Long Beach Animal Hospital Informational Articles

Lioness on the Hunt

This page has a sequence of photos of a lioness stalking and killing a wildebeest in the Serengeti of Tanzania in July of 2009. The powerful primal instincts of this predator are readily seen. Nature’s brutality is also apparent so be prepared to see the death of the wildebeest.

Our guide Proteus noticed her in the grass on the right as we slowly drove a road near a marsh around 9 AM. Do you see her towards the center right? She is not easy to spot hidden in the grass.  Linda is pointing the 500 mm lens right at her. She is the small tan figure under the arrow 50 yards across the marsh from us. Another vehicle in our group with Mike and Carole was just in front of us. The others in Group 1 were ballooning and we were to rendezvous with them at lunch.

This is a picture of Linda using the 500 mm lens to capture the next photos in our sequence.

As we watched the lioness hunkered down in the grass and became difficult to see

This closeup makes it easier to spot her- the tan colored object in the lower center

She rose up when some zebra and wildebeest approached the marsh in front and to the left of our vehicle

They came close to her location because they wanted a drink. She initially put herself in this area
because she knew they would need some water.

As they came closer she kept her gaze on them

When they got within 50 yards they became alert and stopped. They could smell her but they could
not see her according to our guide.

The zebra beat a hasty retreat and ended that stalk before it even began

When they started running she came across the marsh for a better view, only to wach them in vein

There were two other lionesses still hiding in the marsh. She seemed to know where they were but
we could only catch an occasional glimpse of them.

She kept looking at the spot the zebra just left. This time some wildebeest
came closer, but they also smelled her and kept their distance.

After a few minutes she settled down and hid in the grass again and kept looking for prey

The other vehicle in our group decided nothing was going to happen and they went in search of another lioness they saw
in the distance. Too bad for them! Our patience was rewarded 30 minutes later when she stood up and saw something
behind us we did not see initially.

It was 3 wildebeest crossing the road 100 yards behind us. As she stared at them it became obvious she was getting ready to move after them. Our alert guide saw this and threw the land cruiser in reverse and told us to “hold on”. It was at this point that I pushed Linda out of the vehicle and took control of the camera and big lens.

Events transpired rapidly at this point. She was on our right still and parallel to our car running at a rapid
stalk behind us. Our guide kept up with her as I captured this shot of her initial stalk.

We had to move fast so our vehicle was bouncing heavily. It was all I could do to hang on while trying to focus on her as her stalk increased in speed. As you can see I got more grass in my photo than lioness. This was one of the disadvantages of using a 500 mm lens in a bouncing vehicle.

I missed her completely on several shots

I was able to catch up with her periodically. Our guide was doing a great job staying with the lioness
without scaring the wildebeest and interfering with her hunt.

When I lost focus I had to play catch up. At this point I was just hoping to hang on to the lens so
it would not fall out of the vehicle and get damaged. I don’t think there are too many Canon service
centers in the Serengeti.

Once she locked onto the wildebeest she did not waiver in her gaze. Her muscular body is like a taut
spring ready to unwind. This is one of the most impressive parts of the whole hunt and causes goose bumps.

We were still moving backwards when she went from stalking to the explosive charge

With both of us moving so fast I still had a hard time focusing on her

You can see her in the background as she is pouncing on the wildebeest. Too bad I am focusing on
the grass in front.

Our car stopped moving just as she hit the wildebeest with full force. Now I was able to stay with her.

The high frame rate of my Canon 1D Mark III enabled me to capture a good bit of the action now
that we stopped moving

The momentum of her pounce rolled the wildebeest on its back as the lioness skidded in the opposite direction

She worked on holding the hapless animal as it kicked wildly in the air. You can see her claws
coming out as she tries to hold it down.

She rapidly moved toward the throat in order to keep it quiet (so no other predators could hear it
including other lions) and finish the kill by suffocation

She has the final death grip on the throat and now it is only a matter of a few minutes before the
wildebeest dies. Wewere told by numerous people that at this point, which is only 10 seconds
from the initial pounce, that the wildebeest is in a state of complete shock and feels little.

At this point the wildebeest is dead and she is hanging on for good measure

She finally looks at us only 20 yards away

Apparently we were bothering her because she dragged it into the marsh and that’s the last we saw
of her or the wildebeest.

Our hat’s off to Proteus our guide for seeing her initially and moving the vehicle to the right position in the nick of time. Kudos to Linda and Joy for agreeing with me that we should be patient and stay with the lioness when she was just hiding in the grass and doing nothing.  Being familiar with my camera when there was no time to think or change settings was also important. If I had the time before our guide took off in reverse I would have put on my much lighter, and easier to use in a heavily bouncing vehicle, 400 mm lens instead of the bigger 500 mm. This unscripted nature makes wildlife photography quite a challenge and lots of fun. Joy, Linda, and yours truly were still shaking hours later after witnessing the keen instincts and power of this lioness.

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Tanzania 2009 Group 2


This is the beginning of the trip so we are still smiling.


Robert and Lela

Rick and Joan


The Dinkers (don’t ask why they got this nickname)

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Tanzania July 2009 (redux)

This 5th trip to Africa was a repeat of my first trip to Africa taken 23 years ago. I have learned a lot about traveling and photographing in Africa since then and put this experience to use.  All the work and attention to detail paid off because this trip was the best one so far. Everyone enjoyed themselves and felt the trip exceeded expectations, which was my primary goal. We tentatively plan on going back in February of 2011 to watch 30,000 wildebeests have their calves in a 2 week period of time.

There is nothing more entertaining than watching a baby elephant at a water hole. This video shows a few seconds of elephant behavior we encountered often on our trip.

Yup, this is me 23 years ago at the entrance to the Serengeti at the Naabi Hill gate. While planning out the details  of the 2009 trip I was hoping to go back to this exact same spot and take another picture.

From what I can tell this is the same spot in July of 2009. This is based on comparing a rock that is present in the lower right of both photos. Look at the markings at the top front of the rocks in the closeup photos that follow.

1986 Rock
2009 Rock

This trip was a whirlwind of sites and activity. We started in Arusha (at the base of Kilimanjaro), and went through Tarangire National Park, then Lake Manyara National Park, to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, ending up in the Serengeti. It was similar to the trip that many people take in Tanzania and was a perfect trip for the first-timers in my group.

Along the way we went to Oldupai (its Oldupai not Olduvai for you purists) Gorge where the Leakey’s found evidence of our hominid ancestors. We were literally at the historical site 50 years and 1 day after the discovery. This is in the Great Rift Valley, the area that our earliest ancestors originated from as they colonized the world. It is fascinating to be in this area, imagining them coming down from the trees millions of years ago and adapting to this environment as they evolved into homo sapiens.

This section of northern Tanzania, along with the Masai Mara in Kenya, is called the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem. It is a timeless place where the wildebeest and other ungulates migrate for water and optimum grazing. It is the grasses in this ecosystem that makes this all happen. As they migrate they go through territories held by predators and interact with them in many ways.

It is these funny-looking guys, called the Blue Wildebeest (the Swahili name is Gnu), migrating in the millions, that are a big part of making this extravaganza of wildlife happen

I did not take many photos on this trip by design. I set up it so my guests would do almost all of the photography using my professional equipment and guidance. Of course they drove me crazy with all their questions, but once you see their photos it will be apparent they learned rapidly and are good wildlife and nature photographers. Besides, even if the pictures did not come out we had a blast taking them and sharing them.

Just because I said I did not take many photos does not mean I did not take any photos. The lioness above on the log was taken by me the last day of Group 2’s stay at the mobile camps in the Serengeti. The lioness was quite obliging in that afternoon sun. I also have a sequence of pictures of a lioness stalking and killing a wildebeest. The link to these pictures are further down the page.

As you will learn from this page my trips are substantially more personal and customized than a typical safari. A pre-trip meeting at my place covers all questions and gives everyone a chance to meet. This icebreaker gets the group dynamics off to the right start when everyone meets in Africa and starts their actual travels together.

Before the trip anyone is welcome to spend the day with me practicing with their own camera and lens. After the trip I make a web page, which you are reading right now,  for everyone so they can share their experience online. Finally, everyone gets to invite their friends to a slide show at my place so they can show off their trip to others and feel really cool when their picture appears on the screen and they get to tell the story about it.

To add to the personal and custom touch during the trip I have 3 people maximum per car (most groups have 5-7), plan out the next day only once we have the best idea where the wildlife are, let each car go where it wants based on what its occupants decide, and constantly rotate with me in the photography car to use the professional equipment. And the price is the same.

A vehicle filled with people that is typical of the other tours we encountered on this trip. Those tours were TAUK, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) and National Geographic

Our vehicles with plenty of room to move and take photos, and 3 persons maximum

Everyone, even if they have no interest in photography, is welcome to join (although most people tend to develop a keen interest in photography once they see how much fun everyone is having). These trips book up very fast because I keep them small and personal.

In a foreign land with such a large area to cover the guides make the trip. The one’s we had from Ranger Safari were excellent, especially at taking our group photos.

This is Firoz, the best guide in the Serengeti!

They got to wear some cool Oakley sunglasses courtesy of Silvia

Both sets of guides were awesome! They learned lots of American slang and I even taught them how to find hidden wildlife.

This is me the last day of the last group, packed up and set to go. I am a little tired from answering  way too many photography questions and lugging camera equipment around for 21 days, but at least I am still smiling!

In 2007 we went to the Masai Mara, located in southwest Kenya, to see the Wildebeest migration  as they crossed the Mara river. You can learn about this trip here. The Masai Mara page will show you the professional photography equipment I bring on all of my Africa trips for everyone to use in case you are interested in what we used to capture these photos. When the next Africa trip gets finalized I will post it on my photography page. Contact me at carlp@me.com anytime with questions.

Before we get on to the remainder of this page I leave you with one last photo I took on the last day. It is two Cape Buffalo with a vulture in a tree towards sunset in the Serengeti.

This page is broken down into several sections. Click on the main photo for each section and you will be taken through a succession of pages and pictures within that section. The sections are in this order:

  • The 19 people that went with me
  • The sequence of the lioness hunting the wildebeest
  • A few very short videos of some people in each group enjoying themselves

All the photos on this page have been decreased in size and resolution for faster downloading on the web, so they do not show their true beauty. They are available in very high resolution and suitable for customizing and printing at professional quality at 30 ” x 20″. Let me know if any individual photo interests you and I will print and mail it to you at cost plus postage.

Group 1

Group 2

Bob and Linda


Mike and Carole




Lela and Robert

Joan and Rick




Hunting Lioness

On Group 1’s second day in the Serengeti, while some were ballooning, Joy, Linda, and myself were the morning photography crew. Joy and Linda were doing the usual shooting and asking lots of dumb photography questions when we came across a lioness that was hungry and looking for breakfast. When our guide said “hang on she is stalking” I grabbed the camera from Linda (sorry Linda, its in my rule book) and tried to hang on and shoot as we bounced in reverse to get a better vantage point. All 3 of us were shaking for quite a while after witnessing this up front and personal. And Linda was relieved that she was not responsible for screwing up this once-in-a-lifetime photo chance. Click on the lioness photo below to see the sequence- it is not for the faint of heart!


Some very short and candid videos of our group talking about the trip. I busted them first thing in the AM the last day while they were still waking up so some of them look like deer caught in headlights.

Click on their face once and the Quicktime movie will play automatically.

Mike Kim describing his overall experience

Bob Tonnacour relating his experience

Mike Gerutto talking about how he liked the trip

The Dinkers saying good bye

The Dinkers inviting some friends on a future trip while watching a leopard. It was a breezy day so the beginning has some excess wind noise that goes away.

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Tanzania 2009 Group 1

This group sure knew how to eat and boy did they love their wine!
Click on the picture above to see them as a group.

Click on the individual pictures below to see Group 1 participants at their best (usually).



Mike and Carol


Bob and Linda

The Gerutto Family

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Scaling and Polishing Teeth

Proper dental care involves more than just scraping tartar off the teeth. Thorough dental care involves scaling, probing and polishing. These can only be accomplished on an anesthetized pet. It is not realistic to think that somebody can scrape tartar off of an awake pet and be as thorough as we can on an anesthetized pet. When these procedures are performed properly we can reverse the gingivitis process and keep the teeth and gums healthier for a longer period of time.

Scaling & Polishing

Scaling teeth is greatly facilitated by a special instrument called an ultrasonic scaler. By vibrating tartar off the teeth with the scaler we cause minimal trauma to the tooth enamel. In addition, the rapid manner in which it removes the tartar minimizes anesthetic time. The gentle nature of the scaler allows us to clean under the gumline and not irritate the gums.

A special dental instrument is used to crack off large pieces of tartar before we use the scaler. This enables us to clean the teeth faster, another method to minimize anesthetic time. It also reduces wear on the ultrasonic scaler tip.

We use a specialized ultrasonic scaler that is made for animal teeth

The tip vibrates 18,000 times per second, and literally vibrates tartar off the teeth. It does not harm the enamel, and lets us clean the teeth faster than doing it by hand. It continually sprays water to minimize heat buildup which could irritate the gums.

When the tartar is heavy, like this canine tooth, it takes longer to remove. To minimize any trauma to the tooth’s enamel or gum, we drip additional water on the area being scaled. Without the scaler this tooth would need hand scaling, a process that would take substantially longer.

The ultrasonic scaler does a thorough job of removing the visible tartar. It also excels at removing tartar under the gumline where it can not be seen. This is a critical part of the scaling process. Only when this step is performed are the teeth properly cleaned.

After scaling a special dental probe is carefully inserted under the gum to determine the degree of involvement. IF there is a pocket we will pack the opening with doxycycline to restore the gums to normal health.

After the teeth are scaled and probed we spray them with chlorhexidine to further help eliminate the bacteria that are causing gingivitis.

Polishing the teeth makes them look whiter. It also smoothes off the enamel surface and makes it more difficult for bacteria to adhere. Once bacteria get re-established, the cycle of plaque leading to tartar and eventually gingivitis gets started all over again.

Please return to our Dental Page to learn much more about this important problem.

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