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Watching The Big Cats

The lions of the Moremi Game Reserve

Gill Staden, eTN  Apr 04, 2010

The target="_blank">Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana is known for its huge herds of plains game, stalked by predators – lions and hyenas. We were staying at Duba Plains in Kwedi Concession with Wilderness Safaris, just on the edge of Moremi. Our visit, though, was at the end of the rainy season, so much of the land was waterlogged. Many of the animals don’t like constantly wading though water, so the big herds had wandered off to higher ground.

The lechwe were there, of course; they love the water. We also saw small herds of tsessebe, wildebeest, impala, zebra, kudu, waterbuck, and buffalo. The birdlife, too, was amazing with lots of migrants.

One of the special reasons for visiting the African bush during the rains is to see the young as they are born and start to find their way in the world.

For us, I think, the memorable part was to see the lions. We got so close to them in the safari vehicle and watched them for hours. First, we came across a mother who was wandering through the long grass with three youngsters trailing behind. She lay down and fed them; not in the least bit bothered by our vehicle. She is so used to the Wilderness Safari vehicles and the occupants taking photos of her.

Later we found her again. She had left her cubs and had joined some other females of the pride to hunt. They were sitting on the top of a hummock surveying the scene. Their bodies were covered in flies – a sign that the smell of their last kill was still around them. They seemed irritated by the flies and could not relax. One of them decided to get up and have a go at another meal – she could see some warthog in the distance.

We watched as she set off on the hunt, another lioness joining in, going out towards the flank. The other two lionesses couldn’t be bothered and just sat and watched with us. The pair of lionesses on the hunt crept through the grass, crouching down occasionally and watched their prey. Actually, they didn’t do too bad, but when they were within about 20 meters of the warthog family, it got wind of them and hightailed it into the distance. The lionesses watched their meal disappear through the trees.

The lions in this area of the Kwedi Concession have a rather concerning habit. The females kill each other’s cubs. No one seems to know why this has started to happen. There used to be a pair of male lions which ruled over the pride for many years; they were known as the Duba Boys. They died a while ago, and since then there has been no male constantly with the females. There is one female, called Silver Eye, who is generally thought to be responsible for the death of the cubs.

Now, in order to save the lives of their cubs, the lionesses keep them well hidden and away from the others. The team at Duba Plains sincerely hope that the cubs we saw with their mother will survive this year and help to create some new dynamics within the pride. Only time will tell.

The lions of the Moremi Game Reserve
Photo by Gill Staden, eTN

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