Lions and Cows

We have begun to learn the truth about rampant cattle grazing in the Mara.

The day before yesterday we (me on camera, Stanley on driving) watched some female lions sleeping peacefully as Masai cow bells and voices approached. The cows passed on the other side of the lugga* - and the lions paid no attention at all – then we heard the bell of a single cow trotting after the main herd. The lions leapt into action and hurried after it, behind the bushes. An outsider lioness also arrived, the lionesses had a bit of a spat and the cow escaped.

Later on, we saw some hyenas attacking a wildebeest, oblivious to the nearby Masai and cattle, some lions arrived on the scene commandeering the wildebeest that the hyenas had yet to bring down.

Last night we watched through our thermal camera as The Masai brought their herds closer and closer to where some lions were lounging around in the grass, the lions simply ignored them. We showed the footage to the Masai later, who had been completely unaware of the presence of 5 lions. Between looking at the cattle and sleeping, the lions chased a few hyenas and generally gave the impression that it was business as usual on Paradise plain.

The biggest question that remains is to what extent the cattle grazing damages or enhances the environment. And when the rain will relieve the pressure, and allow these
huge herds to go home.

*Mara term for ditch


xl said...

The lions seem to be discriminating between tended and untended herds. Clever cats!

kate said...

I read about that drought in the NY Times a few days ago. Makes me very sad to hear the land I found so beautiful has been destroyed and more humans and wildlife are dying every day. I wish for you lots of rain, and soon, even though I know this is the dry season...miracles have been known to happen. -kate

ammonite said...

At this time of year there’s lots of food for the lions, so it’s probably less of an issue. What nobody knows for sure (and is one of the things we hope to find out) is to what extent the lions take healthy cattle or scavenge cow that have already died of ehaustion or starvation.

The land has yet to be destroyed. The Mara is still extraordinary, and has a very good chance of long term survival, with the help of the new conservancies, the Mara North Conservancy and the Olare Orok Conservancy, and the fact that income from tourism far exceeds income from any aother source at this time.