4 March 2005
Maasai Mara, Kenya
Here’s what has been happening to your favourite felines since Heritage Hotels’ last wildlife update from the Cradle of Humanity (and Big Cats) back in early February:
The Ridge and Olkiombo prides are still very much in evidence in the main reserve, spurred on by the presence of so many wildebeest and zebra, which for some reason have decided not to return to the Loita Hills this year. Although February is traditionally the beginning of the toughest season for our lions, as migrating animals vacate the Mara and resident herds move to areas with shorter grass, this year has seen an unusually high presence of grazers on the Paradise Plains north of Mara Intrepids. Bolstered by this unexpected good fortune, the Ridge Pride recently brought down a giraffe, which kept them busy for five days! They have also killed a couple of zebra, which in these open areas requires the experience of the older members of the pride. The two adult males are both still around, with the one injured in a brawl with the females last month still limping. The female who arrived in the pride last month is now comfortable with the other females and, if she has already conceived with one of the males, will soon be cementing her place in the pride for good.
The long grass around the Talek River has made leopard sightings tougher during the past month. However, Bella and her son Chui are both still around and both have made a few passing appearances. Although Chui is making all the signs of going his own way, the pair came together on February 28th after a long time apart. We believe the mother called to her son after picking up his scent in the area. We were watching the cub at the time, and ”“ upon hearing his mother ”“ he came bounding out of the bushes towards her. Rarely have we had the pleasure of witnessing such an emotional reunion between two animals. While they are together as we write, we know this is not destined to be for long ”“ although, once again, it has been utterly delightful to witness two wild animals who share such a strong, expressive bond with one another.
All of our greater spotted stars have been in evidence this month ”“ like the lions, taking advantage of the unexpected extension to the last season of plenty. The ‘people’s star’ Kike continues to roam around Rhino Ridge, while her mature cubs have been seen crisscrossing the Talek River east of Intrepids. At two years, the cubs are still living and hunting together, although ”“ like Bella and Chui ”“ we think it won’t be long before Nature decides to separate them. Honey has ventured farther north and is currently roaming east of Musiara Gate, while the other female with her single cub has been spotted on the Paradise Plains. However, before the next gazelle fawning season, those cheetahs with cubs will continue to have to work particularly hard to succeed in their hunts. With the current rains, the grass is beginning to grow afresh, and the gazelles will soon be forced to move to more open ground. But, as always, the cheetahs will know where to find them when their hunger calls.
Other Big Sightings
We have enjoyed several more sightings of the female elephant with her twin calves, as reported in the last issue of The Cats’ Cradle. We have also been treated to regular sightings of a male black rhino just south of Mara Intrepids and Explorer. All in all, it’s been another big month for Big Five sightings!