From big cats to…little cats!

I’ve shown you a lovely lady leopard and some very satiated lionesses.

So how could I not post some adorable lion cubs?

lioncub2

I’m jumping ahead a little bit – to near the end of the safari when we were staying at Mfuwe Lodge in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia – but I just couldn’t wait to share these wonderful photos that were taken by Marilyn, one of the other ladies in the tour group. (If my memory is correct, it was Marilyn who gained a tent-mate after Wendy’s tent blew away.)

lioncub1

Look at that face! How could you blame me for leaping ahead with the safari photos?  I’ll have more photos of the cubs later. I promise.

 

From “Gambler’s House” – The First Family of Chaco

A fascinating and important article about Chaco was published last week in Nature Communications, an open-access offshoot of the venerable journal Nature (already a good sign). Since it’s open-access, the full text of the article is available free online here. The researchers behind the article, based mainly at Penn State and Harvard but also including […]

via The First Family of Chaco — Gambler’s House

Lion around

Yes, that title is a terrible pun. But I love puns, so there.

These lovely ladies are obviously very relaxed, and their bellies full, enjoying an afternoon snooze. Our safari jeeps were only parked a few feet away but they paid us little to no attention.

jeepbetweencats

What’s interesting about these scenes, however, is what’s downwind from the lionesses. It’s hard to tell from this picture of our jeeps, but the lions are just to the left out of frame and just to the right out of frame is a large bush. Inside that bush, gnawing on the remains of whatever that rib cage belonged to, is a leopard.  (Yum! Does that come with honey-flavored barbecue sauce?)

According to our guides, Mike and Josh, and our tour leader Andre, the leopard was fully aware that the lionesses were only a couple yards away because the wind was blowing in her direction. But should the wind change, they cautioned, alerting the lionesses to the presence of another predator so close by…well…those sleeping lions wouldn’t have been sleeping any more.

We patiently waited, circling slowly and quietly in our vehicles, but the lionesses snoozed away and the leopard kept chewing. No fighting. No territorial disputes. Just dinner and a long nap. This wonderful close up shot was taken by our leader Andre.

leopardcloseup

 

A leopard doesn’t change its spots…

…and we certainly wouldn’t want them to, would we? Because they are beautiful! This gal certainly is.leopard_drinking1 We encountered her on our last afternoon in the Okavango Delta, drinking from the river. She paused only briefly to check us out (look at that pink tongue!),leopard_tongue2

before sitting down to contemplate her dinner options, or where that handsome male leopard might be, or maybe even the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything [which we all know is 42].

We (our safari jeeps and a couple others) proceeded to follow her for almost a half hour as she leisurely strolled through the bush, apparently with no particular destination in mind or even any concern about us. You can see her pass between jeeps here, stopping only momentarily to look at us and continue on her way. I imagine this happens to this gorgeous gal a lot. (The guides who work the Okavango Delta are very good and know the animals, their habits, and their habitats. They might not be able to find every animal you wish to see, some are too rare or too shy, but they know where the big cats are hanging out!)

She decided she’d had enough of us shortly after this, walking a bit further away (I love this one picture – on the left – because I captured her in the act of lifting her foot and you can see her foot pad). She sat behind a tree for a few minutes and then disappeared into the bush.

It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the Delta.

 

Is there anything cuter than a baby elephant?

Silly question. Of course not.

So here’s a picture of a baby elephant w/mama, nursing.

nursing_baby_elephant

This was one of the local herds. They were there in the mornings, enjoying the watering hole across the road from our camp. (This, by the way, is an example of the differences between dry season safaris and wet season safaris. As the dry season progresses, and the number of watering holes diminish, all the animals congregate closer together. So – in November – on that cusp between dry and wet, the animals came to us. In the wet season, they have more options, so disperse more widely. I’m told there’s a LOT more driving on those safaris.)

The herd seemed somewhat habituated to humans, but that certainly doesn’t mean they trusted all of us, especially when there were babies present. You’ll see in this photo series, a baby who’s separated a bit from the others, but as soon as the herd noticed we were watching, the adults rushed in to keep the little ones closer.

We maintained our distance, of course, as instructed, but still there was at least one elephant who would stand sentry. Given the matriarchal nature of elephant herds, we imagine this is an auntie who’s keeping an eye on us. auntie_watching

There were at least three babies with this herd, but it wasn’t always possible to get good pictures of all of them, so I thought I’d end with this cute little one following mama, finally having had enough of us spectators. mama_and_baby

If it’s Tuesday, this must be Botswana

I’ve already written about the hyena who visited us on our first night camping at the Okavango Delta, but there were a great many more animals who came wandering past. Most of them skirted the edges of the camp, but we were told that some would walk through in the dark when no people were out and about.

And every morning we would wake up to scenes like this behind our tent (in our backyard, as it were):

backyard

This was just one morning, a mixed herd of zebra and wildebeest.

To the other side, across the dirt road leading to the camp, the elephants would come to drink and eat, or bathe themselves. Some mornings there would be a lone bull or two, other mornings there would be whole families…with little ones!  (I’ll save those photos for next time.) For now, here’s this guy (or gal) stuffing himself full of the green stuff.

elephant

 

 

Why we changed Wendy’s name to Windy

It was day three. We were on our afternoon game drive, minus one person: Wendy. She was tired, so decided to stay behind in camp and take a nap in her tent. But camp director, Laura, had joined us in her place. wendy

The forecast for the afternoon was clear skies, or so we thought. The wind whipped itself into a frenzy as rain pelted us in the safari vehicles. (They do have a top, but are open-sided, which doesn’t offer much protection when the rain is aiming at you sideways.) We grabbed the rain ponchos from beneath the seats and, depending on one’s priorities, covered ourselves or our camera equipment. I wrapped up my Nikon DSLR real good. So there we were, hunkered down, waiting for the downpour to let up when a call came over Laura’s radio asking her to come back to camp. There was a mention of “a problem” and “wind” and a question of who was in tent 6 (or tent 5 – I forget which was which). Bobbie and I were in tent 7.

One of the jeeps took Laura, along with Pat and Mike (the occupants of the questioned tent number), back while the rest of us puzzled over the cryptic communication. But we were assured that everything was okay.

Yeah….the same wind and rain storm that hit us, hit the camp. We returned to the incredible story of the wind gust (or whatever it was) that carried away tents 5 and 6 – one of them with Wendy in it. She had been laying on her cot, sleeping, only to awaken as she was being rolled up with the tent and all its contents – kinda like a burrito. Pat & Mike’s tent just blew away – they never did find all of their stuff. (Here they are before their tent decided to visit Oz.) pat_mike

Thanks to the wonderful camp staff, Wendy was quickly rescued, or should we say “unwrapped.” Crazily, she was found underneath her cot but the cot was still upright; no one’s quite sure how that happened. She was shaken, but uninjured, so continued on with us on safari…minus her toothbrush. tent_debris