National Geographic : 2013 Aug
as though scraped up from a deep iron bin of primordial power and con dence and threat. No one answered these calls. In the wee hours the trio met a lone omson's gazelle; that poor gazelle must have been terri ed, but as the lions made a perfunctory try, it bounded safely away. One tommy, divided three ways, was scarcely worth the trouble. As dawn came, they were back on the road a er their big loop through Vumbi territory, strolling casually west toward a familiar kopje where they would nd shade for the day. It was Saturday morning. Rosengren and I le them there. e wounds on their faces, and the absence of C-Boy, were still unexplained. Lion politics along the Ngare Nanyuki River seemed to be in ux. , we found the Vumbi pride at Zebra Kopjes, a couple of miles south of where the Killers had made that intru- sive circuit. Maybe the pride had been driven down there by the minatory roaring, or maybe they had just wandered. We counted three fe- males, resting contentedly amid the shaded lobes of granite, and all eight cubs. Another female, we knew, was o on a mating foray with lover boy Hildur. No sign of C-Boy. His absence seemed slightly ominous. Sunday afternoon, back to Zebra Kopjes. Hildur and his female had rejoined the group, but not C-Boy. Let's try Gol Kopjes, Rosengren suggested. With luck we'll see the Simba East pride, and he might be with them. Yes, I said; that's my priority, I want to nd him, dead or alive. So we drove southwest, rising and de- scending gently across the swales of grassland, while Rosengren listened in his headphones for the bleeps of Simba East. At a small kopje near the main Gols we located them: three females and three large cubs, lounging amid the radiant rocks. But again, no sign of C-Boy. Rosengren, at this point, admitted to some worry. His job was not to root for favorites, of course, but to monitor events, including the natural phenomena of lion-on-lion violence and pride takeover; but he had his sympa- thies. It's beginning to seem, he said sadly, that C-Boy must have fallen victim to the Killers. With a lavender Serengeti sunset painting the horizon behind us, we drove back to Zebra Kopjes. Nichols and Peck were still there, with the Vumbis, who had hunkered together in the grass and begun roaring---one voice, then an- other, then three together, rumbling out across the plains beneath a now darkening sky and a small waxing crescent of moon. Lion roars can carry a range of meanings, and this chorus bore a mysterious, lonely tone. When they fell silent, we listened with them. No response. Nichols and Peck departed for camp. Rosen- gren circled our vehicle into a spot just beside the reclining Vumbis. He wanted me to expe- rience the fearsome thrill of taking lion roars point-blank in the face. is time Hildur joined in, his deep male basso rasping and thunder- ing, almost shaking the car. Once they nished, we again listened intently. And again nothing. Now I was ready to leave. For journalistic pur- poses, I was prepared to list C-Boy as "missing, suspected dead." Wait, Rosengren said. ere was a scu e in the darkness around us. Give me your headlamp, he said. Swinging the beam from le to right, across Hildur and the others, Rosengren brought it to rest on a new gure, a large one, with a very dark mane: C-Boy. He was back. He had come running to the sound of their roars. His face was smooth. His anks and buttocks were intact. Whomever the Killers had mugged two nights ago, it wasn't him. He settled com- fortably beside the collared female. Soon he'd be mating again. He was an eight-year-old lion, healthy and formidable, commanding respect within a pride. It was all very temporary. C-Boy's life might stretch forward a few years, beyond this moment, into in rmity, injury, mayhem, displacement, starvation, and death. e Serengeti o ers no mercy to the elderly, the unlucky, or the impaired. He wouldn't always be happy. But he looked happy now. j See more lions in e Secret Life of Predators, airing in September on the National Geographic Channel.