Sunday, 11 November 2012

Feeding drive

Today was the first day I spent in the nursery, helping to prepare the food for the meerkats and the baby hyena (3 weeks old) and the two younger sets of cubs (4 weeks old and 8 weeks old). As well as the nursery, we had our usual shifts, and were extra busy as 9 volunteers left today, leaving the rest of us to do the work.
Baby hyena in the nursery
I still found time to go on a feeding drive; every Sunday at 11.30am, the larger lions in the camps get fed meat, dead livestock donated by local farmers. Visitors are able to drive through the camps whilst the lions are being fed, making it the busiest time of the week for game drives.

I went on one of the park's safari trucks, which is the best way to see the feed, as the drivers know the best places to park. The first camp we drove into was the white lion camp, where Letsatsi, star of the film White Lion, lives.

As we entered, Alex Larenty was combing Letsatsi's hair - a fully grown lion, the largest at the park, allowing a human to comb his mane, and apparently quite enjoying it. Alex was also spraying him with what I assumed to be water (to help with styling the hair, dahling), but what I later found out was insect repellent.

The lions, especially those without their own beautician, were already pacing hungrily at the entrance to the camp, knowing that it was their feeding time. Customers driving open backed trucks are always warned when entering the game drive that the lions may mistake it for the meat truck and try to jump on.

The feeding truck arrives
On this occasion, when the meat truck arrived at the camp, the lions ran alongside it to the far end where the spectators were waiting. I was surprised that individual portions of meat, for example one horse leg, complete with hoof, were thrown out for each animal, as I had expected them to be given a whole carcass as in the wild. However, this method ensures that everyone gets fed, as lions further down the hierarchy such as cubs and females often go without in the wild.

A lioness proudly munches her meal
Once each lion had a piece of meat, they went off to separate areas of the camp to eat in solitude. Despite the numerous warnings, it was shocking to see people holding hands and cameras out of car windows with a prowling lioness less than two feet away. Although she had just been fed, these animals are still at their most dangerous immediately after eating.

In total, we drove through three lion camps, as well as the cheetah and wild dog camps before heading back to base.

Later in the day, it was sad to see nine of the volunteers leave, as they had all been there since before I had arrived, and some of them had stayed for four weeks. The camp area was very quiet tonight with only 6 of us left, but more volunteers are arriving tomorrow.

Don't mess with this dude.

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