Amongst the Maasai community, the institution of Moranism has withstood the test of time. Western education and Christianity are eroding some parts of it but the practice that is at the heart of their identity refuses to die-down. at the core of this institution is the age-set system, where one Moran age-group reigns supreme for several years before graduating to junior elders thereby allowing the subsequent age-group to take over. During their reign, the Morans act as the defensive unit of the Maasai community. This year, a new Moran age-group called Iltuati has officially been handed over the reins of power. They have selected their own respective Manyattas, which act as their training centers and headquarters, and recently elected their own leaders. For all intent and purposes, the take-over season for the current Maasai Morans is complete and therefore, over.
The lions of the Amboseli ecosystem have also been experiencing a take-over season. Lions are the second largest cat species in the world and they are the largest carnivore in Africa. A lion pride is comprised of females, cubs and a resident pride male or males. Males can form coalitions and help each other in defending their pride and territories from other males. Nomadic males are young male lions that have been expelled from their birth pride upon approaching sexual maturity who are looking to start their own prides. They therefore fight with the old males for females and whoever wins takes over the females. This is when infanticide, one of the greatest but natural threats to lion populations, takes place. The victorious males kill any small cubs fathered by the defeated males, thereby prompting the females into oestrus. These females subsequently mate with the new males, which leads to new cubs being born.
Within the Amboseli ecosystem, several resident males have ruled and reigned supreme in their respective prides and territories. However, we are now beginning to see a transitiontaking place. Within Amboseli National Park, the Ambogga brothers were the new kids on the block. They practically chased all males out of the park, even killing one resident male named Kip, and took over all the females from three prides. Now several young males, who had been frequenting the periphery of the park, have gathered up the courage to make their attack. The Ambogga brothers have now been pushed to the western side of the park. Recently, we found them on a buffalo kill looking old, stressed and ready to flee at the slightest opportunity. Meanwhile, the constant roaring from the new males is increasing daily, and we are only waiting for a physical confrontation.
In Selenkay Conservancy, one of our handsome male lions, Lomunyak, ruled the area for two years before leaving the area and heading to the Chyulus hills. He was replaced by another adult male called Ndelie who had previously lived in the Chyulus.Ndelie sired many cubs with two generation of females and his pride, at one time late last year, even reached a size of 21 members, a number far larger than any pride size seen in the past decade. Recently, we began to receive reports from the Lion Guardians who were finding tracks of two new males in the conservancy. A week ago, we found one of them mating with Selenkay, one of our collared females (unfortunately we don’t have any pictures). The first questions in our minds were, “Where is Ndelie? Where are her cubs?” We got the answer to the first question yesterday when we responded to a lion depredation incident in Mbirikani; we found the culprit and it was Ndelie! He has, for all practical purposes, been kicked out of the Selenkay area. As a result of having clearly visible worn out teeth, he has begun a consistent pattern of his livestock killing…. his surviving days are numbered if he continues attacking the communities’ cattle and goats. Unfortunately for Ndelie, he has chosen to take refuge in the small territory between the park and communal land which is already occupied by another younger and stronger male called Oyaya. Oyayai was driven out of Chyulus almost a year ago when he was no longer able to defend himself after his brother Sikiria was killed in a retaliatory hunt.
We will keep you updated on all of the the changing dynamics; what is interesting to note though is that the take-over season for lions and Maasai Morans within the Amboseli ecosystem has arrived!