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“Not eaten yet”

Changing your status on Facebook to “not eaten yet” doesn’t seem as funny when you are tracking lions through scrub at night in an open Land Rover with a spotlight!

Changing your status on Facebook to “not eaten yet” doesn’t seem as funny when you are tracking lions through scrub at night in an open Land Rover with a spotlight!
We had seen the pride in the afternoon, when they had been lying asleep in a huddle, absentmindedly flicking their tails, and occasionally opening an eye to give us a message that they really knew we were there. That seemed almost pedestrian.
Getting blasé about “they’re asleep” is quite different at night. I think that we all felt very exposed sitting on top of an open-topped Land Rover and soon remembered how difficult they were to spot in the long grass in daylight. Every tussock may be a potential dinner date, with us on the menu.
When we finally came across the group, they didn’t appear to have moved. Then they began to stir and yawn, apparently to increase their oxygen, ready for action. One of the females appeared to be in season, raising her tail and backing up to the males. One gave a perfect example of spraying, and I should have taken a photograph for cat behaviourist, Kirsti Seksel! The smell of spraying is bad enough with my Burmese cats in my kitchen, so I hate to think what a couple of pints of lioness spray smells like. One of the two lions seemed very interested, and for a while I had hopes that we were going to see them mating, but the lionesses were more keen to go off hunting.
The lions kept well back and just made themselves comfortable wriggling down on their haunches and waited, just like your average tabbie in a spot of sunshine. By the time it got dark, our spotter, sitting in a small seat on the left hand side side of the bonnet, kept moving his light over the pride – probably a good idea in terms of keeping an eye on what they were doing, but not quite so good for photography.
I was sitting in the back of the jeep with my Canon 5D MkII and a 100 to 400 lens. I had started with the monopod, which certainly gave more stability but lacked manoeuverability particularly as everyone sitting in front was wearing a hat! The “real” photographers sit for 8 hours waiting for the perfect shot, but that would really drive me insane! But all is a compromise. I increased the ISO as the sun went down, and I tried to maximise shutter speed.

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