25.10.09

Cubs

The last few nights have delivered varying degrees of success with various groups of lions, mostly mothers helping their sub-adult offspring to hunt. We have tried to follow them through luggas, swamps and thick scrub, but still achieved lots of lovely hunting moments (all of which failed). The kids are full of confidence and excitement, running this way and that, while mum tries various tactics to get one of her cubs to actually make contact with an animal. In these dark conditions, the lions can’t see the prey but have to locate them by scent or sound. And the prey can clearly hear heavy lion footfalls in the grass unless the lion is very careful. This is where mum’s patience and experience count.

Now the moon is waxing, the dynamics change completely. With even a quarter moon, the wildlife can see each other pretty well, and the lion response to this is either to sleep until the moon sets or revert to more daytime like hunting methods - hiding in long grass - if there is any.

Last night we met up with two lovely experienced females and their 6 tomcat sized cubs. When mum told the cubs to stay put they did, and the two mothers set about stalking a mixed herd of topi, gazelles and wildebeest. Or so it seemed. After some protracted stalking and waiting about, one of the girls charged at the herd, who in the light of a quarter moon saw her coming in plenty of time to make an easy escape. It seemed a pointless effort. She really didn't try very hard. Or was she hoping to drive the prey towards her waiting sister?

The other female mysteriously didn’t seem at all interested - because as we found out, she was already with a dead topi, completely untouched, which they must have killed earlier in the day. Both mothers and all the cubs moved in for a quiet dinner under the moon and stars. And the cubs got their bed time milk before all dropping into deep sleep.

3 comments:

xl said...

Is it the case, like house cats, that the cubs will automatically go into hunting mode once they spot the prey? That is, do the mothers only have to teach them how to close the deal? Or, is it that the cubs have to be taught everything about the hunt?

Madame DeFarge said...

How long does it take the cubs to be able to hunt for themselves? Do the females (for want of a better term) let them have a bash?

ammonite said...

XL and Madame DeFarge
Lion cubs like any cats will go into hunting mode when they see a moving animal. Whether or not the mothers actually teach them or whether they simply lead them to a safe place where they can learn for themselves is hard to say. But it can take three years for them to be reliable enough to be able to feed their own cubs.

The Director