Friday, October 3, 2008

Honey's Cubs

I was in the Masai Mara escorting a group from Seattle for 5 days from Sept 4-9, 2008. I have to report that Honey’s three cubs are doing well. Honey is the cheetah followed by Jonathan Scott from the BBC series Big Cat Diary. Her history can be found on the BBC website here:
We ran into Jonathan Scott at a river crossing in the Rhino Ridge area in the afternoon of Sept 6, not having seen a crossing. He wanted to know if we had spotted the three cheetahs. I immediately recognized him from the Big Cat Diary and inquired if they were Honey’s cubs. Indeed they were and he said they were in the area. We exchanged sorrow over little Toto. Jonathan admitted it was one of his weakest moments ever when little Toto went missing. He so wanted to help little Toto fight the baboons etc.

Jonathan had an idea where to find Honey’s cubs, so we followed him to a lone acacia tree and there ... resting in the shade, were the three cubs. Jonathan was alone in his Big Cat Diary vehicle, but I saw no cameras in his vehicle. There was a BBC Crew vehicle there also.

The cubs were resting peacefully and seemed very healthy. I could see a little baby fuzz still on their necks. I assume that they are just 2 months short of 3 years old now if they were about 10 months old when Honey died on February 17, 2007. They are tall, strong and gorgeous. My guide Melvin said that he’s seen them take down topies, even young wildebeest.

Two days later (September 8, 2008, on the way to look for a crossing (which we never did see), we found the cubs again, but this time they were 40 km away in the Burrungat Plains. Again, they were resting under a lone acacia tree; they were fidgety and s seemed to be hungry; they were on the lookout. There were no signs of Jonathan Scott or the BBC film crew this time.

Honey’s cubs were very interested in some gazelles over the ridge, but they were far away and kept walking away. Then they spotted a few wildies coming over a ridge on the other side followed by about 10 zebras. The wildies kept on dancing like they do and soon disappeared, but a dazzle of zebras kept coming closer. The cubs were intently staring their way.
I asked Melvin if they would go for a zebra and he thought not. But they were so interested. Would they? Soon Melvin was on the roof of the car and asked my husband jokingly to take the wheel. Are they going for the zebras???? They were certainly intently staring in that direction. Soon, they were stalking them. NO WAY!!!! That’s a big animal and these are cubs still, after all. My goodness! Incredible decision!

It didn’t take long. The grass was fairly tall as it has been raining in the Mara on and off this winter, so they were camouflaged enough, but we could still see their heads abouve the top of the straw.

It was noon when we found them and there were only about 5 vehicles around. The Mara was very empty. We never saw more than a few vehicles all day.
The zebras were unaware and kept coming. The dominant brother gave chase. It happened very fast. There was no time for pictures, but I followed the entire chase and the kill in my binoculars. My husband got some video. They let all the zebras pass; then they choose the third one from the end, a young female, but she was just about fully grown. It happened very fast. They are “killing machines” already, these cubs. AMAZING!!!! From all accounts, this was their first zebra. Melvin never imagined he would ever see this. A few more vehicles arrived after the kill, but not many. There were less than 10 at all times.

The cubs have established who the leader is; he did the strangling and called for the chase. When he ate, he would growl at his brothers to keep their distance, so they rested in the shade under the vehicles or played sentry. They took turns eating and guarding the carcass.
No lions or hyenas appeared. An hour later a few vultures arrived, but they sat in the two trees available. Soon the trees were full of vultures, but they waited patiently as they had the time … pole, pole! The cubs ate slowly, panting hard. After the kill it took almost an hour before the cubs really starting eating; not until the vultures started arriving did they get serious about eating. They were exhausted after the chase and it was hot in the sun. By three o’clock, the vultures flew down one by one and landed in back of the kill. The dominant brother chased them back a few times until he was done eating and left. The other brothers were still eating, but the vultures very slowly moved closer. Soon the second brother also left the kill and the vultures got bolder and chased off the last cub.

Within 20 minutes the bones were bare. It was now 4 o’clock and there was nothing left of this drama, but the bones. Even the vultures left. The afternoon vehicles started arriving as we were leaving around 4:30 pm. You snooze … you loose!!

I just can’t believe that I saw this. Unbelievable!!!

My husband has posted his video on his website. If you have Windows Media installed you can see it here: (It’s about 25 minutes long):