Be Glad Our Cats are Small

I'm working on a post about the comparative behavior of wolves, coyotes, African Wild dogs and domestic dogs, but here's a short digression for the cat lovers. An adult lioness in the Maasai Mara marks a bush after rising from a nap. You can clearly see the stream of urine in the photo. Aren't you glad our house cats don't weigh 260-450 pounds? A female cheetah marks a tree. We found this cheetah right after landing in the "Kenyan Serengeti," the Maasai Mara. After we landed at a tiny airstrip and loaded up in safari vans on our way to our lodging, we ran into a hunting cheetah who was stalking Impala. After a few minutes she made her move, and dashed at the herd. She was too far away for us to take any photographs, but none of us will ever forget watching one Impala leap over five Read More

Gnus from Africa (sorry)

THIS WAS WRITTEN on August 11th, but not posted til now. So don't get confused, it's out of order! In transition, 10 minute to write. in nairobi between tent camp on edge of maasai mara in masai village and flights either to home or to So Africa for those of us going on to Botswana.  Trip amazing, too much to process while it is happening. Picture: The ultimate 'hard eye' from a lioness 10 ft from YOU while she walks by your van with her cubs. A leopard getting beat out over a kill by a lion. Streams of wildebeest drawing lines across the vast and open mara, always led by zebra. Elegant and yet adorably cute Thompson's gazelles switching their tails in time to the bumps in the road. More dust in your hair than you can ever imagine getting out. Talking to young maasai warriors about Read More

Commuter Dogs, Brilliant Crows

An alert reader sent in a link to a story about 'village' dogs in Russia who have figured out how to forage for food in an urban setting. The dogs actually hop onto trains that take them into the city where there is a great deal of food. But they don't just forage in garbage pails, their strategies are far more sophisticated. There are reports of dogs sneaking up behind people eating and barking loud enough to startle the person into dropping their food. They schmooze up to children, rest their heads on the leg and look--well, you know--all soft and pleading and get fed snacks from the kids. Reportedly they have learned to use the traffic lights to cross the road safely and it is said they that know what stops to get off on and even to alert one another when the stop is coming up. I'm a Read More

Lions chase off vultures

Watched adult female and two subadult cubs (3-4 yrs? still some spots on legs) chase vultures off a recent zebra kill. Elephants coming in out of the hills to feed in the amboseli swamps, we'll see more of them later today. Am meeting with camp naturalist to learn more... saw an animal that looked exactly like an African Wild Cat.... which is pretty much exactly like a tabby house cat.  How tell difference? At night the zebra and antelope come right up to the veranda. Have to watch out for vervets, who try to steal the sugar off your table and dash in your room. Yesterday we caught one on our luggage, just starting to unzip it. And yes, we've seen lots and lots of robin egg blue testicles (on the vervets, honest.  they even have a penile display that zoologists patriotically call the "Red Read More

Pride of 9 Lions!

Here we are in Amboseli. 9 pm, long day, ending with dinner watching gazelles, zebra and wildebeest walking past the dining room. went on game drive in evening, found pride of 9 lions:2 black maned males, 2 cubs and 5 females. some of us saw them very closely, my van not right next to the van, but still amazing. cubs playing on top of mom, males looking bored and regal. all getting ready for nightly hunt. Is just as wonderful as you would hope. People so kind, country astounding--vast and huge and full of contrasts. Dry sand dirt and electric red robes of  Maasai. Is sadness too--terrible drought causing suffering to people and animals alike. Maize crop has failed for people. Grass gone for grazers, so hippos and zebra suffering terribly. Browsers like giraffe and Kudu antelop doing much Read More