On our game drive in the Rhino and Lion Reserve in Krugersdorp, South Africa we had the good fortune (well, we can say this now, since nobody was eaten) of watching a young male white lion scent marking, and the second-to-alpha male lion come along behind him to do some scent marking of his own.
I used to make Kurt pee around our garden to deter deer, but it takes a lot of pee, we found out, to actually do any good. I was just telling this to my friend Kriscinda, over at Heavy Metal Homesteading, and recommended she go with fox pee, instead.
Of course, these lions weren’t peeing to deter deer (I’m sure they’d welcome a tasty impala in their midst) but to create little territorial challenges with each other.
These photos will let you see just how close these lions are to our quite open vehicle. Although not fully “in the wild” as it will be when we go to Kruger National Park later this year, these lions are not at all tame, and their enclosures give them plenty of area to hide. We saw 6 of the 8 white lions. The other two were hiding somewhere in the grass. We did not see the regular lions at all. Kind of makes you wonder where they are hiding. Considering my cat does a good job of disappearing and then appearing suddenly to attack my feet from under a couch or behind a chair, I can only imagine these eyes on us as we drove around the park.
As the young male walked very close to our windowless truck, the guide warned us quietly to sit still and not stand up. While they are quite used to vehicles driving through the park, suddenly distinguishing yourself from the largeness of the vehicle isn’t a wise move, as it can prompt the cat’s instincts. Our guide told us that the “myth” of lions thinking the truck is one large animal isn’t accurate. He says lions are intelligent enough and have keen enough vision to distinguish the people from the vehicle, but that they don’t see it as a threat or as easy prey (unless, apparently you stand up, wiggle around, shout “Eat me!” or maybe pee yourself like I was about to do.) I don’t know the facts of this, and will try to find out for you what the true current knowledge is regarding what lions do or don’t actually recognize in vehicle vs individuals. I do know that they very clearly made eye contact with each of us separately, so I am more inclined to agree with the guide than the commonly accepted belief of seeing it as one large animal.
No cuddly cubs today. Just a coupla’ full size Marla-eaters.
In continuing my effort to promote conservation and awareness of all the people, places and wildlife we encounter, here is an organization I just learned about, called the Global White Lion Protection Trust. For those of you in the US and UK, there is a book tour going on now.