Hi everyone. Today’s guest post comes from Paul who writes about his three favorite things – travel, food, and, of course, cats – in his blog paulseestheworld.com. This post is an excerpt from a series of posts about big cats and other animals in Botswana, Africa.
This post is video and photo highlights looking at male lions, female lions, leopards, and a caracal. I had the amazing opportunity to spend some time in Botswana tracking big cats for a period of time. As someone who has had “domestic” cats my whole life I noticed how many behaviors our domestic beauties have in common with the big cats.
Let’s start with a male lion “greeting ceremony” – perhaps you have seen your cats do the same.
The “greeting ceremony” is customary of male lions that work together as a team. This is a greeting when they are relaxed, happy, and well-fed. These two hunted and ate a younger elephant the previous day.
Seeing a lion in nature is an adrenaline rush – these are beautiful, graceful, powerful, elegant, and confident animals. Their front arms ripped with muscle, their rear legs show extreme power, their face beautiful in its complexity. They clearly know they are the king.
One night one of the brothers appears to have “met” a female (based on tracks). The following morning his brother roared for him to come back. Turn up the volume in this video.
The video of course does not fully give the depth and effect of the roar. It is so loud, so deep in the earth, in the air, through the trees, so amazing a sound. He continues to search for his brother.
Male lions weighed maybe 400 or 500 lbs. Lions can run up to 50 mph and leap up to 30 feet (that is crazy to think about, but then again many domestic cat can jump from the floor to the top of a refrigerator). A typical pride of lions will be 2 or 3 males, perhaps a dozen females (including mothers and daughters) and their cubs. Males typically live to be maybe 10 or 15 years old.
Female Lions and Cubs
We found a mother who recently had 5 cubs, along with the pregnant grandmother (pictured above), in a wooded area on a savanna in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. In the first video, the mother lion is cleaning up 4 of the playful cubs after they enjoyed some zebra meat. In the second video, the cubs greet their mother and lay with her.
In the video below, the runt comes to breast feed (watch the mama lion lick the zebra blood off of the cub around 33 seconds in – so cute).
The cubs needed cleaned up because they, along with their mother enjoyed a zebra for their meal.
The cubs also practiced play fighting which is good for when they are introduced to the rest of the pride.
Leopards are nocturnal animals and solitary. During the day, they rest in thick brush or in trees. They were much more difficult to spot than lions.
We also saw an adorable leopard cub in a tree waiting for momma to come back.
I had asked how the lions and leopards interact and the basic answer was they avoid each other, primarily the leopard avoiding the lion. Made total sense.
Though the caracal looks like a fox it is a really a wild cat, weighing in at maybe 25 lbs (11 kg). We were lucky to see this nocturnal secretive feline. This cat really was beautiful. I apologize for the photos as it was mostly dark outside (very wide aperture) and these cats really were not interested in letting us get too close, but perhaps they interest you enough to learn more.
Bonus cat – Billysky
Clearly not a lion, leopard, or caracal, this is a domestic short-hair who shares a house with me – and occasionally shares a glass of water with me without even asking. Blah. She made me promise to put her in this post.
Brief serious closing thought
For a great many reasons, the population of all kinds of large cats throughout the world continues to shrink, some approaching extinction, as does the land they live in. If you are interested or concerned, a simple google search can help you learn more or give you a call to action. Thank you for reading.