The future kings of Amboseli
When Eric Ole Kesoi, Lion Guardians’ Community Manager, someone who has tracked and followed lions for years, tells you he had an encounter with two of the ‘biggest lions he has ever seen,’ you can’t help but want to hear more. In the following post, Eric shares his first meeting with two of the largest lions he has seen in the Amboseli ecosystem – and, he says, they are probably “going to grow even bigger”…
Earlier this year, a few members of the Lion Guardian team, including myself, went on a normal routine follow-up after two of our Lion Guardians, Jackson and Ngida, reported spotting three lion tracks in their zones. After following the tracks of one large male lion, we obtained a visual on him and I was simply astounded at what I saw. In front of my eyes was probably the biggest male lion I had ever seen within the Amboseli ecosystem.
Because Jackson and Ngida had noted three lion tracks in their report, we continued our search for the other two lions, but were unsuccessful. Having reviewed all of our options, we decided to stay close to the male we had spotted hoping to gather any signs as to the direction of his two companions. It was not long until we heard some interesting sounds coming from a thicket nearby – we had finally found the other two lions. From the loud noises it was quite clear that these lions were engaged in the serious business of mating. Intrigued and eager to confirm the report, we approached the thicket with stealth and caution so we wouldn’t disturb them. As I peered through the bushes, I realized that I had been wrong earlier – I was now seeing the biggest lion I had ever seen in the Amboseli area!
The large male’s stately emergence from the thicket onto open ground, accompanied by his female companion left me with an unforgettable image. As he stood in the open grass, regal in appearance, I was able to observe him closely. I noticed that he had an unusually whitish blonde mane, which further enhanced the feeling of his “grandeur.” Even more extraordinary, his pink nose hinted at his youthful age and suggested that this magnificent male was going to grow even bigger! I can’t even begin to imagine how long his mane will be once he reaches maturity.
Since that encounter, these two males have started to cause ripples inside Amboseli National Park. They were previously living on communal land along the Kitenden corridor, but it now seems that they have effectively pushed Ambogga and Loonkito, the pride males of Amboseli, outside of their range and to the far edges of the park
In line with our tradition of naming lions in their respective zones, an act that breeds tolerance and brings familiarity, Jackson and Ngida named the whitish blonde male ‘Orkingi’(king) and his male companion ‘Lowuasa’(proud one). For me, these names are absolutely fitting based on my first encounter with these two – ‘Orkingi’ and ‘Lowuasa,’ the future Kings of Amboseli!
Great story, encouraging news. I’ve been stoyrtelling to adults and high school kids about the ups and downs of lion conservation and of course using the Lion Guardians program as a shining example of the positive. This is definite “up”
Here’s news that might interest Lion Guardians too. In the traditional Sami community Kallioluoma Sida there is a reindeer herder who came up with a novel idea of how to find the carcasses of reindeer killed by predators. In Finland, a reindeer owner is paid compensation for each kill, because the biggest predators are critically endangered (wolverine) or endangered (wolf) or protected anyway (bear). However, there are lots of kills that owners cannot find, which means a big loss. Reindeer herder Heikki Härmä had for long used the presence of ravens as a marker of a possible location in search of missing carcasses. So, in the on-going predator project (in his municipality Suomussalmi), he proposed that maybe a GPS device could be attached to a raven to further help in the search. The initial trial with a raven failed, but the idea seemed so good that a better suited (70 gram) GPS device was bought and attached to a golden eagle. This single individual eagle has already, in only a few months, helped the herders in Kallioluoma community find six missing reindeer carcasses. What is remarkable about this is that eagles have traditionally been hated and killed with the same vengeance as other big predators. The golden eagle is big enough to even kill small reindeer. Now this ages-old enemy has been recruited to help ensure the reindeer owners get the compensation they are due.