A Lucky Escape

One of the many wonderful privileges I had as a photographer in residence at Alex Walker’s Serian is the freedom to explore the Mara North Conservancy on my own in the camp’s specially designed photographic Suzuki, affectionately known as “Zuki”. Solo exploring on the plains is new to me and I have been waiting for the opportunity to observe the resident lions in Zuki.

My vehicle "Zuki" and I under the stars in the Mara North Conservancy

My first solo lion sighting was with the well known Serian Pride. The exhilaration I felt when one of the older females roared right next to Zuki was something I will never forget.

YouTube player
Turn up the volume to hear this lioness roaring next to my vehicle!

One particular lioness caught my eye during this sighting, she was chasing something in the long grass. I drove down the road to get a closer look and I could see her pawing at something small on the ground. She bent down and smelt this little critter, which triggered a flehmen response, a method used to investigate chemical “messages”. This lioness was clearly confused by the creature. I focused on the small object on the ground with my telephoto lens to discover it was a tiny Black-backed jackal pup! It was alive and vocalising.

Lioness with a jackal pup that she found.
I noticed a small little creature next to the foot of the lioness
Close up image of a jackal pup that a lioness has caught
A black-backed jackal pup!

I noticed out of the corner of my eye an adult jackal had appeared. It was the mother. She stood a safe, helpless distance from the Lion and aggressively barked at the situation for five minutes. Eventually the Lioness lost interest in the pup and walked off.

Adult jackal barking

The mother jackal quickly grabbed her pup, who was still alive and ran down the road with it in her mouth. Enter stage right, a hyena. This incredibly intuitive predator had caught whiff of an opportunity and now chased the jackal and her pup down the road. Zuki and I tried to keep up with the action and the last thing I observed was the jackal mum running down a den with her offspring.

Jackal running down the road with its pup in her mouth. A hyena is chasing them.
The jackal mother managed to outrun the hyena.
Jackal running down the road with its pup in her mouth. A hyena is chasing them.

A sighting I will never forget and most likely will never experience again. Africa is the gift that keeps on giving.