LIONS OF THE MARA
In September 2017 our chairman James Welch visited the Maasai Mara Ecosystem as part of a volunteering trip. This section of the website written first hand hopes to give everything an understanding of the trip. The idea of this visit was to get a better understanding of the problems lions face in the wild and to see the threats first hand. As well as seeing the fragile habitat this also gave a brilliant opportunity to see lions in the wild and to get to see wild lion behaviour first hand. This page aims to give an overview of the lions found in the Maasai Mara with a focus on the lions living in the Naboisho Conservancy where I was staying.
The lion populations within the Mara are made up of the core groups of adult females, this is the commonly known 'pride'. The younger females may stay with their mothers however some may often stay nearby but leave their mothers to form separate groups of their own. These groups of females may join on occasion or split entirely. Every single lion pride is completely different and the dynamics of lion society are incredibly unpredictable - All part of the complex fission fusion society in which they live. The information on this page is correct as of the date of the trip (September 2017) and aims to give the reader an idea of lion society.
The male lions however lead a completely different lifestyle but the reliance on each other is still incredibly important. Once forced out of their birth pride either by their own fathers or by invading males, these young males may often team up and wander wherever food is available. During these nomadic years single males may also often join up with unrelated males of the same age or size.
However it is at this age where the young males are at their most vulnerable stage and may suffer from persecution from the local people. By being forced out of their birth prides they may be driven into the community land outside the protected areas. Here they may be blamed for the killing of cattle, which may be killed by them due to the lack of native wildlife in these community lands or even by other lions or other predators
Sampu Enkare Pride
This pride currently consists of Esiriwua, born in 2005 and Lokoman born in 2013, unfortunately Lokoman's mother Tikki passed away earlier this year. Her three youngest daughters have formed a sub group, living closer to the border with the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. I believe this pride originates from the Enesikiria pride and was once a former sub group now completely split apart.
Also known as the KGS (Koiyaki Guiding School) Pride due to the location of their core range. This pride is made up of many subgroups and on my visit I saw four lionesses from this pride either living solitary or in a small group of two. Out of the four two could be identified as Jasmina, born in July 2012 and Akilah, born in March 2012. The other two were suspected to be younger, one was seen in season while the other was seen on one day with Akilah.
One of the biggest prides at the moment, the Ilkisiusiu pride inhabits the area of the same name. Three females were seen but could not be identified but all had cubs, a total of 7 ranging from various ages up to about 3 months old. This pride lived more westerly within the conservancy and was only spotted once.
Not exclusive to the Naboisho Conservancy, the Moniko pride spend most of their time in the neighbouring Olare Orok Conservancy to the west of the conservancy. The Moniko lions were not sighted during my two weeks in Naboisho but were recently spotted on the 21st August. The Moniko lions are named after the hill they are regularly sighted resting on within Olare Orok.
All of these prides are ruled by one coalition. These males are known as the Rekero Coalition. Made up of four males these boys have a ruthless reputation as cub killers and have even killed all of their last two litters they sired within the Naboisho Conservancy. For those familiar with the lions of 'Big Cat Diary' these lions are the sons of the sons of Notch. The Notch coalition famously filmed in 'African Cat's - a Disney Nature Film, consisted of five sons headed by their father Notch, a previous resident male of the Marsh Pride. When Notch was forced out of his old pride, his five adolescent sons joined him. With the passing of Ceasar just before my trip only one of the original Notches currently lives (as of October 2017), Notch II.
The Kings may be falling, but the sons are thriving. The Rekero males were born in the Mara and last year they headed into Naboisho, they killed all the cubs they could find and mated straight away with all of the pride females one by one, conquering every pride. All of the sub adult males were either killed or driven out. The previously existed coalition of 3 were forced out and headed to the nearby Ol Kinyei Conservancy, making way for the new kings. For unknown reasons the Rekero males killed their first two sets of litters from every pride but have been seen with the current litters indicating their approval. Perhaps this was to make sure that within the first year of their tenure there were no chances of previous male siring. It could also be due to resources as strange enough the first litters they have accepted have coincided with the wildebeest migration.
Where the existing sub adult males have been fleeing the conservancy, with two recently becoming victims of the local human wildlife conflict, some have found a new threat. A new coalition of three young male lions have arrived from the Mara, they seem to be settling along the border of the Naboisho and Ol Kinyei conservancies trying to keep a low profile away from the Rekero males. Despite the boys not being in a position of power they have still managed to fight away existing young sub adults, showing in a small way they could one day become a new power in the area. This young coalition is known as the Fig Tree Coalition and they were born in the Mara Reserve in April 2014.
Perhaps one of the most surprising things to me in Naboisho was the number of lions we saw doing their own thing, living a rather separate life choosing one day to be with a companion or two but some days spending days alone. Incidentally compared to popular belief the largest group of adult females I saw throughout the trip was a group of 4 females known as the Rongai Pride in the National Reserve. Between the four of them they had 12 cubs of varying ages. The only sighting I saw of both genders together was when the female was in breeding season. For more details on the sightings of lions in the main Reserve and the Naboisho Conservancy click here for the Lion Diary.