HOME Blog This Week at Angama #315

This Week at Angama #315

There were many discoveries this week: a cub climbing a tree, a coalition of cheetah in Amboseli and most notably — a leopard with a croc kill in a tree
Above: Have you ever?

The Maasai Mara:

Years of travelling the plains of the Mara have etched countless wildlife encounters into my memory. From the heart-stopping chase of a cheetah to the tender moments between a pride of lions. None, however, compare to the recent sighting that left me speechless: a grizzled leopard, his age etched in every whisker, balanced precariously in a tree with his prize — a lifeless crocodile.

F 8.0, 1/2000, ISO 500 | Andrew Andrawes

Earlier that day, I was in the Photographic Studio when Angama Guide, Lemaalo, came running in talking about a sighting of a leopard, possibly with a snake. Later, he messaged to say that he had inspected the kill and it turned out to be a crocodile. The next day, I drove towards the location and noticed something hanging from the tree — it was the tail of the crocodile. I waited for hours in the hopes that the leopard would come back and, eventually, my patience was rewarded. I have never heard of a sighting like this occurring in Kenya, the closest are of jaguars in South America catching caimans.

The leopard is a male we know well named Shujaa, meaning 'hero' in Swahili.  He is estimated to be about 14 years old, making him quite senior as most leopards live for 12-15 years in the wild. His longevity suggests successful hunting techniques and adaptability — both of which are evidenced by this crocodile kill.

F 8.0, 1/2000, ISO 500 | Andrew Andrawes
F 9.0, 1/500, ISO 400 | Andrew Andrawes

I watched as he ate the remaining parts of the crocodile and pieces fell into the tall grass. If you looked closely, you could see a wound near the tip of Shujaa's tail, likely from the confrontation with the crocodile. Finally, when he had finished eating the thick scaly tail and the last little scraps fell to the ground, Shujaa came down the tree and disappeared into the grass. As I drove away I could hardly contain my excitement from the behaviour I had just witnessed.

Leopards, while agile climbers, rarely hunt reptiles, and crocodiles, masters of aquatic ambush, are seldom found out of their watery domain. Both leopards and crocodiles are apex predators and there have been documented cases of leopards killing crocodile hatchlings and crocodiles taking down young leopards that come too close to the water's edge.

On my way to the leopard sighting, I had driven past a small jackal carcass not far from the main road. As I passed the same spot on my return, what remained was just some fur and bones being picked at by a massive lappet-faced vulture and a fully grown tawny eagle. When they are on the ground, you can get a proper feel for how large they both are. As I got closer, the eagle flew away and the vulture remained looking right at me, perhaps as a warning.

F 5.6, 1/125, ISO 200 | Andrew Andrawes Lappet-faced vulture and tawny eagle
F 5.6, 1/125, ISO 200 | Andrew Andrawes Lappet-faced vulture

A guide once taught me to be careful when driving through puddles of water in the roads because there might be wildlife in it. Earlier this week, I was driving when something quickly crossed the road and threw itself into a puddle, emerging to give me another death stare. It was a small terrapin with its head and nose poking through the water. These semi-aquatic creatures are only found around water and can hold their breath underwater for extended periods. 

F 5.6, 1/125, ISO 200 | Andrew Andrawes

Another semi-aquatic creature found lurking in the rivers and ponds (and just a tad larger) is the African rock python. Not far from the lodge, one of the local Maasai men called me and told me about a snake near the property. We went and witnessed the tail of a massive python in the pond. They can be up to 20 feet and can attack large prey as seen in Kimana a few weeks ago.

F 5.6, 1/125, ISO 200 | Andrew Andrawes

One of our guests, Hannah Cohen, was treated to a special sighting of the Angama lioness and one of her cubs in a tree. Cubs will be cubs and this little one is no exception — full of energy and eager to be like mom, it mirrored her actions and followed her up a tree. The cub was chewing on the branches, possibly because the cub was teething or simply because it was bored.

F 6.3, 1/80, ISO 250 | Guest Hannah Cohen

On a foggy morning, Lemaalo saw something moving in the tall grass. It was one of the Nyati males who had a buffalo kill. As Lemaalo and the guests watched, the silhouettes of a herd of elephants appeared in the distance, slowly moving through the mist. Later the same day, they witnessed a float of crocodiles surrounding a dead hippo. When large numbers congregate like this, it is clear to see how many crocs there are in and around the Mara River. –Andrew Andrawes

F 7.1, 1/1250, ISO 2000 | Eric Lemaalo
F 7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400 | Eric Lemaalo

Amboseli:

During my time residing in Amboseli National Park, I noticed that as the days become drier and dustier, the experience of observing wildlife improves. The presence of two permanent swamps in the area serves as a lifeline for the resident animals during the arid months, offering an oasis with ample water and swamp vegetation. This becomes a focal point for herbivores seeking sustenance and hydration during dry spells. Naturally, where prey animals congregate, predators are quick to follow, making the dry season an optimal period for game viewing as the interactions between different species unfold around these vital water sources.

F 5.6, 1/2000, ISO 320 | Alice Mantaine

As it gets hotter, the likelihood of encountering cats in the Park is higher, mainly during the early morning and late evening when temperatures are cooler. These predatory cats, like many other wildlife species, tend to be more active during these times, making it an opportune period for game viewing, as in the case of these two male lions.

F 5.6, 1/2000, ISO 400 | Alice Mantaine
F 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 400 | Alice Mantaine

We estimate that these two brothers were born around early 2017. This is based on a photograph captured on 22 September 2018 by Patrick Sayialel, head of Kitirua Conservancy to the west of Amboseli National Park. Considering their age at that time, it's reasonable to conclude that these brothers are approximately seven years old now. Their territory spans from Ol-Tukai Orok (The Phoenix palm tree area) to Njiri.

F 5.6, 1/320, ISO 100 | Patrick Sayialel September, 2018

Similar to lions, the opportunity for spotting cheetahs also improves during the drier months. In our last weekly blog, we highlighted a lone cheetah; we believe this one to be a different male, suggesting the presence of multiple individual cheetahs in the region.

F 5.6, 1/1600, ISO 400 | Alice Mantaine
F 6.3, 1/2000, ISO 1250 | Alice Mantaine

Adding to the excitement, another spectacular cheetah sighting was captured by one of our guests, Stephen Groff in Amboseli National Park. Notably, he encountered a coalition of three brothers. This remarkable sighting brings a total count of five different cheetahs spotted in the Park over the past two weeks. The presence of multiple cheetahs, including a group of siblings, continues to elevate the richness of the wildlife experiences in this ecosystem.

F 5.6, 1/2000, ISO 250 | Guest Stephen Groff

Elephants are known for their free-ranging behaviour covering extensive distances and sometimes disappearing from their home range for months. Conservation programmes and vigilant patrolling in this ecosystem allow us to keep track of their movements. At the moment, Super Tusker Craig is peacefully situated just outside Amboseli National Park on a lush patch with abundant vegetation, keeping him happy in that area for now. –Robert Sayialel

F 5.6, 1/800, ISO 2000 | Robert Sayialel

Filed under: This Week at Angama

Tagged with:

Amboseli , Maasai Mara , Photographic Safari , Wildlife Photography

About: The Photographic Studios

The team in both Angama Mara's and Angama Amboseli's Photographic Studio spend their days capturing our guests' memories and reporting on the fantastic sightings seen out on safari.

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Comments (1):

Sam Bailyn

26 February 2024

That crocodile kill is incredible, amazing work.

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