The safari season is upon us again and that makes me shiver with excitement.
As an introduction to the season I dug up my favourite photo from last year.
Last year while on a safari deep in the central Kalahari we came across a pair of mating lions. When the female is sexually receptive lions will mate every 20 to 40 minutes for several days. They do not hunt or eat during this time and do not move very far. They were close to our camp and as a result we had sightings of them every day and great photographic opportunities. On the last morning that we were there, they had moved almost into our camp and we saw them just after the sun had risen, providing the perfect light for this photograph that also captures something very interesting about lion (and other cat) reproduction.
People watching mating lions are struck by the contrast between the amorous gentle encouragement that the lioness gives prior to mating and the vicious anger after mating. The reason for this is that all male cats have backward-pointing spines on their penis and as they withdraw after mating, these spines rake the vaginal walls of the lioness. It is believed that this is required to stimulate ovulation in the lioness but it is also very painful for her – as is apparent in the photograph.
I’m about to leave on safari and am excited about all the surprises that await me on this adventure.