This Week At Angama #110

13 March 2020 | This Week at Angama |

Reading Time: 5 MINUTES

It was Lion vs Buffalo in one of the most remarkable sightings of the year so far – a Herculean battle to the death between some of the Mara’s mightiest characters

I have no hesitation, nor remorse, when I say that my photography in the Maasai Mara is heavily biased toward lions. Of course if you are not willing to be patient and invest the time, then you could leave thinking lions are lazy and boring. But, if you are dedicated, patient, and of course a little lucky, then you would agree that there are few species as exciting to observe.  [f 4.3, 1/640, ISO 200, +0.67]Short tail lion
Prince Mkia, as he is locally known, is building quite a reputation amongst guides and visitors to the Mara Triangle. He arrived in the central area of the Triangle, around Topi Plains in about October 2018, together with another slightly bigger male. He arrived with his tail sliced in half, blood dripping. We had no clue how he came to lose his tail, nor where he came from, but guessed it was probably from over the border in the Serengeti. [f 4.0, 1/500, ISO 125, +0.67]

ABW__EW_4865 Lion drinking
Together with his coalition partner, Prince Mkia managed to drive the legendary Scar and the other Musketeers out of the area, forcing them to move more permanently east of Serena and on the other side of the Mara River. [f 4.0, 1/500, ISO 250, +0.67]

ABW__EW_5126 Lion stands proud
His coalition partner is significantly larger, and incredibly beautiful. These two males are not afraid to roam, and in the last few weeks, sightings of them have been recorded as far as Musiara Airstrip. The centre of their territory however seems to be the area known as 50 kilometres.  [f 4.5, 1/500, ISO 250, +1.33]

ABW__EW_5165 Lion head blur
The day before I got back from my recent trip to Namibia, these two had successfully killed a buffalo. They gorged on the kill. [f 4.0, 1/8000, ISO 250, -1.33]

male lion from low walking
Less than a kilometre away, we found members of the Owino Pride on the move. I focused my intensions on photographing the sub-adult male in the pride. He is currently my favourite lion in the Mara, but he has tough times ahead. His dad is Ol Donyo Paek, the large male who currently controls the Sausage Tree Pride, and before Prince Mkia arrived on the scene, he was also the territorial male of the Owino Pride. An hour after I left the pride this day, they successfully managed to kill a young eland. Guests from Angama Mara witnessed the entire hunt. [f 6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, +0.33]

lion low
Sadly, there is no future for this lion within the Owino Pride. He is not big enough to take on the two big males, and if they catch up with him they will likely try to kill him. His father no longer comes anywhere near this area. [f 6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, +0.33]

lion walking to camera
Here is the same sub-adult male 15 months ago. I have included this to allow you to see how he has grown and thickened out. [f 5.6, 1/1000, ISO 1000] – Photograph taken January 2019.

lion running
On Wednesday, I went out for a morning drive. Just after sunrise I found Prince Mkia and his partner resting up on the side of the road. Suddenly, behind me in the distance, a buffalo bellowed. The reaction was instantaneous. Like a possessed beast, Prince Mkia started running. [f 5.6 , 1/2000, ISO 800, +0.33]

lion running
Running is difficult for him as he can put no weight on his back left leg – essentially he runs on three legs. [f 5.6 , 1/2000, ISO 800, +0.33]

lions and buff
The Owino Pride had attempted to bring down a large buffalo bull in a drainage line at the base of the escarpment. They had successfully bitten a large chunk of meat out of his rear, but the stubborn buffalo had managed to make his way into the water. [f 7.1, 1/800, ISO 640, +0.33]

buffalo wounded
Prince Mkia went straight in – insane bravery as he tried to take on the wounded buffalo alone. [f 4.0, 1/1250, ISO 400, -0.33]

lion snarl
A clash of the titans. [f 4.0, 1/2500, ISO 400, -0.33]

 lion in water
Lions are understandably hesitant to get wet, even more so when there is a wounded buffalo in the same water. Leading from the front, Prince Mkia waded in. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 400, -0.33]

 lion in water
He showed the kind of bravery that you need to be a successful lion in the Mara – his mind was set on the prize.
[f 4.0, 1/1600, ISO 400, -0.33]

lion in water3
Perhaps he was a little overconfident though. The buffalo was fighting for its life and was up for the fight. He crashed into the male lion, sending him flying. Prince Mkia got out relatively unscathed, his pride having taken a battering. Hunting buffalo has huge rewards, but you can pay the ultimate price.  [f 5.0, 1/800, ISO 250, -0.33]

lioness jump
After a respite of an hour or so, the four lionesses in the pride decided that it was their turn. They worked together to try and flank the buffalo, but the buffalo kept fighting back. [f 4.0, 1/2000, ISO 640]

lion and buff
I left the scene after watching for about four hours. When I left, this is what it looked like – a stalemate. What amazed me was that during this time, one of the lionesses had wandered off to fetch her two small cubs and brought them to the water. At one stage they let one of the small cubs get within two metres of the injured buffalo. Teaching them young it seems. [f 5.0, 1/2500, ISO 640, -0.67]

One of the Angama Mara vehicles decided to sit it out, we had picnic lunch taken out to them so that the guests could keep watching the action. They called it a day at 4pm. By the time the park closed at 7pm, the buffalo was still fighting for its life.
We were there at first light the following morning. The inevitable had happened during the night and we found the buffalo dead in the water with fat, panting lions scattered around the periphery.

lioness staring
How I wish I had seen how it played out late last night. This pride of lionesses are incredible. [f 5.0, 1/640, ISO 800, -0.33]

lioness eyes
Trying to capture something a little more abstract. [f 5.0, 1/800, ISO 500]

lioness approaches
We sat and waited – it was clear there was still action to witness. And sure enough, within the next 15 minutes the lionesses one by one approached the kill, wading through the water to get to what remained off the deceased buffalo. [f 5.0, 1/640, ISO 500]

lion cub
Precious moments to watch the two cubs grow in confidence and wade out toward the kill. I am sure these cubs will terrorise the local buffalo in years to come. [f 5.0, 1/500, ISO 800, -0.33]

lion cub feeding
Wrapping off one of the most remarkable lion sightings in the last few months. This pride of lions, together with the males, provided hours of fascinating behaviour. Nature is harsh, but how fantastic is it that we get to witness it? Lions doing what lions do. [f 4.0, 1/1000, ISO 800]

This Week Two Years Ago 

Angama pride and zebra

Two years ago I watched the Angama Pride make light work of a zebra in the grassy clearings not far from Oloololo Gate. The pride at the time numbered 16 members and we were all confident that this pride was going to have a ripple effect on the lion dynamics in the Mara. Sadly, that premonition never materialised. Nature was cruel to this pride and over the last two years we have watched them dwindle to a mere handful.  [f 5.0, 1/1000, ISO 320]

AUTHOR: Adam Bannister

A South African-trained biologist, safari guide, author, filmmaker and photographer, Adam is, above all else, a gifted storyteller. After spending the past 10 years working in some of the world’s most beautiful wild places – the Sabi Sand Game Reserve in South Africa, Rajasthan in India, Brazil’s Pantanal, and the rainforests of Manu National Park in Peru – he is delighted to share his stories of one of the loveliest game reserves of them all, the Maasai Mara.

James Fitzgerald
March 13, 2020

Great pics Adam – how are getting so low? Still on the end of a monopod?

Judy Williams
March 13, 2020

Your photos and written ability to take the reader along for the ride are superb!

    Nicky Fitzgerald
    March 14, 2020

    Thank you so much Judy – that is so special to hear. Each week I try my hardest to capture a handful of moments that allow the reader to be transported momentarily into the grasslands of the Mara. Comments like this really make it worth it. Warm regards Adam

Nicky Fitzgerald
March 14, 2020

Thanks so much James – the low angle is a combination of 2 things – firstly, the little monopod trick I showed you, and secondly my extremely low car, Elsa, which puts me about a foot off the ground. Just where a photographer wants to be when a lion is running towards you.
Warm regards Adam

Mollie S. Eckelberry
March 21, 2020

Absolutely fascinating both visually and print. Thank you [email protected]

Cheryl Burton
January 26, 2021

This looks so like the Young Lion Kipuli chased on WildEarth in 2018

    Ryan Brown
    January 26, 2021

    Hi Cheryl, it is indeed the same male lion. He was known locally as Prince Mkia. He was born in the Mara North Conservancy, before heading south into the Triangle with his brother, Olalashe. He was easily identified by having half a tail. Good eye! Warm regards, Adam

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