I was actually bored at this stage. We had been sitting watching lions for 2.5 hours. We were sitting in the shade and the temperature outside was around 40° C. The lions were lying out in the sun – in the open hidden by the tufts of golden coloured grass into which they blended perfectly. As is always the case with a Busanga Plains scene, if you cast your eyes or your binoculars around you see more game than just what you are looking at. There were the usual suspects dotted around: lechwe and puku, fish-eagles, hippo in the distance, African openbills, egrets and so on. Just as an aside, normally fish-eagles are always perched on the top branches of large trees (mostly on the water’s edge) and you can always spot them from far away because of their white head and shoulders. But because the plains are so vast and so open the fish-eagles are found “perched” a lot on the ground. They have to do their fishing from there. Amazing how nature adapts to its surrounds.
We were waiting for these lions to do something amazing. According to us they could not be crazy enough to just hang out in the sun, especially in this ridiculously hot temperature. We figured they must be keen to hunt and we wanted to be well positioned to capture the action. With just the thought of them actually getting going and us being in the right place at the right time, kept us assured that we had made the right call.
To pass the time away, Isaac filled us in on the story of the Papyrus Pride. The pride consists of three females and one male about two years old. The one old female in the pride was caught in a snare recently about six weeks ago and she was badly injured. The snare was very tightly caught around her neck almost strangling her. Thankfully the lion researcher in the area noticed soon after she had been snared and alerted the vet who responded quickly. They removed the snare and were able to save her life, but they could not save the cubs and they died. In the picture you will see that now six weeks later she has healed so well.
There are problems with the pressures of hunting, which is affecting the size of the pride and the composition because they have now recently lost their dominant male who was collared and has now disappeared. It is suspected that he moved across into the surrounding hunting areas and his fate there will not be a good one. We also suspect that the new young cubs in the Papyrus Pride are from the Busanga male, as a new large male has not been identified in the area yet. Is there a chance that the two prides will merge one day? The tree climbers of Busanga Pride and the lazy lions of the Papyrus Pride?
So in the end they did nothing. Even when a puku who wasn’t really paying attention to the fact that he had drifted off quite far from the comfort or his herd suddenly realized that there we lions lying in the grass ahead of him. The puku stood dead still and gave out a bizarre alarm call-type of snort that was actually quite high-pitched. This wasn’t boring, this had potential now! But the lions were lazy, probably drugged by the belting sun. The puku snorted and slowly stepped back. So slowly that he would take a step and then stop dead still, keeping his gaze totally fixed on the lions. He moved like this until I think he was about three kilometres away it seemed. And he was still snorting the alarm call. Unfazed, the lions just continued to chill and sleep mostly. Occasionally they would lift a head and look around, or move from one uncomfortable spot to another. The sun was about to set which meant that it was time for us to move on. No hectic action. It seemed we were in the right place but the wrong time or vice versa or wrong place wrong time – who knows?