News from #Porini’s Ol Kinyei Conservancy

The latest news and wildlife sightings from Ol Kinyei Conservancy in the Maasai Mara brought to you by Nirmalya Banerjee at Porini Cheetah Camp.

Ol Kinyei Conservancy is 18700 acres of pristine wilderness that has been set aside as a wildlife reserve. Located within the Serengeti-Mara eco-system, it is renowned for its unspoiled and breathtaking scenery with diverse terrain. There is a broad variety of animals including African’s iconic species such as elephants, lions, leopards, giraffe, cheetahs and much more.

The Conservancy is home to Porini Mara Camp and Porini Cheetah Camp (and our Gamewatchers Adventure Camp in high season), and our guests have exclusive access to this land. Avid wildlife enthusiasts Nirmalya and his wife Jui Banerjee run Porini Cheetah Camp.

Come and experience Ol Kinyei Conservancy for yourself! To start your planning contact our dedicated team of Safari Advisers who will be delighted to help you put together your ideal safari.

Update from Nirmalya

Wednesday 11 July 2018

Poor Senteu

Having lost cubs earlier to marauding lions, the Fig Tree boys are determined to protect the current set of two cubs – less than two months old and still smaller than house cats. With great diligence they ensure that at least one of them is always on guard duty. Today it was FIGaM2 Senteu’s turn.

However lioness mums are always ambivalent about letting their cubs’ dads near their offspring. Male lions are notoriously ill-tempered and have been known to kill or injure even their own cubs, eager to play with them, with a cantankerous swipe. As we watched Naramat and her two cubs, Senteu came and parked himself about ten metres away from the others. Naramat wasn’t happy, growled and when that hint wasn’t taken, snarled at Senteu.

He didn’t react very much and sat down after moving away a little. The cubs then came out of the bush and approached the male lion. This was too much for Naramat who lunged and snarled at Senteu- as if it were all his fault.

Thinking that she had suitably subdued the lion, Naramat relented but then the cubs started walking again towards him. Naramat had had enough. This time her reaction convinced Senteu that discretion is indeed the better part of valour, and he walked till he was about a hundred metres away. Far enough to keep Naramat quiet but close enough to respond quickly in case of any danger.

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Tuesday 3 July 2018

Lions usually have little to fear in the jungle. They are stronger than anything faster than themselves and faster than anything stronger. But all this is true of the adults. The cubs are at risk, mainly from intruding male lions but also from hyenas in packs and Martial Eagles swooping in from above.

Having lost a set of cubs earlier to interloper lions, Naramat, Nempiris and the Fig Tree boys seem determined to be on alert this time. It seems strange but I’m not sure their effort could be bettered by a professional security detail tasked with protecting a high-value target, through layered security.

At night the Fig Tree boys split up and aggressively patrol their territory sanitising it to provide distant cover by calling out loudly to warn away other lions. The cubs are hidden away most of the time but when they do have to come out, one of the Fig Tree boys is at hand to provide proximate cover by hovering a few hundred metres away. And of course mum Naramat, and aunt Nempiris, provide close cover.

We came across the two lionesses just as they prepared to leave a thicket with the cubs. Olonana was perhaps 500m behind us. First Naramat came to the edge of the clearing with the cubs, and waited. Then Nempiris bounded in and came to the front, tail held stiff, always a sign that the cat is on alert and ready to spring into action.

Once the two adults took up position, the two cubs went between them and the cats proceeded into the clearing, walking briskly.

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Thursday 14 June 2018

Cats have sensory perception – beyond sight – that mere humans can only marvel at. We came across the three Fig Tree boys all sprawled out beneath a bush, and assumed they had called it a day. But Batian abruptly got up and Senteu followed him. Olonana though continued sleeping while his brothers walked away. When he finally reacted and stood up, his siblings were about 100m from him. Batian solicitously kept scent-marking the bushes as olfactory beacons for Olonana to follow.

As Olonana started walking, he kept his nose close to the ground.

It was a quiet morning and all was calm till events diverged from plan. Batian came face-to-face with a human being albeit at a distance of about 20m. I don’t know know who was the more surprised but certainly Batian was the one very startled. He jumped up, got his legs in a twist and shot off at a 90° angle to where he was going. Senteu faithfully followed him.

Meanwhile Olonana following at a distance was blissfully unaware of what had happened. He kept sleep-walking till he came to where Batian had taken off. As you can see in the video, he came to a stop, tail twitching, seemingly nonplussed. But only for a few moments. He stood and perhaps heard or smelt his brothers. Be that as it may, he too turned sharply from the direction he was going and unerringly took the path his brothers had taken.

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I’m sure he soon came across Batian recovering from his fright and no doubt thanking his stars for his narrow escape from a dangerous human being.

Monday 28 May 2018

The Porini Cheetah Camp opened on 1 June 2017. We came to live in it a few days before that and so have just completed a year in the camp. In this period, we have been hit by flash floods, been in a stalled car in close proximity to lions, got stuck in sticky black cotton soil with no rescue car readily available, chanced upon a Cape Buffalo in the dark close to our tent and experienced other sundry incidents inseparable from life in the African bush. What has kept us going- apart from the fact that we like living in the jungle- is our conviction that this unique model of using commercial tourism for the benefit of humans and wildlife alike, is inherently sound and needs to spread far and wide. So it was wonderful to receive recent affirmation of the worth of what we are doing.

At the end of April, some of our clients returned distraught from a dawn game drive to report having seen an elephant behaving strangely. We got into our pickup and drove out to take a look. We found two elephants, with one indeed behaving in a most unusual manner. It had evidently been abandoned by the herd while another elephant stayed back to protect it but unable to help. We couldn’t approach it for a closer look because an elephant in pain might be unpredictably aggressive, but returned to the camp to report what we had seen, to the elephant protection unit of the Kenya Wildlife Service that is stationed in the conservancy.

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It had started pouring by then but undeterred, a contingent of rangers went to locate the elephant in need of help. It returned unsuccessful as the two pachyderms had left the place and the rain was making it hard to drive around to look for them. The rangers went back the next day but to no avail. They persevered and finally found the elephants a couple of days later. An inspection showed that the elephant was injured. A vet was called in, the animal was darted and attended to and beyond that there wasn’t much for anyone to do but to hope for the best.

For a few weeks thereafter there were no reports of the elephant having been sighted, till finally earlier this week it was seen again. What a difference the intervention had made! It was still limping but had been reunited with its herd and importantly able to keep up with it. It was also grazing normally, always a sign of fairly good health. All thanks to a group of tourists on safari that had noticed an elephant in trouble and was concerned enough to have reported it.

Friday 18 May 2018

Many people feel we must live an idyllic life in the bush. Indeed we do. On most days. Yesterday was the other kind.

We had been hearing lions calling close to the camp overnight, so early in the morning we jumped into our pickup to take a look. Not 200m behind the camp we found the Fig Tree boys. As the nomads have grown older they spend more and more time alone and so it is rare in recent times to find all three siblings together. We were therefore happy to see Batian, Senteu and Olonana not far from each other. As always, Batian was with a lioness- Naramat.

I parked the car- with engine switched off- so that we were between Batian and Naramat on the one hand and Senteu and Olonana on the other. The lions were relaxed and even dozed off at times.

Just then Batian and Naramat got up and I tried to start the car to re position it. Nothing happened. My pickup, just a few months old, that was in great condition refused to start. Try as I might, there was nothing I could do. With lions on either side about 10m away I couldn’t even get off to look under the bonnet.

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There was nothing for it but to call the camp for help. Since we were so close to the camp a vehicle reached us in a few minutes. As it pulled alongside our pickup we quickly opened the door and jumped into the relief vehicle with the lions looking on quizzically.

Later in the evening we went back to retrieve the stalled pickup. The lions had left but we couldn’t take a chance and had to drive around in a wide circle to ensure the cats weren’t in the vicinity. Luckily, diesel engines work on compression ignition and so a manual vehicle can be push-started even with the electrical system not working. This morning a cursory glance under the bonnet showed the battery terminals- both of them- were loose. A couple of turns of the spanner were all that were needed to fix the problem. How the terminals were loosened and importantly why they decided to play up, just when they did, in the proximity of lions will remain a mystery!

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