Weather and grasslands
Temperatures have been warm this month with high humidity and often strong north easterly and westerly winds. We’ve had pockets of rain at the beginning of the month and in the last week since the 20th, there has been heavy rainfall all over much of the country and all Mara areas. A total of 254mm was recorded and relative humidity is 96%. The Musiara Marsh has filled up since the last week and has swelled out into the west marsh grasslands with water flowing across the road! The Mara River had come up relatively high with the recent rainfall. Grass levels all over the Mara areas have been short since the last week of November and now everything is looking quite lush and green. Poor rainfall earlier on in the month had induced the depletion of grasses. The Paradise Plains still have longer grasses, which are now dense and thick attracting many elephant and buffalo to these low lying areas.
The Marsh Pride and stormy skies – photo credit Alisa Bowen
On the plains:
General game sightings have been rewarding although many species are well spread out. Grasses on the open plains are very short and well grazed down: since the 20th there has been good rainfall and the majority of these areas of alluvial soils are resilient and now looking green and healthy.
Plains game is well spread out – Photo credit Moses Manduku
Topi and their young calves are well spread and can be seen in most areas of the Mara, while Cokes Hartebeest will be seen in smaller herds in areas such as the Lower Bila Shaka and west marsh grasslands. On Topi Plains, Spotted Hyena had taken two Topi while they were sleeping – Hyenas are well known for this stealthy behaviour.
There are many Topi fawns around at the moment and one of our guides managed to capture a kill by cheetah Rani; unfortunately the kill was promptly stolen by two of the Topi lion pride females.
Topi Pride female with Topi fawn – photo credit Moses Manduku
Elephant come and go, particularly as far as the marsh – which is a common feeding ground for them. They cross the river at the BBC campsite and have done so for many years, since elephants are very habitual in their patterned movements. A few breeding herds are being seen in the grasslands on Paradise Plains.
Photo credit Moses Manduku
Giraffe breeding herds are being seen well spread out in the conservancies and also the west marsh and riverine woodlands. A bachelor herd of male giraffe was seen in the west marsh riverine woodlands while a few of the older resident males tend to frequent the camps.
Resident Zebra herds are also being seen widespread; the Topi Plains, Malima Tatu and southern areas of the Bila Shaka area host small herds of zebra. Due to poor rainfall patterns earlier on, and the over grazed areas on the short and open plains, zebras have been moving around and are generally well spread out.
The Bila Shaka Cape buffalo breeding herd are grazing in the Musiara east Marsh and the Bila Shaka riverbed areas, although in the west marsh there are still a few older resident bulls close by the camps – a few of these older bulls do get taken down by the resident lion prides. The Rhino Ridge Buffalo herd has moved down into the Paradise Plains grasslands.
One of the Olololo males with buffalo kill – photo credit Moses Manduku
Thomson Gazelles have been calving and also Impala are being seen with young fawns. Warthogs with young piglets are being seen well spread out across the open plains – the east marsh grasslands close to the airstrip is a good area to see them.
A Side-striped jackal has been seen on a few occasions on the north fan of Rhino ridge; this is a species not often seen due to habitat loss and whilst at the same time competing with its cousin the Black-backed jackal, which has proven to be a more successful jackal, it has been a struggle for the Side-striped jackal.
Marsh lioness Yaya and her two adult females will be seen within the southern Marsh and the lower Paradise Plains. Her daughter Pamoja had two 2-month-old cubs in October; they were last seen in the thicket to the croton hill south of the Bila Shaka crossing. However, within the first week of November, one cub had disappeared and Pamoja was seen calling a little later on. She is now being seen with Yaya and her sister Nusu Mkia without any cubs at all sadly. There has always been friction with the Marsh Pride lionesses: it is suspected that the disappearance of one cub was due to an encounter with some buffalo and unfortunately we are unsure about what has happened to the second cub. The incident with the buffalo is a phenomenon known as predator-prey aggression and it is quite common between buffalo and lion throughout Africa.
Our last sighting of Pamoja with one cub – photo credit Moses Manduku
The Marsh Pride have all been hunting and feeding off zebra and buffalo in the area. Lioness Spot has two ‘sub adult’ cubs that are one year old now (a male and a female). They are mostly with lioness Little Red who has jointly raised them together with Spot. These lions are also found in the lower reaches of the Bila shaka, which flows through the west of Paradise Plains.
The other Marsh lionesses, that is, Rembo, Kabibi, Dada and Kito and their five cubs of varying ages, have been hunting and residing in the northern areas of the Bila shaka. On the 18th of November they had killed and eaten a large Buffalo bull and on the 21st they were seen feeding off zebra. They are an active pride.
Marsh Pride lionesses Kito, Rembo, Dada, Kabibi and cubs with zebra kill
– Photo credit Moses Manduku
The Madomo/ridge pride which has five lionesses and two 10-months-old cubs (a male and female) and seven young cubs at six months old, have been seen on the higher reaches of Topi plains and East of Rhino ridge on Emartii Hill. In the early hours they have been seen hunting Topi and Zebra below Emartii Hill and can also be seen on the south fan of Rhino Ridge and sometimes will be hunting in the early hours of the morning on the lower Topi Plains.
The female leopard Saba (also know as the Kaboso leopard) and her one cub (who is two months old now) has been seen frequently. She is mostly seen hunting Topi calves and Impala; on the 8th she had a Topi calf up a Boscia tree near the Olare Orok River crossing.
Saba (Kaboso leopard) – photo credit Moses Manduku
Saba’s young female daughter (from another litter), has been seen latterly further up the Ngorbop riverbed; this riverbed flows into the Olare Orok and on the 17th and 24th she was seen resting under a Teclea tree.
A large male leopard was being seen on the Double Crossing on the Ngiatiak side of the crossing – on the 23rd we had a particularly good sighting of him with the remains of a full grown Topi high up in a Sycamore fig tree! Another younger male leopard is being seen again on the lower reaches of the Bila Shaka; on the 19th of the month he was seen with the nearly finished remains of a Grant’s gazelle high up a Warburgia tree.
The female leopard Bahati and her two 11-month-old cubs of the Talek River area are still being sighted frequently and she was seen earlier on in the month near the stagnant crossing.
A large female leopard is often seen on the Ngiatiak side of the Double Crossing; on the 23rd she was seen resting on a fallen Warburgia tree and she appeared to be well fed.
The five male cheetah coalition are being seen frequently and having been highlighted to all the big cat lovers, they are very active and will hunt between the Murram pit areas of the eastern Talek Plains and the southern Ngiatiak River and into the conservancies. Earlier on in November, they were seen near Hammerkop on the Possee Plains, which indicates the distances they travel.
The female cheetah Rani is often being seen between the Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge; she has been actively feeding on Thomson gazelles and Topi calves. On the evening of the 24th she had killed a Topi calf on Rhino Ridge – soon after she had started to eat her fill, three lionesses from the Topi Pride robbed her of it. This is known as ‘predator aggression’ in force and often, lion and hyena will actively watch for cheetah making a kill.
Female cheetah Rani with Topi kill and the Topi Pride females –
A lone male is often seen near the Double Crossing on the Olare Orok side and as far as the east Paradise Plains area and the grasslands below Emartii Hill as there are good numbers of Thompson gazelles and Topi here.
Imani the female cheetah is in the Olare Orok Conservancy; she is now on her own and her three adult offspring were being seen near the Murram pits earlier on in the month and also as far as the Ngiatiak. Mara guides have reported seeing Imani the female cheetah being mated again and as well as one of her female offspring.
The female cheetah Selenkai has seven cubs that are approximately two months old. She can be seen hunting on the Agama plains south of the Keekorok Airstrip and she has latterly been seen heading north of the airstrip at Keekorok.
By Patrick Reynolds, Manager at Governors’ Il Moran Camp.