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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Governors' Camp April Game Report

Masai Mara, Kenya
April has been an interesting month, with heavy down pours, stunning cloud formations and thunderous outbursts all creating fascinating changes in the scenery.

All these rain storms meant that the Mara River became a roaring torrent for three days, rising around 14 feet. This deluge of water was a spectacular sight and hippos were seen scuttling for small pockets of calmer waters under the river banks. As well as enjoying the spectacle of the raging Mara River our guests also enjoyed some wonderful wildlife sightings.

The forests plants are now a deep rich green and we look forward with excited anticipation to the imminent blooming of the Mara wildflowers adding colour to the plains, forests and riverbanks.

In the forests around the camps the African Greenheart trees (Warburgia Ugandensis) are fruiting and these fruits now cover the forest floor. The Warburgia fruit is an elephant's favourite entrée and the fruiting has meant that we received regular visits from large bull elephants wandering into camp to feast on these hot fruit. Excited guests retreated to the safety of their tents, whilst the elephant feasted. Interestingly the leaves from the Green Heart are often used in place of hot chilies in cooking. Perhaps these fruits are eaten for medicinal purposes by the elephant, who knows?

The Musiara Marsh is full of elephant families with counts of at least 100 individuals. This is always a delight to see and an exciting start to our guests game drives. The elephant families include small feisty 3 month old calves to the old matriarchs. On the ground between the elephants legs cattle egrets busily feast off the rich pickings of insects disturbed by the elephants mighty round feet as they trudge along the marsh edges and grassy plains.

The long grass has caused the Bila Shaka / Marsh Pride of lions to split up and roam their vast territory in search prey, they are feeding on a lot of warthog at the moment and the occasional zebra which provides a more substantial meal. Two large black mane lions have been hovering on the edge of the Bila Shaka / Marsh Prides territory in anticipation of finding a weakness to exploit in the resident male kingdom, so perhaps this will be an exciting few months ahead as they build up their nerve to tackle the prestigious dominant Bila Shaka males and win control of the pride and their important territory.

The Paradise Pride comprises of Notch the old Bila Shaka pride male. He was forced out of the Bila Shaka pride by the current two black maned lions and he started a coalition with 5 of his male cubs, which is now the Paradise Pride. Normally a male lion does not tolerate his male offspring and at around two years of age they are usually banished by the male from the pride, the scientific reason for this is to prevent inbreeding by the sons mating with their mothers, aunts and sisters. However in this case Notch, and his male cubs moved prides so there is no close relationship with the females in the pride and also perhaps if Notch was to assert his dominance over his 5 male offspring he would be ousted himself. What this has created is possibly the most impressive lion family we have ever seen in the Mara - and at the moment there are 6 Blacked maned lions in this pride. Many of our clients in Feburary were lucky enough to see the entire pride of 22 individuals feeding on a hippo over several days. On one occasion a young male and female from the Ridge Pride ventured too close into the Paradise Pride's territory. The 6 black maned lions were feeding on the hippo and must have caught a whiff on the wind of the intruders and sprang up, and despite their distended full bellies, raced across the plains towards the young male and female. All 6 were roaring and running across the plains - one of the most incredible sights and sounds in Africa. Needless to say the two Ridge Pride lions ran for their lives. Each of the 6 Paradise Pride males took up a position on the plains and roared. Notch epitomises what we think a black maned lion should look like and his sons carry the genes. In April the paradise pride, 'Notch' and his boys have surprised us all, by swimming across the river, repeatedly! Two of the paradise females have been spotted with 6-8month old cubs and recently with a topi kill.

Some of our clients also had an interesting sighting on a game drive over Easter, when they came across two male lions up on Rhino Ride. The young male lions encountered a large herd of buffalo, and being young and a little reckless the lions decided to hang around the buffalo herd. The buffalo took exception to this and chased the two, one of whom ended up halfway up a tree waiting for the angry herd to pass! Many thanks to Mike Robinson for providing the photos.

The three cheetah brothers have been regularly seen roaming the plains, including some fast action as they brought down their prey and eating quickly before any other large predator slipped in for the feast. Hyenas' too have been surprising us here and have figured out how to capture sleeping topi and feasting.There is also a den of little playful black balls of uncoordinated hyena cubs below 'Bila shaka'.

There have been numerous sightings of various leopards and in particular a beautiful female, recognizable by a split on the top of her left ear, which has been seen at regular intervals. Recently we have had wonderful sighting of her and her kills in the tree close to Little Governors, also elegantly traipsed over a dead log near the marsh, delighting many a visitor.

Due to the long grass the normal plains game have been scarce, preferring the short grass plains they have mostly moved into these areas and have been seen regularly on our bush walks with close encounters with snorting wildebeest, zebra, eland, giraffe, Thompson gazelle and impala. We have also been enjoying all the smaller insects and animals of the Mara ecosystem on our walks, including the industrious Dung beetles who have been busy burying copious amounts of elephant dung! The colours of the dung beetles never cease to amaze us from bright green to shiny black, some with large horns to wide scoops. They are amazing creatures and 1 dung beetle is capable of burying one metric ton of dung in a hectare in a year!

Please visit the Governor's Camp Website: http://www.governorscamp.com/

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