Obviously my mind has been on buying/selling/ closing and hassling with objections on two pieces or real estate, so not much time for writing commentary, however, that didn’t mean I had to miss today’s post. But vis-a-vis my mind being eleswhere, I thought I’d change the pace and share a story that just happens to be the backstory for my March photo submission to the Photographic Society of America – I won’t bore you with the details about the equipment or camera settings used, but I think you’ll find the story an interesting diversion.
Bobbi and I were on a late afternoon game drive in Kenya’s Masai Mara with our Swahili guide, Pingua. Ping, as he liked to be called, had taken us out in hopes of finding the Enkoyeni lion pride comprising 2 huge males 8 adult females and 10 sub-adults on a hunt.
It was shortly before sunset, and although the two males were absent and doing what male lions do, i.e., sleep, the other 18 members of the pride were setting up ambush positions on a small wildebeest herd when Ping cried out, “They’re going to die; they’re going to die!” Ping had spotted three young lion cubs who were with their mothers, two nomadic lionesses, that had inadvertently strayed between the wildebeests and the stalking lions.
The two nomads, known locally as N’gurro (Short Tail) and Mama Kali (Fierce Mother) were “scrappers,” having had many violent encounters with the Enkoyeni pride in the past. Meanwhile, the guides didn’t know which of the three cubs belonged to which lioness, but lioness sisters often assist in raising each other’s cubs. Part of N’gurro’s tail had been bitten off in a skirmish, hence the name “Short Tail.” But she was known to never back down from a fight even when outnumbered; and on this evening, the odds were 18 against 2.
After spotting the nomads and their cubs The Enkoyeni pride abandoned the hunt and moved to confront the interlopers when something very strange happened. Instead of fleeing, N’gurro and Mama Kali turned to face the 18 pursuing lions and unbelievably initiated an attack. Our guide surmised the two lionesses understood if they ran, their cubs wouldn’t be able to keep up and would surely be killed.
The ensuing encounter was the most vicious & savage event I have ever witnessed; the sounds alone were absolutely terrifying; it was a blood curdling cacophony of raw aggression that Bobbi, and I will never forget. Mama Kali who was unusually big for a lioness at nearly 400 pounds, took on 12 of the rival pride, and was savagely mauled. Meanwhile N’gurro engaged the other six lions of the pride. The fight was over within minutes, and when it ended, a severely battered Mama Kali managed to steal off into the sward never to be seen again; meanwhile N’gurro and the cubs escaped into the tall grass of the adjoining Moniko pride territory.
Living between rival lion prides kept the nomads and their cubs in constant jeopardy, and without a pride male to protect them, the nomads and their cubs were always at risk. However, on this day, being so close to another pride’s territory was a blessing because as much as the Enkoyeni pride wanted to tear the intruders to shreds, the Enkoyeni would not cross the imaginary line marking the Moniko pride’s territory. It was almost like watching a Wiley Coyote cartoon as the entire pride “put on the brakes” and skidded to a halt at the ‘territorial line.’
The next morning, we found N’gurro and one of the cubs (see the image below) but there was no sign of the other cubs. Ping suspected they had been killed during the previous evening’s encounter, but later that day a different camp guide spotted the cubs, and that evening around the dinner table there was a heated debate about whether the guides should somehow attempt to re-unite N’gurro with the two lost cubs. With emotions running high, the camp manager contacted Kenyan wildlife authorities who told him unequivocally, “No human interference!” – the guides were crestfallen because they knew between the leopards and the hyena clan in the area the cubs wouldn’t make it through the night.
I took the image below a day after the encounter, and as you can see from the cub’s body language the youngster is still terrified and can’t get close enough to N’gurro. People have asked me if I photographed the horrific melee on the savannah – I tell them “I could not lift my camera, and neither would you if you had been there.”
We left Kenya the next day still reeling from the experience. But the story does not end there. After returning home, the camp manager emailed a photo of N’gurro and all three cubs. The lone lioness had found her charges, and while no one knows for certain, the local guides suspect one of the Moniko pride males fathered one or all of the cubs and therefore was allowing both N’gurro and cubs to remain in the relative safety of his territory so long as they didn’t approach any of the Moniko pride females or cubs.
Quote of the day: “If you can visit but two continents in a lifetime, go to Africa twice!” – Old African Expression