Mashatu Lions

This is the second post from my trip to Mashatu in late July. Mashatu in winter is usually a good time to see predators .

“In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia”

Charles Lindbergh

Seemingly in the last two months much has changed in the Lion world in Mashatu. Two large males have come in from Zimbabwe. There are no fences between Botswana and Zimbabwe in this area, so the game is free to move in and out. There is also nothing to stop the poachers down near the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers moving in and out.

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Back in April, as a result of the arrival of the two new dominant males, we found seven of the youngsters near the cross roads to Solomon’s Wall. They must have fled west when the new males arrived. The young males in the next few images must have decided to come back sensing that the two dominant males were away, perhaps down on Charter, an adjacent reserve, in the Tuli block.

Day time is sleeping time for Lions as they are mainly active at night when they have maximum competitive advantage due to their excellent night vision. These two were resting up in a river bed in the shade of a Mopani bushes.

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They acknowledged that we were there but soon resumed their slumber – dream land!!

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Obviously nothing happens when Lions are sleeping, so one of the things I like to do when there is little action is to look around and often there is something interesting behind me. On this occasion there was a Mopani tree which had grown out of the river bank. It looked as if it had grown upside down. The roots and the quartz strata in the bank made an interesting visual, and I liked the flower arrangement the Mopani leaves made with their splash of  colour.

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One of the young males started to stir and began licking his paw. I liked the shapes and textures.

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The next day we crossed the reserve almost down to the Limpopo river to find this female Leopard and her cub.

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She was fairly relaxed but her cub who was up a nearby tree and was very edgy. We did not find out until later that the main reason for the cub’s uneasiness was two male lions which were nearby, about two to three hundred metres to the west. They turned out to be the two young males we had seen slumbering under some Mopani bushes in a river bed the evening before.

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This little Tree Squirrel was going about its business well aware of the female Leopard above it.

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This female was not going anywhere while the Lions were nearby and continued to lie on her bough and yawn with boredom. These big trees are a safe haven for the Leopards. With Lions around it was just a waiting game.

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The two young males had covered quite some distance the night before. At a rough estimate they must have walked 12 to 15 kilometres.

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“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfilment”

Sir David Attenborough

These were good-looking and young enough not to have had got involved in any serious territorial tangles which would have etched life into their faces!! The early morning light really highlighted their blonde colouring.

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Since the two large males had not been seen for a while, perhaps these youngsters felt it was relatively safe to come back to have a look around where they had grown up.

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They could enjoy the calm for now, relaxing in the early morning wintery sun.

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This Black-backed Jackal wandered by to see if there were any food scraps it might be able to pick up- no luck!!

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Up close, his pupils were contracted due to the brightening light  as the sun was climbing into the morning sky.

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Impala and Guineafowl wandered by catching this youngster’s attention, but his attention did not turn into action!!

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This young male must have been drinking from a muddy puddle to have his lower lip covered in mud.

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It was still relatively early in the morning so it was still watching time, not yet siesta time.

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This young male was just getting up. Looking at his powerful frame and the way he looked at us, I was reminded why it was a good idea to be on a game vehicle.

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A little Lightroom licence to emphasise those penetrating eyes. They look at you as if they can see you on the vehicle and those big lenses certainly seem to get their attention, but they seem to associate you as being part of the vehicle, not prey. I wonder how long that association will last with the continual tourist interaction?!

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“Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral”

John Burroughs

On our last day when we were driving passed Main Camp, we saw this Lioness walking in a westerly direction with purpose. It was early, the sun was just up and it was nippy as you can see from her breath.

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This Lioness walked within about thirty metres of the entrance to main Camp. A scent trail had really caught her attention.

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Our ranger Maifala reckoned she was following two young Lions which were heading out west at a rapid rate. When we woke that morning, the two dominant males were roaring and making it known they were back. These two young Lions did not wait around. We do not know if it they were the young males we had seen a few days earlier near the Leopard. We spend the morning tracking these two young runaways. It was quite astounding how far and fast they had travelled. We never managed to catch up with them despite Maifala best tracking efforts.

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We did not get to see the two big males either but that is the luck of the draw in the bush. In the process of trailing the two runaways, we got to see parts of Mashatu which I had never seen before, such as this view from “Cocktail spot”.

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The morning was spent looking for but not finding our quarry. They covered an impressive distance across rough country. We could not catch up with them but we did get to see new and unexpected places.

Economy without ecology means managing the human nature relationship without knowing the delicate balance between humankind and the natural world”

Satish Kumar

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its interconnectedness and let it be,

Have fun

Mike

One thought on “Mashatu Lions

  1. Great blog as always Mike, especially love the image where the lion is licking its paw. Mashatu really looks like an awesome place. Thanks again for sharing.

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