Her name is Tiger and she had been calling since dawn. Her calls were coming from near the Lone Fig so we went in search of her. We did not know exactly whom she was calling to. Eventually there was a response from way across the floodplains and the river. It was the handsome Leonard (the big Busanga male) responding to Tiger’s call. We simply could not mistake his fine and dominating form, even from so far away.
He crossed over dongas and through water and mud, through herds of lechwe and puku, high and low he travelled straight to where her calls were coming from. And then he arrived at the place where we had left her and she was gone! We could not believe it. Were had this lioness gone to? She had been calling and calling and now he was there and she had disappeared. We could feel his disappointment. He rested up under a fig tree just behind Busanga Bush Camp, muttering to himself and getting irritated with the flies that started to buzz around him in the midday heat.
That day we were to move camp from Busanga Bush Camp to Shumba Camp and on the way we found Tiger. She was hidden in the tall grass of a mound at the junction of the roads leading to Shumba and Hippo Pools. She had just taken down a massive male lechwe and had dragged the prey under cover of the long grass.
It was the first full sunrise we had experienced since getting to the Plains. The light was behaving well which meant that photography was going to be good. We drove over to find Tiger and were beyond delighted to see that during the night Leonard had managed to find her too. What a sight! She had provided a hearty meal and now they were mating.
A hooded vulture was hanging around, as were two side striped jackals. Leonard was at one stage torn between his duty and affections for Tiger and his food. He leapt like a domestic cat into the long grass to ensure that his feast was safe, sending a clear message to the vulture and the jackals. He then settled into a spot where he could keep a clear eye on his lady and the vulture at the same time. The stage was set and everyone was waiting. We were waiting with camera poised; the vulture was waiting for a lapse in concentration or a distraction from Leonard. Tiger was waiting for Leonard. Leonard was deliberating between food and female. Hmmm…
Tiger made the first move and Leonard followed with single focused intent. They continued mating for the next day and half until Leonard was chased off by his partner, the younger male lion who joined him after the death of his brother during last wet season. A scene complicated enough to be a soap opera for the Busanga Plains!