Written by Kiri Cashell – Researcher, Masai Mara
Oh no here comes the rain again!!
When it rains in the Mara everyone knows about it – it doesn’t just rain, it pours! Not one day has passed without the team seeing the ominous sight of thick, black, storm clouds raging over the horizon, and as a consequence, I have spent most of my time being thrown around the back of a car, as we skid and slide our way around the Mara.
The rains have caused all manner of logistical nightmares – from getting our cars stuck in the mud to preventing our kit from arriving on time. In the end, it all becomes part of the adventure, but the real drama has begun with our wildlife.
Whilst driving back to camp recently, our driver spotted a mother lion and her cub playing on a fallen tree. We decided to drive closer to find out which pride they belonged to, but as we drew closer it soon dawned on us… they were totally alone. It was a lone female and her cub.
As we watched them nuzzle, play and interact with each other, everyone in the car fell under their spell, we were hooked.
Since that first encounter, we have spent every day with them, learning what extraordinary characters this pair really is. The beautiful lioness; a tenacious, and determined mother, and the cub; a brave, endearing bundle of joy.
This time of year is hard for any lion, especially a single mother like our female. Food is scarce, and the lean frames of both mother and cub holds testament to this. Every day is a struggle for survival, and watching the remarkable bond this pair have, has meant the crew and I have invested a lot of emotional energy into caring about what happens to them.
Unlike pride lions our pair do not have the support and protection that pride living brings. Every other lion treats them like the enemy and they have to fend for themselves. This has meant that the cub is often left vulnerable and alone while mum leaves to hunt, and as she can’t take down big prey she has to hunt more frequently. Watching her hunt and search for food in the midday heat, panting and uncomfortable is often unbearable.
Today, we watched on tenterhooks as she patiently stalked a warthog, every fibre in our bodies willing for her to make the kill so she could feed herself and the cub. I surprised myself, often you react to watching a kill by feeling a little sorry for the prey, but today all I cared about was our mother and cub – I knew how desperately they needed to eat, and we really wanted her to make the kill.
As the light began to fade we returned back to camp exhausted, my body shaking with adrenaline. As I dragged myself back to my tent, I spotted a visitor who looked up excitedly as I approached, I felt a pang of guilt, it was Basil – the friendly camp warthog…
With more than 150 wildlife experts and filmmakers strategically positioned around the globe, 24/7 Wild will showcase real animals and their everyday fight for survival — as it happens, in real time. Each episode will focus on the babies of the animal world during the tumultuous spring month of May, when births are more common. Tune in to 24/7 Wild: First Steps: Monday, May 7, at 9 p.m. et/pt.