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Lions & Other Big Cats Archives

Baby Cheetah Cub (from Facebook)

Male Lion Making Eye Contact (from Facebook)

Young Lions Raise Heads in Alarm

Young lions look up in alarm, Kruger Park Caption: Two young lions raise their heads in alarm from the safe haven of long winter grass, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Aperture: f/5.6; Shutter speed: 1/60; ISO: 400; Time: 5.14pm

These two lion cubs – from different litters as the one is clearly older – were part of a pride of about eight lions lying in tall winter grass close to the road near Satara Camp in the Kruger Park.

It was already late afternoon and also the final day of July school holidays. Lion sightings had been sparse in the area, so for many this was the last opportunity to see the big cats before returning home.

Drivers jostled for position, blocking the road and creating a mini gridlock (below).

Lion sighting causes traffic jam in Kruger Park
In cases like this people show their worst side as they try to force their way into better positions, blocking the view of others.

Road Hog in Kruger Park blocks view of others

Driver forces way between cars, moving off road and blocking view. Lions lying in grass are circled.

The lions were fairly oblivious of all this, occasionally lifting their heads or changing positions, but it wasn’t much of a sighting, certainly from our position. In the meantime it was getting close to 5.30pm, which is camp closing time in winter.

But the road was jammed. Those on the inside couldn’t get out while those on the outside seemed determined not to move. Tempers flared and people started hooting and shouting – definitely not what you expect or want in a game reserve.

Eventually some frustrated person played a tape of lions roaring through his car speakers, probably hoping to get the animals to move so everyone could disperse.

It was this sound, rather than the hooting, that caused the young lions to raise their heads and look around in consternation. Interestingly, the one mature male lying closest to the road didn’t even lift his head, simply ignoring the tinny sounds from the car speakers.

Eventually the fear of being locked out of camp and paying hefty fines saw the traffic jam break up, leaving the lion pride in peace, free from the stares and cameras of badly behaved humans.

Cheetah Mother and Cub

Cheetah mother and cub in black and white Caption: Cheetah mother and one of her five cubs stand out from the group lying around relaxing under a tree, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Shutter speed: 1/320; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

In my previous post, Cheetah Family of Six, I wrote about a dedicated cheetah mother who has successfully raised all her five cubs.

While on a game drive in Mashatu, we saw the whole group resting in the shade, but they were lying around randomly, in varying positions and angles. It was certainly not one of those ideal sightings where photogenic cubs line-up in symmetry, almost as if posed by a professional stylist.

It was hopeless trying to photograph the whole family, other than for record purposes. Instead, I experimented with a number of compositions (none entirely satisfactory), using a long lens to isolate small parts of the scene, allowing the out-of-focus background spots to suggest to the viewer there are other cheetah at the scene.

Cheetah Family of Six

cheetah cub looking at cameraCaption: Young cheetah, one of five cubs, looking directly at camera with its siblings in the background, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.

Camera: Canon EOS 50D; Lens Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Shutter speed: 1/250; Aperture: f/8; ISO: 400; Fill-in flash.

While in Mashatu Game Reserve in January this year, we found a cheetah mother with her five cubs lying in the shade of a nearby tree (below).

Cheetah mother with five cubs

Although such a sighting sounds a great photo opportunity, it was a challenge trying to find a focal point, so I tried isolating parts of the scene using a 400mm lens and, in this case, opted for black and white to minimise distractions.

But back to the cheetah mother: to successfully raise and feed five hungry cubs is an amazing achievement and testament to her hunting prowess.

Friends of mine who were in Mashatu a couple of weeks ago saw the mother, with all the cubs still alive. The youngsters are now nearly grown up, but not yet skilled enough to hunt on their own, making the job of feeding the whole family even more onerous.

On one occasion, while the mother was trying to get within striking distance of an impala, the playful youngsters alerted the prey, forcing the mother to abandon her hunt.

It’s a dangerous time for these young cheetah as they’re bold enough to experiment, yet lacking the experience to recognise danger, leaving them susceptible to attack by lions or leopards.

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