Lioness and Leopard

“Allen, don’t make any sudden moves,” B. said, looking up into the tree above us. Africa is that way. Most of the time you have no idea what’s watching you. And what it’s going to do next.

On that morning in Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya, our driver got a message that a lioness and her cub were working on a fresh kill. That’s the kind of thing you’re dying to see, of course – a mama lioness, her face and whiskers pink with blood, teaching her kid about the juiciest parts of a wildebeest. Wanna suck on a sugar bone? Go right ahead, it’s all yours, she says…

Our jeep with its slightly deflated tires turned off the dirt road and slowly made its way across a rocky stretch towards a grove where the lioness was supposed to be. Judging by the fact that there was already a jeep there ahead of us, she was still there. Allen got his two cameras ready and moved his sunglasses to the top of his head. The first jeep pulled away, its passengers looking at us like they’ve won the World Cup and second place is only second made hushing noises.

It was the kind of place where you’d expect for a mom and baby to hide in the middle of savannah, but then again, with waste-high grass, they are safe pretty much anywhere. Hidden by the trees, a cub with furry ears and eyeliner eyes was gnawing on what used to be a hoppity-hop animal a few hours later. When it went for a particularly sumptuous but hard-to-reach part, its snout turned all wrinkles with a wet black nose in the middle. Mom tore a piece off here and there but mostly watched and helped and cleaned him with her rough pink tongue.

As we stood there mesmerized, B. turned around to look at Allen and saw something in a tree above us. As in three meters above our heads.

“Allen, don’t move,” he said, still looking. “There’s a leopard right above you.”

All color left Allen’s face. The leopard, a young one or a cub, was stretched out on a branch, obscured by the greenery, and surveying the kill situation just like we were. Except for it had different feelings about it.

“Oh, so that’s what happened,” said our guide. “It was the leopard who killed the wildebeest and the lioness decided that she wanted it more. So the leopard just walked away. He always likes higher ground.”

Why is the picture of the leopard blurry? Because the lens couldn’t focus that close…

Photo by Allen Widdison

Photo by Allen Widdison

 

Photo by Allen Widdison

Photo by Allen Widdison

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