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Ndutu 11/2018 - Cats and Dust


ice

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michael-ibk

A truly awesome Caracal enconter, @ice. I notice you even had two sightings - just lucky or is that something that one could hope to expect in the area in the dry season?

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Being a regular visitor of South Africa's Kgalagadi Park for more than 12 years now, I've had my share of good sightings of African Wild Cats. However, on another early morning venture we came across

Landscape and Temperature   The highest temperatures during my stay hopped around 30°C but obviously it was a dry heat, so easily bearable. In the mornings it would have cooled down to about

2016    

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I wouldn't know @michael-ibk, this was my first dry season trip to Ndutu. However, based on what my guide said, I think it was just pure luck, as it is usually the case with sightings of small cats, unless you visit special places like Marrick or Benfontein in ZA, for example.

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Identifying and giving names to the Lions

 

I know this subject has been discussed before and I certainly don't want have that discussion again in my trip report but it's obvious to me that a lot of folks are against giving names to (wild) animals. My personal opinion, though is the complete opposite: it makes it so much easier to discuss particular lion prides, wild dog packs or individual leopards and cheetah. I mean if somebody mentions "Notch" or "Honey" most of us will know who he / she is talking about. If that same person started talking about MAT 10 or MAS 5, not so much. I also believe it creates a certain bond to the animals which in turn makes it more likely that one will one day return to that particular park or concession which in theory should support the overall conservation.

 

Anyway, as with the lions of the NCA, most of the names I mentioned in post #23 were handed out by a guy (or, knowing where he was from, I should rather say a "chap") from the UK named Brian Pugh. My guide Hamisi first met him in 2006 but believes Brian must have visited the NCA much longer than that. Anyway, Brian would usually show up twice or three times a year, with only one thing on his mind: spend time with the lions of Ndutu. He was the one who "baptised" them long before any "official" researchers showed up. And when they did finally did, they simply started using the same lion names.

 

Kope Lion

 

One of those "official" researching teams is Kope Lion.

 

https://kopelion.org

 

Whenever Hamisi and I went out on a game drive and came across lions my guide would take pictures of their whisker spots and write down the GPS coordinate of their position. Back at the lodge, that data would be sent to Ingela Jansson, the manager of Kope Lion.

 

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Close to the end of my trip Ingela and some members of her team visited the Lodge and I was lucky enough to meet her. A few days before, we had come across two lionesses which Hamisi was unable to clearly identify. But Ingela could help out; it was a female called Lucie Manette and another one which until that day only had a scientific name, "MAT 10", because she was the 10th cub of the Matiti Pride. 

 

Lions (in the NCA) are only "rewarded" with human names when they have reached a certain age. And since nobody had seen MAT 10 again until Hamisi and I came along, nobody had ever "baptised" her. That honor was granted to me, since I had been the one to first spot her after all this time. It only took me a minute or two but then it was obvious: I gave her the same name we had given our daughter some 15 years ago - Kira, or, if you want to spell it the english way, Keyra. Coincidence or not, but my daughter was born at the end of July, under the zodiac sign of a lion. So please meet the "new" lion on the plains.

 

 

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22 Fotos Hamisi 004.JPG

22 Fotos Hamisi 003.JPG

22 Fotos Hamisi 002.JPG

22 Fotos Hamisi 001.JPG

Edited by ice
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and here is that revised index card of Kope Lion

 

 

21 Fotos Klaus 105.JPG

21 Fotos Klaus 104.JPG

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amybatt

Thank you for continuing with this TR.  I love the video and am extremely envious of both the caracal and serval sightings (not to mention the African Wild Cat!)

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Zubbie15

Yes, glad you were able to continue your report. You really had a good number of the smaller cats in particular, and your videos of the serval and caracal demonstrate how well they showed for you.  We apparently just missed a caracal during our last trip to Ndutu, perhaps it’s a reasonable area to try to see them.  Looking forward to your next installments.

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The Short Happy Life of a Serengeti Lion

 

While researching for the manuscript of my video diary I came across this article.

 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2013/08/serengeti-lions/

 

Of course it only relates to my trip indirectly in as much as it mentions Ingela Jansson who was working as a field assistant at the time the author visited the Serengeti and who is now running Kope Lion, the organisation I mentioned before. However, I came to find the title quite fitting for some of my experiences in Ndutu.

 

George Schaller, along with Craig Packer probably the most notable lion researcher, has calculated that only 33 % of lion cubs that are born in the Serengeti live long enough to reach adulthood. In contrast, the survival rate for lion cubs in the central region of Kruger NP in ZA is 71%, more than twice as high. It's not rocket science to figure out the reason for these huge differences: The Serengeti is part of the biggest land living migration of the world, whereas there is virtually no migration whatsoever in ZA. Lions in Kruger will always find plenty of food sources, especially in the central region of the park.

 

Ndutu's lions, though, face harsh conditions. For more than half a year basically all zebras and all wildebeest are gone, and even buffalos can be tricky to find. They have to survive on gazelles and impalas and perhaps a giraffe once in a while.

 

By the time, I visited the NCA Nosikitok and her Masek Pride had lost all of the seven cubs of their recent litter. Laura and Willow, the surviving adult females of the Thin Pride, were only slightly better off: Their litter initially consisted of eight cubs, five of which had disapperead by early November. I was lucky enough to spend some (quality) time with the remaining three babies. Never ever before have I seen such weak and thin cubs. They were completely torpid. 

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Edited by ice
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This was filmed on November 6th, around 11 am, in the Big Marsh. Less than four hours later the situation had changed dramatically, and not for the better.

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From the distance it looked as if the cub had died. Driving closer, we were glad to notice that it was still breathing...if only barely. However, it had clearly been abandoned by the rest of the pride. We found them a few minutes later, less than a kilometer away. 

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What made the situation even worse: About an hour later the rest of the pride made a kill - a kill that the third baby did not profit from. The following morning it had disappeared and was not to be seen again. Later that night, about 24 hours after they had left the cub behind, Laura and Willow started to pick up its scent and to softly call for it - in vain. 

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amybatt

This is very sad, @ice but coincidentally we saw the same situation in Mara North in November too.  Two little cubs had seemingly been abandoned and were very thin and lethargic, could hardly move.  The guides thought that with the instability of the prides and with nomadic males taking over the prides, that the mother got scared off and left them.  They were gone the next morning, likely the prey of either buffalo or eagles.  Was there a troubling pride dynamic that may have caused Laura and Willow to leave them?

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No, not at all. The cub was simply too weak and they had to leave it in order to find food. Like I said, less than an hour later and less than a mile away they made a kill. However, lions are generally not know as good mothers. 

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michael-ibk

Very touching videos @ice - I like the music you have chosen for these, very fitting. 

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okay, I confess I couldn't bear to watch the dying cub video. :(

 

However the caracal and serval video were wonderful. Caracal is one that's eluded me so far...hoping maybe I'll get lucky next Kenya trip...

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kittykat23uk

Fantastic  trip report so far @ice very jealous of your caracal sightings! Sad to see the poor cubs suffering like that, but that's nature for you I guess. :(

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1 hour ago, janzin said:

okay, I confess I couldn't bear to watch the dying cub video. :(

 

However the caracal and serval video were wonderful. Caracal is one that's eluded me so far...hoping maybe I'll get lucky next Kenya trip...

 

It didn't die in that moment, though. In fact, the following day it was just gone, probably taken by another predator.

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Pamshelton3932

I have really been enjoying this trip report and am so glad you have taken the time to write it.  Caracal sighting is something I’d love to see.  

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Zim Girl

@ice

The Caracal and Serval sightings were fabulous.

The two cub videos were hard to watch but tastefully done and the music along with the footage brought tears to my eyes.

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Thanks. Sometimes I spent ten minutes or more to try and find a fitting piece of music for my video clips.

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Sightings of a Lifetime - Missed and Had

 

The first sighting that (imho) falls in this particular category happended long before I arrived for my cuerrent trip.

 

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4695840/Heart-warming-images-lioness-nursing-baby-leopard.html

 

If you google the name of the lioness (Nosikitok) you might find a few more pictures and statements by renowned researchers like Packer who confiirmed that this was a truly unique sighting.

 

My guide told me that the leopard cub was indeed seen only once. Nobody knows if it got picked up by its mother, was finally left behind by Nosikitok - or killed by her pride.

 

As mentioned before, I was lucky enough to spend some time with Nosikitok and her pride during my stay. 

 

BTW: (am not sure if this is mentioned in the article I linked) "Nosikitok" (who was named long before this incident) is Masai and means "mother milk" - seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy...

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