Together with BW’s Finest - team of wildlife photographers, Mmegi’s intrepid photojournalist, THALEFANG CHARLES, heads back to Savuti on yet another mission to search for a lion called Sekoti. The team gets a pleasant surprise to find Sekoti’s uncle Torn Nose in rare mating session, before Sekoti steals the girl
Sekoti – the lion king from Savuti who has become a social media sensation – has been elusive for me. I had failed to find this lion on my past three attempts and last week the anxiety from the memories of failures all came back as I returned to Savuti. I was part of an expedition team of young talented photographers who have contributed and funded their own trip to Savuti to search for Sekoti.
It was the Chobe Collective duo, Karabo Moilwa and Joe Misika based in Kasane, Kevin Groth of Two67 Shooter, Brains Monekwe of Brains Bond Wildlife Photography, Mabedi Letsholo of MabediLets Photography, Oteng Lekgowe of Oteng Lekgowe Photography and Isaac Lesole of Lesole Isaac Wildlife Photography. All these are young talented black local photographers who want to break into the foreign-dominated wildlife photography. They dubbed themselves BW’s Finest.
Although they were all happy and hopeful that they would find the lion, I did not want to be overly excited because of the past experience. The trip began with activation on the newly commissioned Kazungula Bridge where the photographers brought out their cameras and bulky telephoto lens to pose for pictures. The BURS, which manages the access to the bridge, gave the team special access. I was saddened to learn that locals are restricted to go and view the architectural masterpiece as special permission is required. Kasane tourism operators, including Cresta Mowana Lodge, Flame of Africa Safaris and Chobe Safaris, welcomed the team with the hope that the trip could help promote the struggling tourism in the area.
The following day the team left for Savuti from Kasane, which is about 161km, with Leon Safaris. The company, which is managed by entrepreneur Leon Oppedal, uses converted old military vehicles as game viewers. We would realise later that the vehicles turn many heads, as some curious tourists resorted to taking pictures of our vehicles instead of animals.
Our campsite at Savuti was Boga’s SV6 which is very close to Leopard Rock and Mogobe wa Dikgokong. I was glad we were close to Leopard Rock Hill because it was there that guides operating in Savuti reported last sighting of Motsetsi SilverEye – the female lion that is believed to have given birth and still nursing the cubs by the hill. The first night around the fire we could hear lions calling which was unusual for Savuti. The hope to find Sekoti was raised because the lion calling sounded like a male and we were in his territory. Later in the night around the campfire with conversations that spanned from women to lions, photography and to quantum physics (we had scientists in the group) and back to women, we heard more lions calling in the south and nearer in the west. We were sure of finding some lions the following day.
So in the morning we were out of camp at first light
It was there where I previously witnessed my first successful Wild Dogs hunt – and you can never forget your first wild dogs hunt. As we entered the open area, sitting pretty in the golden morning light was Sekoti. It was a surreal moment and the boys could not believe it. They waited for him to stand up to confirm the snip tail. But before he even stood up, I immediately knew that we had finally found the elusive young king. And interestingly there was another male lion just about 50 metres away from Sekoti.
So my attention quickly shifted from Sekoti to this other male lion that was too close and even mating. We then discovered that Sekoti was moving away from his old uncle Torn Nose, who was busy mating. Torn Nose is the brother of Sekekama, the king of Savuti Marsh Pride, and father to Sekoti. Their coalition has defied odds as they led the pride for 10 years. An average lion king leads for two years before being dethroned by much agile males. Through the decade of Sekekema’s bloody reign, Torn Nose has been the good brother who allowed Sekekama to have all the mating rights. The guides told us that it was a rare sighting to find him mating. And it was evident that the old big lion with a distinctive scar on the nose was struggling to keep up with the female’s needs. The female kept waiting, in a lioness’ mating crouch position, for rather too long while Torn Nose was gathering strength for another round. The lion-mating scene is a demanding exercise for both cats. Even though he lasts for just 17 seconds, the mating could be up to 100 rounds a day, and it goes on for straight three to four days.
Sekoti did not fight his old uncle and decided to move away. This was not very surprising because before Sekekema banished Sekoti away from the pride, he (Sekoti) used to spend more time with Torn Nose. Sekoti gave his favourite uncle some privacy and we watched him climb Leopard Rock, marking the territory and at some point I thought he was going to bring out SilverEye. The second day we found Sekoti sitting at his favourite lone spot on the sand ridge. He was still watching his exhausted uncle trying to add his bloodline to the Marsh Pride. When we left the camp three nights later, news came in that Torn Nose was found alone and rising nephew Sekoti had stolen the girl and was even mating.