March has been a great time to walk through the Selinda Reserve. We have had good cover to keep us hidden in the African paradise and yet plenty of openings to view the wildlife up close. The birdlife has been prolific and all the migrants are enjoying the new water. Viewing and photographing wildlife in contrast to the emerald colours of the summer months have been an absolute highlight. Sitting patiently at inland waterholes has proven very productive having spent quality time with a lot of herbivores, especially warthog, without them sensing our presence.
We have an exciting and possibly dramatic dynamic occurring with the Selinda pride of lions at the moment. Three lionesses and the seven cubs are in danger, following the arrival of two new males that, we believe, have come from the Savuti area. The males kept a very low profile for the first few days, however, now they've fully settled in and are advertising (roaring) their presence every evening and throughout the night. In the meantime, the local males are away somewhere leading us to believe they are also in charge of another pride, which explains their constant disappearances for weeks on end.
On their return, they will be in for a surprise as they will hear the echoes of the two new males' roars in their territory. If they are not back soon, they might never see their cubs alive again. The lionesses have tried their best to stay away from the males who are constantly on their trail. We were fortunate enough to observe the most unusual behaviour as the Selinda pride walked for miles in single file, keeping a good eye behind them. We followed them through the night as they did whatever they could to lose the males, crossing channels, walking in confusing circles and following the paths of stampeding wildebeest and zebra. Listening to something in the grass during the long march, one of the females dropped back to investigate. When she tried to rejoin the pride she was treated with the most hostility that we have seen for a very long time. The two lead females almost attacked her and at the last moment realised, she was one of them and then turned the attack into hugs of affection. The cubs had taken for cover and when the coast was considered clear, they also showed some affection to the returning lioness.
Like all mothers, they know what danger awaits their cubs when these two overzealous young males catch up with them. The first thing they will do is kill as many of the cubs as possible to get the lionesses into oestrus and then mate to get their own genes going. This has been in the past known to cause break ups in prides as some lionesses will take off for new territories to save their cubs and possibly as a way of showing lack of confidence in the new males. With a pride of only three adult lionesses and seven cubs all well under a year of age, the consequences of a break up similar to this example would be unbearable both for the pride and for us at the Selinda.
However nature and natural selection have to play their part in this maze of life and this is beyond our control. The next few weeks will be interesting as the waters are receding and the concentrations of elephants and antelope are returning to their seasonal land. It is an exciting time and we are looking forward to it.
-Humphrey and the Trails Team-