QENP DAY TWO - THE LION SHOW
We arose quite early for our morning game drive with the Uganda Carnivore Program, greeted by overcast skies and rain. Our guide, James Kalyewa, is a senior research assistant who rode in our van along with his lion tracking apparatus. The tracking antenna was connected to a radio transmitter tucked in his shirt pocket, close enough to his ears for him to listen intently for sounds that the rest of us could not discern. James was in possession of a permit to take the vehicles off the dirt roads and into the savannah grass, so that when James heard something, it prompted an abrupt direction to Joseph, driving our van: "Left!" "Keep going straight now!" Before long, he led us to our first of several pairs and trios of lions, both females and males.
The first two lionesses were sleepy and blinking against the morning light, one of them prominently sporting the tracking collar that led us to her:
The sight of lions in their natural habitat is so mesmerizing, we gazed at them and clicked our cameras again and again until they stood up and ambled away. Then we were off again, James' ear to his pocket.
Our next pair of lionesses seemed as sleepy as the first and one of them was also collared. They sat close together in the grass, one grooming herself. We were surprised that they did not seem to take notice of our vehicles. I wondered if they had just enjoyed this nearby African kob male for breakfast.
Nearly an hour passed by before we caught up to this next trio of lionesses, who first thrilled us with their display of sisterly affection, and then thrilled us again by walking between our two vans as though we weren't even there!
The next pair of lions we found were male; one a juvenile, another an adult with an injured paw. The injured male is the one with the larger mane; he was so peaceful and regal!
We happened upon a final trio of males in close proximity to the last pair. James identified this group as being brothers of the same mother to the male pair we had just left. He explained that when male lions mature, they leave their families and become competitors. James worried that this trio was aware of the nearby brothers, including one with the injured paw; indeed, it seemed like all three lions were training their attention in the direction of this other pair, possibly with the idea to fight them since one was injured and they were outnumbered. James instructed our drivers to begin to slowly move the vans, gently herding the lion trio away from their two brothers. The lions were not happy to be nudged, as they were lazy and wanted to rest. But our vans slowly kept behind them, prompting them to another part of the plains. We watched from our van as they headed away toward an iconic acacia, with the Mountains of the Moon looming in the distance. Fantastic!!
Our group with James and his tracking equipment. What a memorable morning!