One afternoon we were driving along the Mara River and heard a lion roar. I lifted my head and looked in the general direction and spotted a lioness about two hundered meters away, in the grassland just off the riverine bush. We followed her along the river, lost her and had to backtrack. She had found a dead foetus, probably a Thompsons, and was devouring it as a cat would a mouse.
As evening fell we made our way back to Rekero Camp. We found a lion and lioness just over a small outcrop in the Paradise Plains and watched them mate once. The female was quite coy. They walked together, with him following her. Her head was up; his was down and near her hind legs. They lay down, her head facing his torso. She slapped him and snarled. Then he mounted her.
“Wait for the snarl as he dismounts. Get ready!” Marius focused his camera in the dying light, ISO pushed up high to cope with the low light. Fifteen seconds later the lion lifted his body away and snarled as the lioness turned in pain to snap at him. Then they lay down again.
“They can go for forty hours, every twenty minutes like this. Must be exhausting”, I said.
“Absolutely. You know the male has barbs on his penis, which is why the withdrawal is so dramatic”, said Marius. “Ouch!” I thought. I found out that in fact all felines have barbs and that the withdrawal stimulates ovulation. Nevertheless, the lion mating ritual is different, especially when viewed as a primate.
We left, but the next day saw well over fifteen cars at the same couple. We just drove on. The next morning we drove to the Marsh Plains in the north of the reserve. We left camp at 6 a.m. and were the only vehicle amongst one million wildebeest and one hundred thousand zebra for two hours. These massive herds are difficult to capture on image. We tried different angles and depths of field, and stood in awe of the second herd of a million we had seen.
We then spotted a lioness walking ahead of a lion. Not sure if she was hunting or mating, we followed her. The ritual started and the snarl on dismount was quite vicious. A few Landrovers from Governor’s Camp arrived, and we left, having followed the lions for a while. Also, realising that she was not hunting, and that he was hunting her rather than the wildebeest, we left them to the group. There would be no kill. Ironically, we had spotted an injured wildebeest less than one hundred meters away in the long grass.
We drove on towards the river and sat with some vultures and Maribou Storks. They had a carcass they were fighting over and were very entertaining. Onesmus listened in on his radio. “The Marsh Pride cubs are nearby. Let’s go see.”
We drove off and sat with the cubs for a few minutes. What cute offspring of such a vicious mating ritual.