Botswana’s Big Cats (Part 2 of 3)

2nd up: Lion (Panthera leo)

Location: Santawani Concession – operated by the local community and location of Botswana’s Predator Conservation Progeam.

This morning began with another game drive in the Santawani Concession. Yesterday afternoon was spectacular with the leopard sighting. Today we’re on the lookout for lions. We heard a male near the lodge last night and he sounded close, very close.

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As we leave the camp, we notice a small herd of impala acting skittish. Owen, our guide, mentions that something must be going on in the area and that it probably involves lions. There is a resident group of lions, the Santawani Pride, that calls this area home.

After our mid-morning stop for coffee and cookies (I love this part), Owen asks if we’re ready to head back to the lodge. We haven’t seen any lions, but that’s to be expected when you’re stalking wildlife. Some days are just better than others, and this morning has been productive in other ways.

We turn down the road back to camp and two guides approach in another vehicle. They talk to Owen, but the language barrier is preventing me from eavesdropping effectively. After they pull away, Owen looks back at us and asks if we’re willing to stay out longer because a couple of lions have been spotted a few kilometers from here. That’s a silly question – of course, we’re game.

Our eyes resume scanning the landscape for the feline form. I see nothing other than swaying grass. All of a sudden, Owen turns off the road, pulls up behind a termite mound, and stops the vehicle. Lying in the grass in front of us are two lionesses. We’ve apparently disturbed nap time. One lifts her head for a moment, yawns, and then lies back down. Rest is calling and she doesn’t care to be bothered any further. The second reacts in a similar, unenthusiastic manner and we decide to leave them in peace.

Lioness of Santawani Concession

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Almost back at the lodge, we see a vehicle pulled off the road. Owen pulls up next to them and in front of us is the infamous Santawani Pride feeding on a fresh giraffe kill. I can’t believe our luck again! Just a bit earlier I had asked Owen what the major predators of giraffes are and here, right in front of the vehicle, my question is answered in the best possible way. Wow!

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The alpha male has already fed and is sleeping, belly full, in the shade. The alpha female is feeding at the neck (it must be her favorite part) as the younger individuals work on the hind legs and abdomen. Yes, it’s gruesome, but it’s also spectacular. This is nature at its finest, and the day just got better.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO36MMIrYt0]

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