Lion Failure

Lion Failure

There’s an impression from TV that lions are perfect hunters. We discovered otherwise!

On our day driving from Tarangire to Ngorongoro, we did the mid day game drive in Lake Manyara National Park. More than any other park, I love the forests here and would visit it even if there weren’t a single animal.

The forests contain a huge number of tree species, many towering into the sky and many wrapping around themselves like strangling figs. The leaves on many plants are huge, and Sykes monkeys and silvery-cheeked hornbills are everywhere.

We go here to see the hippo pool, and we weren’t disappointed. Clearly, all of East Africa has not had good rainfall, but this is not an area in drought. The streams are running well through the park and everything is green. Yet the lake is remarkably small, and there are even grasslands growing at places that use to have water. I hope this isn’t a long-term permanent phenomenon.

But there was plenty of water where the main stream meets the lake, and lots and lots of hippo. When I was here in March, it was parched, and there were very few. So there was a bit of recovery.

Afterwards we went towards lunch and stopped before the Msassa turnoff on the cul-de-sac that sweeps onto the plains. They were filled with wildebeest, zebra, and a line of giraffe walking slowly along the lake shore.

Then, we saw the lion. Lion in the grass. I was with our only real photographer on the trip, Michael, and he pulled out his long lense. Soon, we realized the lion were hunting.

Later we would learn that there were four mature lion downwind from the lead hunter who was crouched in the grass. This is a pretty standard hunt for lion: one places itself really close to the oncoming prey and will chase it into the others.

We were some distance from them, and so in binoculars and through long lenses it looked like a huge female giraffe walked right over the lion in the grass! Why didn’t she spring?

Because coming right behind was her teenager. Had the lead lioness waited all of three more seconds, I’m sure she would have pulled down the youngster, but she sprang too early.

The youngster bolted away, and mother came running back, her feet kicking before she even found the lioness. Other giraffe joined here. The mature lioness waiting downwind got up, dejected, and the lead hunter headed back to her cubs who were waiting patiently under a small acacia tree much nearer us.

The veld now knew the lions were there. Wildebeest and zebra ran way. The lions walked somberly back towards the cubs. They’d be able to do nothing, now, until dark.

Michael took 198 pictures of the event! How sweet is digital photography?