Month: July 2015

Lions at play

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Tanzania has more lions than any other country. They number around 20,000, although they were well over 100,000 in the recent past. Habitat destruction, persecution from herders, and poaching have been the biggest reason for their decline

The lions in the Serengeti have been studied extensively for decades. This is a photo of the vehicle they use for their research.

Pic of vehicle

In addition to the lions we observed daily in the Serengeti we also encountered lions in the Selous

The Selous lion cubs entertained us for hours

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Cheetah on the run

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GRAPHIC PHOTOS IN THIS PAGE

They act playful when they are not hunting for their survival

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In the cool of the early morning, when prey is abundant and within striking distance, Cheetah sometimes do nothing. Only when the sun is higher, and  it is getting so hot that heat waves interfere with photographing them with a telephoto lens, do they streak after their prey. Their excessive panting after a chase are an indication of how winded they are in the mid day heat.

This is one of those aspects of cheetah behavior that cannot be explained. Why they pass up opportunities in the cooler part of the day is hard to understand. They don’t seem to catch on to the fact that we need better light for good photos!

Here is an example of heat waves and harsh late morning sun

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There is an abundance of cheetah and prey when we go in February, and with patience and good guides, you get your chance to catch them in action.  We came across a unique situation, something even the guides had not seen before.

This female cheetah had a successful hunt with a gazelle. This is an adult Thomson’s gazelle, which was not her primary target. She was looking for a 1-2 day old gazelle calf hidden in the grass, and ended up killing the mother of the baby gazelle she was looking for (or so we thought).

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She put it down after killing it and called to her cubs

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This short video shows how winded she is in the heat of the late morning

She scanned the grass looking for where they were hidden

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As her cubs ran towards her they scared the gazelle calf  their mother was looking for originally. It was hiding right in their path. What are the odds of that happening?

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Their instincts to  hunt overtook their mother’s calling, and they spent the next 15 minutes ineptly trying to kill the calf as their mother looked on

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The mother cheetah left her dead gazelle and watched her cubs, letting them learn on their own

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Eventually the cubs killed the gazelle calf

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Imagine our surprise when one of the guides radioed that the adult gazelle the mother cheetah had killed was gone. It turns out that it was never killed, just stunned, because the mother cheetah was distracted by her cubs and what they were doing.  While all of us, including the mother cheetah, were watching the cubs, the adult gazelle got its wits and walked away. It was one major stroke of luck for a hapless gazelle that a few minutes prior had its throat in a cheetahs mouth!

Follow this link to see many more photos of cheetah hunting from prior trips.

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Lion-Hyena encounter

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This was my fist chance to see a close encounter between lions and hyenas. It happened at 9 Am while driving  in the central Serengeti.

A clan of hyena were feasting on the significant remains of a wildebeest

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The ripped away and engorged themselves

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They kept a wary eye in the distance, and we soon found out why

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As it turns out, a small pride of male lions had killed the wildebeest earlier and already feasted. They were lounging about 100 yards away after gorging on the wildebeest. They left their kill to the hyenas since they could not eat any more.

One of the males decided that he did not want the hyenas eating his meal so he returned, walking right down the middle of the road

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He was a big boy, and could not move very fast due to his full belly

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When he got close the hyenas scattered.

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Hyenas have powerful jaws, and in sufficient numbers are not usually afraid of lions, especially lionesses. This is not the case when a large male lion approaches.

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He grabbed his carcass and started walking it back to the other male lions

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He stopped to rest frequently, with the hyenas watching from a safe distance

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As the hyenas amassed in greater numbers they got their courage to start approaching the male

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When there was 15 of them he decided it was not worth it and left the wildebeest to them

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When it was obvious he was far enough away they returned to finish eating

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