The Date: Friday, May 3, 2013
The Time: Afternoon Drive
The Objective: Locate the lions (Panthera leo)
James, Lion Specific volunteer, gives you a blow-by-blow of his lion encounter from this week:
Due to unrelated issues, afternoon drive started late. Kaggie, our driver, rushed to get the car ready and told us that we were going to make a B-line up to the Lions (Panthera leo). The sun is going down, so the hope is we get there before sunset to get some good photos. Sure enough, 30 seconds out of base and we have to stop to take prey data! Which is fine, its what we are here for but the chance to see the Lions in the daylight is whats on everyones mind.
Data taken, we make our way north. Enjoying the scenery as Kaggie races to where the Lions were last seen. To make a change, they aren’t hanging out at the Boma, which is nice.
Upon arrival at the last sighting spot we call in to the drive who had them sighted and ask for a description of the location. Its unhelpful as there seems to be a lot of static. Being this far north thats unsuprising. There’s no sight of them here so Matt, one of the other Volunteers, begins to T-lem for Zero, the dominate Male, and Kaggie goes on a wander to looks for tracks, little does she know but they are just around the next bush!
They’re asleep. So we pull up along side, just as Maggie awakes. She looks straight at me and yawns! The Teeth on her are beyond massive!! The metal sidebars between me and her begin to feel like tooth picks! And when Lisa awakes, we become silent. These beast have that effect on you when they are awake and staring straight at you. Scenes from Jurassic Park come to mind, minus the 30ft T-rex. But still.
The two females then pass us by within 1metre of the back of the truck. I’m meant to be taking data on their position and behaviour but more important things are happening. Zero is waking and I am freaking out! The tension is palpable. He’s looking for breakfast at 5pm and he stares straight us. A beast woken from his slumber, we hold our breaths, excited as to what he does next. He sits up and with one almighty effort… he yawns! Three Times! When you’re along side these Kings of Africa, you forget that they are just big cats! Sorry, Massive Cats! The two girls have gone now and Zero follows them. He appears to be having an issue with something in his mouth but we assume, as he is a cat, that it is a fur ball. He takes his leave of us and goes about doing his business scent marking the surrounding area and the like.
Kaggie asks us what we want to do, and its a resounding “stay with Zero”. We take off after him and follow him for over 1km as he walks along the road, taking short cuts through the bush with Kaggie putting her foot down and rushing around the next bend to get there before him.
The sun is beginning to set now, and we are having to spot light him to get some photos. All of a sudden, he stops. He begins convulsing. We know that he is an old King but he seems to be in trouble. The convulsions get bigger and more regular, until finally, he vomits!! Its bright green! A massive eww sounds from the back of the truck. Without a second thought, Zero continues on.
A gasp of excitement and we look forward. 50 metres in front of Zero is eye shine reflecting from the spotlight. Which means there is an animal on the road right in front of Zero. We all strain to see what it is playing chicken with Zero. A Porcupine (Hystrix africaeaustralis) and her Porcupette (Baby Porcupine)! This is gonna be interesting. Getting to see a Porcupine showing off its quills and Zero growling at them is gonna be cool. The moment comes when Zero is within distance of them. We get cameras at the ready for the face-off. And Zero walks straight past them without even glancing. Slightly disappointing. Even Kaggie, who has been here for two and a half years is disappointed with Zero. He doesnt even flinch, make the porcupine jump, or even look it’s way. Nothing. We are not even sure if Zero saw them! Just goes to show how lions truly rule out here and they don’t get phased by almost anything, even a pissed off porcupine a metre away.
The sun is down now, and with that the opportunity to take photos of the wildlife goes. As Zero disappears into a bush, we sit back and ponder the events that have just taken place before us. 45 minutes have gone by since we found the Lions. It was a great sighting the weather was fantastic as well. This is the time when I turn to Kaggie and tell her that I need to take data on where we found them!
—– James Walker, Lion Specific Intern