It’s 2am and from my bedroom here in my Mara home I hear the lion roaring. There is no other sound that evokes such a primeval sense within us; a reminder that this is an animal for whom primates are on the menu. Having spent countless hours over the past 25 years watching these apex predators, I now imagine this one, patrolling his or her territory in the African darkness, and feel privileged to live here where the wild things still roam free.
There is something about “Simba”, the largest of our big cats, that mesmerizes us. Ever since humans could record their feelings, lions have featured in our art, as evidenced by the life-size cave lions drawn in the 28,000 year old paintings at Grotte Chauvetin in France (https://www.ancient.eu/Chauvet_Cave/).
Today, we photograph, study, listen to, and watch these magnificent beasts; the fascination continues no matter where we are. Last month, in the heart of New York City and far from our home in Kenya, we took Ollie and Halina to see The Lion King on Broadway and at the movie theater. The artistry and storytelling inspired by our feared and revered feline friends are truly things to wonder at – although we still think the hyenas got a raw deal!
Over the years, I’ve been so privileged to share the joy of my guests when they see their first wild lion. Of all the places in lion country, the Masai Mara in particular is perhaps the ultimate location for spending time with lions. In Amboseli, as the local lion population has increased over the past decade, we’ve also had outstanding experiences in our private conservancy there, Kitirua. This lion recovery has been aided significantly by the fantastic conservation work being done by our friends at the Lion Guardians program. Recently, several of my safaris have had the special opportunity to visit the Lion Guardians camp in Amboseli and get some insights into how this unique and dynamic project operates. You can learn more about their work here (http://lionguardians.org).
My own safari work, as well as Steph’s carnivore research, have enabled me to learn so much about lions and the immense challenges humans face living alongside lions in the 21st century living. Sharing ideas and discussing issues related to lion conservation can bring even more to the experience of seeing one of the most impressive wild animals on the planet, which in turn will help us conserve lions, and be inspired by them, for generations to come.
Photos by Max Melesi, taken on safari with me in June, 2019.