Waiting for the right moment to strike
This scene unfolds in Botswana. A female impala appears to be scouting out the right spot in which to give birth, still in plain sight on the savannah that lies in the Okavango Delta. A lion is peering out from behind the bush, invisible to some, clearly visible to us in the vehicle. Whether upwind, downwind, whatever direction they face, the lion’s scent is masked and the impala has no idea the danger that lurks just feet away. The lions are waiting and watching for the right moment to strike. Lions know when the time is ripe for the pickins’. They know and carry that information to the other members of the pride. Body language is everything in the world of the wild.
The pregnant mother is only concerned with birthing their babies – and immediately moving it out of danger. She often has less than five minutes after birth to do so. The baby has an innate ability to know it must keep up with mom, from the moment it arrives from that birth canal, they know; gotta’ keep up with mama. So the mother nudges the baby and nudges the baby until it is up and walking in those five minutes and running moments after. The dreadful reality is that most do not survive. Many are killed at birth, others within 3 months following birth.
That lion peering from the bush, is clearly the leader of this pride, He is a great male with a mane that almost covers the eyes. The female is not too far away. She knows there are no guarantees even for her own babies. She too has enemies; the male lion, who may kill her cubs if they are not his own, hyenas, leopards and even elephants. She too, must always be cautious, careful and sense danger. Lions frequently move their cubs out of view of other animals, hidden in areas where it is often difficult to get to. They may do this daily, weekly or whenever she feels her cubs are no longer safe. Evenings, when danger is more prevalent, female lionesses can be seen carrying their cubs in their mouth, moving them to higher and safer ground.
When the king of the jungle sees the impala giving birth, he knows it’s just a matter of time, moving from the comfort of the shade to within striking distance. He doesn’t ordinarily hunt, but if he doesn’t have to do much to get his prey, he will. The female is the hunter and she knows this is a time when she can get both the mother and the baby. She knows that this kill will feed her entire pride and the little ones if there are young cubs in this pride.
We can’t tell for sure, but we see other lions in this pride lying in the openness of the plains, legs in the air, sleeping on top of each other. They look full, so we assume that this big male lion has also filled its belly with a meal. He doesn’t seem intent on moving from the cover of his shade. The females seem even less bothered by the scene not too far from them. They occasionally look up, and we think they’ll move towards the impala, but alas, they just turn over and fall back to sleep. Looks like there will be no drama on these plains today. This may be a lucky day for the impala and her newborn.
Live to see another day
We all know there is nothing the young baby impala would be able to do if danger moved in on them. If any one of these lions took off after the baby, the mother would have no choice but to leave it, and watch her baby ripped from her, if that is to be. The mother is, as well, vulnerable herself. It’s stressful and sad, but I’ve come to know that here in Africa there is life and there is death and babies are not equipped to survive these predators.
As we wait and watch we realize that for this impala and her newborn will live to see another day. The energy these lions would have to expend to make a kill, no matter how little it is, was just not worth it to them – today.
If you’re anxious to see it for yourself, join me in March 2016 and help me celebrate my seven years in business. Affordably priced, this safari is timed at the height of the migration. Contact me for details, email@example.com • 951-898-6094 • destined-to-travel.com.