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Anja’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 25 Oct 2005

Location: Shamwari, South Africa

MapLion hunt day!! One of great excitement & huge disappointment!
We got up at 5am so we could be out on the road tracking the lions. We needed to find the Northern Pride in order to dart one of the females so we could operate & insert a tracking device in her stomach. We hit the road at 6am & by 6.30 our bakkie had located the pride..or so we thought. Unfortunately it was only the 5 sub-adults & we needed mom! We pulled in a little closer to see if the adults were over the ridge & then the excitement began... The car wasn't in 4-wheel drive & we hit a warthog hole. The tyres started to spin & the lions sat up& took notice. Remember my little lady from last week that wanted to get into the bakkie? Well, she spotted me & I believe the thought runnign through her head was 'uummm, breakfast...' As she started to charge the vehicle we got out of the hole & started driving. She was getting extremely close but we lived to tell the tale! And so another day begins....
The cubs were obviously hungry so we stuck with them for 4 hours in the hope the male & 2 females would return from the hunt. Joseph (the telemetry guy) turned up & decided to drive down over the ridge to see what he could see.. & promptly broke down! We had to go pick him up & attempts were made to tow his landie up a very steep hill! Not the easiest thing in the world but it was managed in the end.
As the cubs seemed settled we figured they wouldn't move far as they were obviously hungry & waiting for the adults to return & feed them, so we returned home for lunch!
When we returned they had disappeared! Typical...
So off we set again hoping to find either them or the adults - preferably together so we could get on with the darting. Johann the vet was with the film crew as this whole thing was being filmed for Animal Planet. We eventually came across the Northern male & thought our luck was in but the females weren't with him either. He's still limping & looking very battered & bruised. We tracked him up the ridge where he started calling for the females. The last time he did this they turned up immediately but today they were obviously camera shy! We continued to track him but lost him from sight.
We received a call from Johann who had visual on the cubs so we went back to them. They were obviously starving as they were attempting to hunt by themselves. The warthog also lived to tell the tale.... Our main concern was that they'd been abandoned as they aren't big or wise enough to hunt yet!
It was now getting late & extremely cold. Fortunately the male had been spotted so we went back to babysit him. He was continuing to send out calls for the females so all we could do was sit & wait. The film crew were on the opposite ridge when we got the call through to say the females had arrived. They were coming over the ridge but weren't happy to see Johann with a dart gun! We immediately lost sight of one & the other started running. She called to the male lion & he started off over the ridge to get to her. And then the cubs started calling... It was now or never but unfortunateky with the male so close, the one female in a bad position, the other female who knows where & the cubs bringing up the rear it wasn't going to happen. As the male reached the other side we were called to pull out.
So this was my one chance to get up close & personal with a beautiful lioness but unfortunately the timing was off! I guess I'll just have to come back here another time & give it one more shot?
By the time we reached home we were like popsicles as we were up on one of the highest points & the wind was definitely coming from the south pole! We'd been out for 13 hours tracking those lions (who we normally bump into all the time with no trouble) & it was a great disappointment not to get the job done. But hey, that's cats for you.....
We soon warmed up with a hot shower & some drinkies at the bar. I also received a belated bottle of birthday champagne which always goes down well & makes you feel better.....