Lions in Spring Part 2: The Chase
We happened upon another pride not related to the Rekero Brothers or the Minoka Ladies. Altogether four prides rule the more than forty lions of Naboisho Conservancy. The cubs played in the grass while the moms rested without any males around. A herd of wildebeest and zebras grazed not far from the pride. Our Maasai guide didn’t think the lions would hunt since the herd knew of their presence. When the prey knows a predator is in the vicinity, they face them rather than start a chase they might not win, Predators rely on the element of surprise to catch their meal, making the sudden turn of attention an effective deterrent.
After watching them for a few minutes, one of the lionesses started a maneuver the others in her pride followed except the cute lazy one. How did she communicate her intentions as she headed in the direction of the herd?
As the lead lioness made her way to the other side of her group of prey, the zebras, a nervous animal anyway, became more agitated than usual. The wildebeest reacted. Mayhem ensued. Cameras and bodies were jostled around in the jeep as we frontline photographers attempted to capture the chase on ‘tape’. The head lioness herded the group of mixed prey towards her waiting followers. Her cubs continued to play in the midst of the spectacle. The zebras whinnied to each other from across the herd. “Will we ever see each other again?” I imagined them saying.
The kill was not meant to be or maybe it was simply a practice drill. The cubs ran to play with mom once the dust settled. The zebras walked away with a watchful eye towards the lion as the lion turned towards us with a look of “I wasn’t really trying.”
Later, we found a gazelle that hadn’t faired so well at the claws of a cheetah, the feline’s stomach so full of dinner she let some lucky jackal (and, later probably a hyena) have the remains.
On another day, in another area of the preserve, a serene giraffe keeps his/her eyes on a roaming lion. Rather than run, giraffes use a look that says “I’m watching you”.
Life in the wooded grassland is a zero-sum game with triumph for some at the defeat of others. A cheetah, a jackal and probably a hyena ate well that night. The lions didn’t. I left with a whole new respect for the predator. They have to lose a few battles before they win one.