By Adam Bannister
Conservation and community lie at the very core of everything we do here at House in the Wild. Therefore, there was no hesitation to act when we received a call for help with the release of a Kori Bustard – the heaviest flying bird in Africa. In July last year this female Kori Bustard was found with a shattered ankle in an area south of Nairobi. The incredible team at the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust worked tirelessly to prepare a splint for the poor bird, and to assist on its road to recovery.
14 months later and they felt it time to set her free. She had moulted and seemed fit – she was feeding by herself, and they believed her chances of survival were good. They felt that the Mara ecosystem, after good recent rains, was a great location for the reintroduction into the wild – and we were more than happy to help. Tarquin flew the bird down to House in the Wild, with the assistance of the caring Jonathan. We watched in delight as he set her free about a 5 minute drive from the lodge. We hope she settles in well, and lives out her life happily feeding on frogs, insects and rodents in the golden grasslands of the Maasai Mara.
These last few days we also had the team from Offbeat Riding Safaris bring some guests to House in the Wild. They run some of the most exciting horse-back riding adventures across Kenya and it was so much fun to have them in camp for a few nights. They would do early morning rides through the conservancies, and then in the afternoon they would rest their legs and go out on guided game drives. I couldn’t help but go out with these for a little to capture a few photos of them in the wild.
The lion dynamics in the Northern Mara Conservancies continues to enthrall. I must admit I am still trying to come to terms with all the different groupings of lions in the area. Clearly a few months ago the arrival of the big males from Mara North threw a spanner in the works and left the prides splintered and scattered around. It has been fascinating to watch.
The most unusual, has been the single Lemek Pride lioness who has been caught in a rather remarkable situation. She had four cubs, sired by the previous males. Still only a few weeks old, the Mara North males have been confused about how to handle these cubs from a different bloodline. One ‘surrogate’ father has been seen spending a lot of time with the cubs – even looking after them whilst mom has been out hunting. He has been quite protective and caring, but not enough to prevent their numbers from dropping from four, to three, then two and now sadly just the one. This single cub, and its mom, have provided some of the greatest lion viewing I have ever had – and just a few days ago I watched in awe as she picked her little youngster up, and marched confidently across the golden grasslands. With not a single other car around, it was a truly special sight, resulting in a sequence of photographs that will forever live in my favourites folder.
Aside from that cub action and drama, we have had a handful of other rather incredible lion sightings – many of which I personally missed, but a lot of which I was lucky enough to see.
A few days ago, I had my first encounter with the Serian, or River Pride. They had just left the carcass of a young giraffe – driven off by a swelling number of feisty hyenas. I followed them for over half an hour as they eventually retreated into the croton thickets. Hyenas scrapped over the last remnants of the kill, squealing, laughing, and running around. Fresh cuts and scars on the back of one of the older females, told a story of a difficult night for the lions.
Elsewhere, up on the shorter grassy plains, another group of three lionesses managed to easily hunt down a zebra. The zebra numbers are good now on the drier clearings, and they make for some rather easy pickings at this time of year.
On a sad note, we did discover a deceased adult lioness. We called in the Mara Predator Conservation Program, the Conservancy Rangers, and the Kenya Wildlife Service. Thankfully, there was no sign of foul play, and it appears that this was just a natural death. A loss of life such as this is always sad. This lioness was the gorgeous female that we had photographed on the giraffe carcass just a few weeks ago. ITW#4
At times nature can be so cruel, especially when you start to recognize individuals and establish connections with certain individuals. Over the years I have learnt, however, to disconnect when needed and to try to see the bigger picture – to zoom out and see things from afar. We are so fortunate to have a front row seat to watch the unpredictability of nature unravel – and it is these events, as tricky as they may be at the time, which makes life out here so exciting and wild.
The Sankai Coalition of males appear to have settled in the area close to House in the Wild. Over the last 2 months I have only seen four out of the famous five members. I fear that in this confrontation with the Mara North Males (which Sankai lost) that they may have been reduced to 4. Nevertheless, these males appear to be doing well, and we watched them the other night as they fed on the remains of a sub-adult hippo – which they had killed the day before.
The rains continue to fall, and the Mara landscape is looking spectacular. Even after having lived in the Maasai Mara for close on five years now, I still get goosebumps as I go out on an early morning game drive. This place is beautiful, the air is fresh, the animals are thriving, the people are happy – and the experience is remarkable. How lucky are we at House in the Wild.