November 17, 2013
I keep expecting Kathleen Turner and William Hurt (i.e., the 1981 movie drama “Body Heat”) to show up in camp for a sundowner cocktail – the movie segue continues as the temperature hovers around 100 degrees Fahrenheit… My pillow is drenched in sweat and I am trying to visualize how cold it must be in Connecticut right now – hoping the imagery will somehow cool me off.
The day heated up quickly and the lions and buffalo had moved apart. We saw two sets of lions and everyone was sleeping quite heavily. No apparent kill since we left them yesterday. The young cubs from the previous afternoon were nowhere to be seen in the morning, BUT we did get to see one of our 2010 cubs – she is now 2+ years old, very big and strong but with a “bad” right front foot. She heavily favors it after a long rest, but ultimately puts more weight on it as her walking continues.
The afternoon proved slightly more fruitful from a photographic perspective as the cubs were out again, but high temperatures maintained the lethargy status quo among man and beast.
In the downtime of the afternoon heat we also got a bit of family-tree history on the Duba lions – James 007’s version of “Ancestry.com”. There were six original lions in the Tsaro Pride including the grandmother that we have mentioned – James calls her “Tumor” because she has a large growth on the back of her neck, Tumor’s sister and the three daughters of Tumor (including “Silver Eye” who has a lead role in Dereck and Beverly Joubert’s movie, “The Last Lions”). Four adult lionesses produced twelve cubs and ten survived (five males and five females). The father of the cubs, sometimes described as the “Prime Minister”, is technically known as the Skimmer Male. He is the son of the illustrious “Duba Boys”. The Skimmer Male, in his fight for dominance, injured the Duba Boys in a serious fight which weakened them – they were ultimately killed in an altercation with the buffalo. The Tsaro territory is approximately 6-7 kilometers in size. I sometimes got a bit confused when the Tsaro Pride was being described, part of my confusion was that you rarely saw the 19 together – instead they had three sub-groups and sometimes the mother of the two young cubs was off hunting with others so the family dynamics was not as straightforward as one might expect. The three sub-groups included (1) Silver Eye and two other adult lionesses and two sub-adults, a female and a male, (2) Four adult females, two sub-adults and two male cubs, and (3) two female adults, one young male and two young females) so 5+8+5=18+Skimmer Male = Tsaro Pride.
We also were fortunate to see some tsessebe youngsters hanging close to their mom.
And when things get a bit quiet with the big creatures – know that Evan always make the best of things and captures the beautiful essence on the aviary front – I apologize that I left my reference book, “Birds of Southern Africa”, at home so I need to go back and remind myself of this one’s name. A big thank-you goes out to Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera – for letting me know that this beautiful bird is a Crested Barbet and the picture above was one of tsessebe’s, not lechwe’s (as I had initially posted). While Luke is known to be a Big Cat expert, his expertise goes way beyond the Cats, and I, for one, very much appreciate it!