The Dichotomy Between Lion Cubs And Cell Phone Photographers

Young Lion Cub Takes A Breather From A Lion Buffalo Kill Feeding Frenzy

It was our first full day in Serengeti National Park. We spend the morning cruising the tree line river beds, of the Central Serengeti, looking for Leopards in the riverbed trees. When our driver and guide received a message on the safari guide’s short-wave radio that a pride of lions had killed a Cape Buffalo just north of our area. It was about a forty-minute drive from our current location. And yes, the Serengeti is an enormous place, so this location was relatively close.

We decided to change our plans and head there. Soon we began to see other Land Rovers also heading that way. When we top the final rise, it was easy to spot the kill because there were at least twenty-five vehicles surrounding the feeding lions.

Then, the dance and jostling for vehicle position began. I was disturbed by how close some Land Rovers were to the lions. The vehicles formed a semi-circle around the lions. More and more vehicles kept coming in, as we finally found a clear space to view the lions feeding around the kill. It wasn’t easy, specifically; we found a small window to shoot through the sea of vehicles, and yet the kill was still a decent distance away.

For us with large telephoto lenses, it wasn’t necessary to be that close to the lions. Other safari vehicles with only cell phones viewers seemed overly aggressive pushing ever closer to the lions to get a better shot. In some cases, close as five feet away. I find this human behavior stressing to the lions and other wildlife of the Serengeti. No matter how important getting a close portrait image is to the photographer, nothing justifies getting this close and alternating their natural behavior and adding stress to their hard and difficult lives.

Maybe, I am being too hard on the paparazzi and human beings, by having some expectations that people have ethics and will take the right action, like putting wildlife first, before themselves. Let’s face it, I too am part of this dance. I am taking part too, and this sickens me.  I want this changed, for it gives photographers a bad name and puts the negative spotlight on all of us.

Pride Of Lions On A Cape Buffalo Kill With Safari Vehicles Close By

I am digressing and giving some background information. This image of a lion cub above taking a momentary break from feeding was captured later in the day close to evening. After our late morning encounter with the feeding lions, we left, and late in the day, decided to go back. I am glad we did because in the middle of the day there were no lion cubs at the carcass. We also thought there would fewer vehicles there around the feeding lions. In reality, there were fewer, but still a lot of vehicles.

There were other members of the large pride now including at least three, four-month-old cubs, which were feeding on the buffalo carcass too. What was so amazing was that they were actually feeding inside of the abdominal cavity of the buffalo while adult lions’ mouths were feeding inches away from them. We could barely see them, and at times they were completely inside of the belly of the buffalo. It was a wonder that one of the adults didn’t bite down on the bodies of these cubs, as the adults moved their eating positions and their chewing mouths.

I captured this image as one of the cubs came out of the belly of the buffalo to take a momentary break from the feeding frenzy. This scene of the cub’s side by side with the feeding adults, disappearing into the abdominal cavity for their share is something I won’t forget. The determination of these little lion cubs and their audacity to get their share was something to behold.

Trapped Lion Cub Within A Buffalo Carcass Feeding Frenzy

The desire for life is strong and here it was so clearly visible with these cubs. A remarkable moment and a life lesson, which observed has the power to change and affect your own life. The dichotomy of how we behave, with the actions of the vehicles, ever crowding closer and closer for some hungry connection to these wild animals, to the purity of how they live their lives is very striking. And I am afraid, not a good or shining example of mankind’s behavior and not best actions towards the natural world.

It is my sincere hope that my lion cub image can put your heart in the right place, and all of us can do more to save this iconic species before it is too late and another species goes extinct at the hands of man.

Postscript:

There are other places in Africa that place limits on the number of vehicles around an animal. I know for a fact, Londolozi, in South Africa, has a three-limit vehicle rule. If a fourth vehicle wants to view the kill, this vehicle must wait until the first vehicle or one of the three leaves the scene, before it can approach the sighting. Maybe, three isn’t the appropriate or right number for the number of vehicles traversing the large Serengeti. Ten perhaps? Or maybe establishing a 75-foot rule, where no vehicle can come closer than this distance, is a better solution.

In Ndutu, there is a plaque on the lodge wall stating this 75-foot rule for Cheetahs. I believe this policy should apply to all large African mammals, especially for the big cats. There is room too for common sense, and judgment based on how the animal reacts and whether the animal is accustomed to vehicles. If the animal closely approaches you and the vehicle peacefully you need to stay put, be silent and let the mammal pass—panic doesn’t help either cause.

If the truth is told, while on safari and expecting to get portrait images of lion cubs, a telephoto lens is required, and you can’t rely on a cell phone for these types of images.

Little Lion Cub At The Cape Buffalo Kill

 

 

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Ndutu’s Lions

The Lions of Ndutu

Compared to my 2005 trip to South Africa, we saw many more Male Lions. Here is a Male Lion in the very early morning light, gazing across the plains, checking out what’s going around him. As Lions often do.

We had many different color manes among the many different Male Lions we saw, darker in the Serengeti, a really beautiful blond Male Lion in a different area of Ndutu. This one belong to the Marsh pride, and his mane is in between, not light, not red like some, and not too dark or black.

Male Lion Intently Gazes Out Across The Plain
Surveying the Savanna

I just love the side profile with that intent look, and the light was just fantastic, just after sunrise. By the way, it was our last shooting morning, and last morning in Ndutu. What a way to send me on my journey home.

Maybe, he looks so alive, because right beside him is a lioness. He was between mating bouts with her, now waking up, and ready to begin to go again. Very visceral, especially the sounds, and the action of them mating. A picture that stays on the screen of your memory forever.  For that story, I used my 100- 400 mm lens, that’s how close we were, and yet that’s another image too…

More stories and images of East Africa to come…

Male and Female Lion Alert and Watching Something In The Distance
Alert and Watching Something

More Lions:

One of the many highlights of my trip to East Africa was lions. I saw many lions in many places: like Ngornogoro Crater, the Serengeti, and here in Ndutu. This image was taken along with the image I posted a few days ago—my last morning photographing in East Africa.

This is the female lioness that my male lion (previous image) was mating with. Here they are both greatly aware and very intently checking out what another male lion about 40 yards away is doing or is up too.

Sometimes getting two subjects sharp with a telephoto lens can be difficult. Here though both lions were close to the same plane so f6.3 aperture was sufficient to capture both subjects sharp.

Notice the noses…could it be that this young Male Lion is wooing an older female. Generally, Lions noses turn black as they age. Here the female lion has a completely black nose, while her male companion nose has some red, indicating that he is a bit younger than her…

Again, I just love the light; this early morning low angle light bathes them in a warm glow that accentuates the colors of the male’s mane and their beautiful tawny bodies.

A mating image next, should I dare!!!???

Affection: Before or After???

I haven’t dare post a mating image yet. Working up my courage. So I thought I would share an image with some affection before the violent mating act itself. We can learn a lot through observing wildlife, even the King of Beast can show affection, perhaps even kindness and love.

Male Lion Licking Or Wooing Female Lioness
Wooing A Woman

They do seem to get along better than some people, some nations. Just think of all the wars we have been through the last fifteen years. The Islamic Jihadist war against the rest of us, and the beheading of fellow human beings, man’s cruelty to his fellow man. I could go on and on…

It just seems that wildlife can teach us a lesson of learning to get along.  I know that predators eating and killing to live is violent to some and they have trouble with this. However, through death comes life, everything has a purpose, nothing breaks the strands of the web of life. There is a harmony and a balance in nature; it’s only man that can disturb the cycle of life and break the web…

Anyway, we better pay attention. It might be too late already, because if we don’t, then this beautiful planet of ours, won’t be Mother Earth; it will be something harsh and deadly.

And then, the next great mass extinction will be Homo sapiens sapiens—us!

Mating Lions at Last:

After my lion image showing affection, here is my best mating image from that morning.

Lions can mate 4 to 6 times an hour, 100 times a day, and it can go on for days.  After exhausting one male, the female will sometimes mate with other male members of the pride, to insure and protect her future cubs by bonding with all the pride’s males.

Lion mating is a violent affair, and does not last long –a few minutes at most. Usually the male will scent mark afterwards, claiming and marking the territory and the females in it as his.

African Lions Mating
Violence or Ecstasy

Other than the gorgeous early morning light, I think the success of this image is that female is looking up at her suitor engaging in communication between them, and that her eyes are clearly visible and have such a wonderful expression… Even though, there is no sound, you can almost hear it from their expressions.

Perhaps, the moment of lion ecstasy!

A Drinking Lion and A Very Thirsty Lion:

Mating expends lots of energy, and is a very thirsty endeavor. After, repeat bouts of mating, where does a Male Lion go? He heads for the river and some water. Here are some images from the previous day, when the sun had gone higher in the sky, and the heat became a little more oppressive.

One vertical, the other a horizontal orientation, one a partial portrait and the other showing the complete body. Which one do you prefer, the vertical or horizontal image of the Male Lion drinking water?

Basically, these images were taken within minutes of each other at the same place.

Pictures are ultimately are about how they make your feel. Photography is an evocative art. Most of the time your responds comes from inside, within the gut, it’s a feeling, a sense, and or an emotion.

Knowing why, and articulating the reason we prefer one image over another helps us look within ourselves, and ultimately understand ourselves better.

So tell me which image do you prefer and why!

Male Lion Laps Up Precious Water
Sustaintance
Male Lion Drinking
Finding Precious Water


 

 

 

 

 

 

The Blond Mane Male Lion of Ndutu’s Marsh pride:

The females lionesses had just made a zebra kill in the middle of a wide low area and were eating. This male came out of the tree line, and made a beeline to where we were, coming straight at us, to get his share of the food.

Thus, he was intent and focused. I just happen to get this image toward the end of his run. It was a great behavior moment to witness! His eyes were open in this image, and I captured the movement of the leg as he strides, both help make this a special picture.

He is the most beautiful male lion we saw; his beautiful blonde mane is extraordinary!

Blonde Mane Lion Comes Running
Comes Running
Blond Male Lion Of The Ndutu's Marsh Pride
Proud and Fierce Warrior


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of a Male Lion:

I will leave you with this last one image as the magnificent blond mane lion pulls up a zebra carcass. Lions have incredible strength especially male lions in their prime. They rule the Africa savanna; they are the apex predator, nothing will stand up to them, except other male lions in their prime.

Lions kill to live and eat, if they didn’t exist; the grazers like wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, and especially elephants would destroy the habitation, and degrade the environment. Lions along with the other predators like leopards, hyena, and cheetah, provided a vital function in the African ecosystem and are part of the web of life.

Perhaps, the Last lions are walking on the earth now. Down to about 20,000.00 in Africa, their numbers are under extreme threat by poaching and loss of wild places to live. As the human population in Africa grows, tremendous pressure is put on Africa’s wild habitats. The days of finding lions and wild Africa outside of the National Parks is long gone. It’s only us, man, who can save the lion, and the wild places they need to live in.

These image of this magnificent blond mane lion stir my heart and represent to me all that it is to be a lion. I want to know wherever I am or live even if it is not in Africa that Lions will still be roaming the wild African landscape. Life will be diminished knowing that they will no longer roar at night, stalk the bush, sleep under the acacia trees, and hunt to feed themselves and their cubs.

If you would like to help Lions in Africa, please donated to National Geographic’s “Big Cat Initiative” and Cause a Roar!

Here is their link: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats-initiative/get-involved/

Thank You.

Bruce Finocchio 3/12/2015

Male Lion Easily Pulls Up Zebra Carcass By The Upper Leg
Male Lion Easily Pulls Up Zebra Carcass By The Upper Leg

 

*Each of these segments were previously published in Facebook under “Dream Catcher Images” page as short post.

More images of a Male Lion from the wonderful Ndutu section within the Ngorongoro Conservation area, part of the greater Serengeti ecological system in East Africa.

Into The Eyes And Soul Of A Male Lion
Into The Eyes And Soul Of A Male Lion

 

King of Beast
King of Beast