Monday, December 27, 2010

The future of the Lions in Africa ?

My favourite Lion picture....

But what is the future of Lions in Africa? Alas, it is quite bleak and a cause of great concern. According to an IUCN study by Bauer and Van Der Merwe (2004), the Lion population in Africa stands at around 23,000..(must be down further in these 6 years) which is down from about 1,50,000-180,000 in the 1980's...a steep decline of nearly 90% in just about 25 years !

We think only the Tiger is on the decline..and somehow ignore the fate of the all the 'amazing sightings' one gets in the Masai Mara are sadly not reflective of the true picture of the status of these magnificent Cats...such a sobering thought..

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Lions of Masai Mara !!

Masai Mara has one of the highest densities of Lions anywhere in World..some experts say it is indeed the highest..there are between 450 to 500 Lions in it's 1510 Sq kms! According to a recent IUCN study, the density of Lion population in Masai Mara is 30 Lions per 100 sq kms!
I had some amazing sightings in the blissful 3 weeks i spent in August 2010. We saw a total of 30 different adult Lions (most likely different)...over 40 adult Lioness...many sub-adults..about 5 actual hunts..9 attempts...these are a sample of my best Lion pictures....

A pair or a 'coalition' of young Lions we saw one early fact we heard them roaring very close to our tents that night..i was camping in the middle of the Mara with a photographer friend, Michael. You can make out by their sparse manes that they are yet to fully mature..they were quite tentative and tense as it was not their territory...

One of the young Lions looking back at his partner...i love his auburn colour in the golden glow of the morning sun..

One of the several Lions we saw..this one was walking at a steady pace one early morning..not even pausing to glance at us..notice the high grass one can see at this time of the year...

We came across this Lion on a Topi kill..well hidden in a 'nallah'...i barely managed to get a picture through the thick, thorny bushes...

One of the two beautiful males in another coalition of Lions..we came across several of these male-only coalitions...the biggest one was five in number !

He was looking worried at some Vultures swooping down to their Buffalo kill...

One of the three males in another coalition...notice the spray as he is marking a fallen tree..

His two partners..walking close by...they had a determined walk at a good if they a distant territory in mind...

Another handsome dark-maned Lion.....

One early morning we came across this big male trying to drag a young Buffalo kill...

He was trying to get a good bite at the Buffalo..this is a full-frame shot..we were really close!!

This Lion is nick-named 'Notch' and is made famous by the BBC film 'Big Cat Diary'

'Notch' is indeed a very handsome, Black-maned Lion..notice the scars on his face..and all over his body..he is a veteran of the Mara Plains..and heads a coalition of five strong male Lions!!

A 'cat nap' in progress..Lions are champion sleepers!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

More wildlife from the Bale Mountains !

The other side of the Sanetti plateau is the Harenna forest..look at these moss and lichen laden trees which are dominated by Juniper and Hagenia species.

The birds you see here are all very special..and almost every bird you see are either 'endemic' or 'near endemic' to the this picture is a Thick-billed Raven.

Chestnut-naped Francolin

The handsome Guereza Colobus monkey (Colobus guereza)..the highland form has much thicker and longer fur.

The Endemic Spot-breasted Plover

The shy and rarely seen Giant Hog ( Hylochoerus meinertzhageni)

Another Endemic - the Blue-winged Goose

Bohor Reedbuck (Redunca redunca)

Another special-the Rouget's Rail

Menelik's Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus)

Mountain Nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni)..not closely related to the Nyala of Southern Africa..but probably to the Greater antelope which is endemic to Ethiopia.

The guard was most reluctant to take a picture with me!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ethiopian Wolf !!

The Sanetti Plateau of the Bale Mountain National Park (2,200 sq km), which is located in the highlands of Ethiopia. This is the secretive habitat of one of most enigmatic predators in the world-the Ethiopian Wolf !! So secretive and unexplored is this habitat...that the Wolf population of Bale Mountains was first known to science as recently as 1959!!

This is one of the most surreal wildlife habitats i have ever set my foot's beauty and desolateness made my mind go was as if i was no longer a part of this did not matter anymore if i do not see an Ethiopian Wolf...for which i came on a quest from thousands of miles away...and i only have a day to explore and seek it...

Endless miles of such scenery..notice the Augur Buzzard perched high...the Sanetti Plateau is cited as the world's largest expanse of Afro-alpine moorland, a montane habitat confined to altitudes of 3,500 to 4,500 meters on East Africa's tallest mountains...

And suddenly a Wolf !! I just could not believe my eyes !!

It gave me a quick glance...and scampered away!!
I was so have set me eyes on this rare, mysterious and beautiful animal..a stuff of dreams for any wild lifer...

The Ethiopian Wolf ('Canis simensis'), which was formerly known as the 'Simien fox', is an intriguing animal by itself. DNA analysis suggests that Ethiopian wolves share a recent common ancestry with the Eurasian wolf ('Canis lupus'). In spite of the restricted range (mainly Afro-alpine meadows and moorlands in Ethiopia), small habitat and rodent-catching behaviour of the Ethiopian species, it's specialisation appears to be a relative recent adaptation. These highly endangered (IUCN Status) hunters are entirely dependent on rodents, mainly the Giant mole-rats, which comprise of nearly 40% of their diet. Less than 500 animals are believed to be remain in the Bale mountains, which is their last retreat and even less in the Simien mountains in N.Ethiopia.