First lions

Strangely, the first time I saw a lion there was no sense of excitement. Later, when I thought back to it, it wasn’t boredom as much as the sense that this had happened to me a hundred times. The trouble wasn’t with the scene, but my mental focus. After all, there are less than 40,000 lions left in the world, and the IUCN red list calls them vulnerable. This means that unless we are successful in protecting them, they will slide down to extinction soon enough. No, the problem is TV. You cannot escape the numerous documentaries showing lions chasing buffalos or antelope and bringing them down, thereby giving you the false impression that, first, lions are common, and second, that the most interesting thing about them is the chase and kill. Now, when I look at this photo of the first lion I ever saw, standing with a bloodied muzzle over the zebra it had killed, looking at the distance with cloudy yellow eyes, I wonder why I wasn’t as excited as The Family.

After skirting Lake Amboseli I was still looking at birds, but Anthony, and, very soon, The Family, realized that there was a cluster of vehicles looking at something up ahead. Father of Niece Tatu was suddenly animated. As we neared the area, The Family was already saying “Lion.” It took me a few moments to find where she was looking. FONT and MONT had already spotted the kill by the time I saw the red ribs of a partly eaten zebra sticking up behind a slight rise. Lion? It was hunkered down, and a little bit of looking was needed to see movement, and a tawny hide. Now and then it would shift its weight as it gnawed. A single lioness with a whole zebra? Slowly the oddness struck me. Doesn’t the pride usually hunt together? Where were the rest? When the lioness stood up Anthony pointed out that she was pregnant.

As I was thinking this, MONT suddenly said “Another one.” Indeed, out of the thicket of palms another lioness had emerged. She walked steadily across the little patch of grass which separated the vehicles from the kill, crossed the road near us, and disappeared into the thicket on the other side of the path. I read later that in the dry season very often a pair of lionesses will hunt together. Systematic observations showed that their intake of food was smaller when they hunted individually or in larger groups. So perhaps this pair of lionesses had hunted together because at least one of them needed a lot of food.

Author: I. J. Khanewala

I travel on work. When that gets too tiring then I relax by travelling for holidays. The holidays are pretty hectic, so I need to unwind by getting back home. But that means work.

15 thoughts on “First lions”

  1. Well, I got excited for you! But constant over-exposure is a problem. Those emblematic works of art? That palace? Seen them already on TV. It can take away the utter thrill of wonder at something so magnificent.

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  2. I understand that. Even without watching mountain lions on TV (which I haven’t) when the moment came that I saw her when I was out hiking, I felt a strange distance from the whole experience. I suppose it was because I’d wanted it so much for so long OR because even though I didn’t feel in the least afraid, part of me knew I was in at least a little danger. Afterward, when I looked back to the rocks where she had retreated to watch me, I understood what I had seen. I still didn’t feel any fear, just deeply grateful for the moment. I think our brains have a lot of powers we don’t know about.

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      1. I wanted this very much, more than anything, and when it happened I was very happy. I’d accepted that it might not go well, and decided it was more important to me to see her than to live. Seriously. But it went well and I learned a lot from the experience. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. 🙂 If I’d been totally surprised, maybe it would have been different.

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