Unlike the more traditional lions roaming the great savannahs of Africa, the Kalahari lion has a lot more work cut out for him. Lions have to flood themselves with water after gorging on a kill or their insides close down.
In the best of years, which last year was with regards to rain, the Kalahari gets a few months of tumultuous thunderstorms then dries up. In the long dry part of the year Kalahari lions are restricted to water from the bodily fluids of their kills.
This normally results in a much shorter life span and many fewer lions. The owner/guide of the camp where we’re staying, Deception Valley Lodge, told us that traditionally a Kalahari male lion’s territory could extend into the hundreds of square kilometers.
It’s one of the reasons that throughout so much of southern Africa, national parks and private reserves have constructed borehills (water wells) for the animals, particularly the larger ones and the carnivores.
Deception Valley Lodge drilled its first bore hole in 1997. The reserve has since continually had a healthy pride of lion that today is dominated by a single male, and three females with nearly a dozen cubs among them.
The male acted like the males I’ve seen throughout East Africa and had a beautiful extensive black mane, but as our guide pointed out, fewer scars because he’s had fewer scraps with other lions … since there are so few lions.
He’s now nearly ten years old, extraordinary for a Kalahari lion. When I watched him walk it was apparent he had hip or spinal problems, but otherwise looked quite regal.
This northwestern section of the Kalahari is thick scrubland with many more low lying trees including a variety of acacias. In several regards it reminds me of the drier parts of East Africa.
During our two days we saw a great variety of animals, including lots of kudu, giraffe, warthog, zebra, lots of steinbok, and good birds including the spectacular crimson-breasted shrike.
On to the Delta!
It rains only briefly, although sometimes torrentially (as last year) so the pools of water necessary for lions are frequent during the rains.