the areas where the prey (the herbivores) is currently found, are not having it easy. Their intended prey stay in close groups forming an 'anti-predator device' so that they have more alert eyes looking out for the predators. This minimises the chances of the predators getting close.

It is a very difficult time for our lions and seeing them on termite mounts or up in trees, is not unusual at the moment, as they scale higher vantage points to scan the grassland for potential prey.

The Olkeju-Rongai Pride patrols the area between Talek and Olkeju-Rongai rivers. This area has a small concentration of game for the Olkeju-Rongai pride to hunt.

To the north of the Talek River, the Olkiombo Pride now rules that section up to Ntiakitiak River. Here, there is also a small concentration of game and the cats have been making successful hunts regularly.

The Ridge Pride roams between the Talek, Olare-Orok, the Mara River and the Topi Plains above Rhino Ridge. This pride however, has split into three groups, but the groups come together occasionally. There is one female in particular who has been in the area to the west of the Talek and Olare-Orok Rivers for a long time. She is now seen often with two sub-adult cubs.


Cheetahs are seen quite regularly. Shakira, the star in the BBC Big Cat Live program, has settled on Topi Plains for the last couple of weeks. She and her three cubs sometimes venture northwest up to Bila Shaka stream which is a few kilometres away. The area between the two places is teeming with game like the gazelles, which forms her main prey. Her cubs are doing very well.

There is another cheetah with two very small cubs to the east of Mara Explorer. We first saw her on 13 June and we think that was when she moved her cubs out for the first time. The tall grass is making her uneasy as the cubs keep getting lost in the grass and she has to call them constantly. It is a very difficult task for her to bring up the cubs at this time when visibility is poor and prey scarce. We hope she will be able to rear them successfully. We have seen other cheetahs too at this time, sometimes up in tree, which is quite unusual. Even they have to climb up to look for prey.


Olive the leopard, showed up about a week ago after disappearing for a month. She has no cubs yet as was thought by some guides. She was reported to be mating with Big Boy across the footbridge at Mara Intrepid on 10 June. Her daughter Binti was seen regularly along the Talek River just west of Mara Intrepids. Kali has been a frequent visitor in our camp for the last month, coming for the resident dikdiks. Big Boy has also been seen patrolling the river just across from Mara Intrepids, in clear view of the guests in their tents and often heard.

We have not seen Ayah for sometime now. We think she is by the lower Talek River where it meets the Mara River.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other interesting wildlifel sightings in the Mara, Rift Valley, Samburu and Tsavo West National Park


Wildlfe Update 19th May 2009

by Heritage

6 June 2009

There has been unexpected rain in the Mara region over the past two weeks. The rains, though not as heavy as the usual long rains in April has turned the plains in the Mara into a sea of grass. The animals are now concentrated only in a few overgrazed patches in the reserve. The rain has also made some areas difficult to drive through, which is normal when we get this amount of rain.

Rain notwithstanding, game viewing is still good. For a first-time visitor to the Mara, it may appear empty, but you would require local knowledge to guide you to where the animals are currently concentrated. In these patches of short grass, it is now a constant competition between the grazers and the speed by which the grass is growing, due to the rains.

All the prides in our game viewing territory are still there and quite active. I should say it is also unusual to see lions very healthy at this time of the year, especially the cubs. Normally they would have already started getting thin as the food availability would be scarce now. The Ridge pride have taken the area between the Mara river and Topi plains over Rhino ridge as their territory.

Ol-Keju Rongai pride can be found just across the river from Mara Intrepids where there is a small congregation of herbivores on a short grass patch that has always been a rutting ground for the Topi.

Shakira the cheetah can now be found between Rhino ridge and Bila Shaka area. This is the area where there is still a concentration of game. Her three female cubs are quite active and each time perfecting their hunting skills as they learn from their mother.

The three male coalition of cheetah can still be seen around, and would occasionally meet with Shakira.

We also have one male in around Rhino ridge and another young female towards paradise plains all of whom adds to the list of the numerous cats we have around.

Olive, our leopard star has not been seen for the past four weeks. We see Binti and Kali though separately. Their sightings have also been very irregular. The high and amount of grass along the river where we usually see them makes it very difficult to see them sometimes. Some of the guides believe that Olive may be expecting a new litter but only time will tell.

Our guides also reported of another Leopard at Ol-Keju Rongai which was seen quite a few times.

Paul Kirui, Chief Safari Guide
Kindly contact: safariguide@mara-intrepids.co.ke for comments or inquiry on the migration and other interesting wildlifel sightings in the Mara, Rift Valley, Samburu and Tsavo West National Park