National Geographic : 2013 Aug
• THEY WERE HANDSOME DEVILS, A QUARTET OF EIGHTYEAROLD MALES, RESTING IN A COMPANION ABLE CLUSTER. THEY LOOKED FORBIDDING AND SMUG. Jua Kali pride and shi ed his attentions east. Hildur, his coalition partner, who'd been so little help in the pinch, went with him. By the time I got a glimpse of C-Boy three years later, he and Hildur had established control over two other prides, Simba East and Vumbi, whose territories lay amid the open plains and kopjes (rocky out- crops) south of the Ngare Nanyuki River. is is not the most hospitable part of the Serengeti for lions and their prey---during the dry season it can be lean and di cult---but it o ered C-Boy and Hildur an opportunity to start fresh. I was traveling through that area with Daniel Rosengren, another adventuresome Swede, who had taken over the lion-monitoring role from Jansson. Way out here, east of the main tour- ism area and south of the river, the great vistas of grassland rise and fall smoothly, like oceanic swells, punctuated every few miles by a cluster of kopjes. e kopjes, granitic lumps festooned with trees and shrubs, standing above the plains like garnished gumdrops, o er shade and secu- rity and lookout points for resting lions. You can drive for days in this corner of the park and not see a tourist vehicle. Along with Michael (Nick) Nichols and his photo team, who were spending months at a eld camp up by the riverbed, we had the area to ourselves. at a ernoon the radio signal in Rosengren's headphones led us to Zebra Kopjes, where, amid the cover, we found the collared female of the Vumbis. Beside her was a magnificent male with a thick mane that cascaded o his neck and shoulders like a velvet cape, shading from umber to black. It was C-Boy. From just 40 feet away, even through binoculars, I could detect no sign of injuries to his anks or his rear. e punctures had healed. "On lions," Rosengren told me, "most scars disappear a er a while, unless they're around the nose or mouth." C-Boy had made a new life for himself in a new place, with new lionesses, and seemed to be thriv- ing. He and Hildur had fathered several more litters of cubs. And just the night before---so we heard from Nichols, who had seen it---the Vumbi females brought down an eland, a very large hunk of prey, a er which C-Boy had laid his imperious male forepaw on the carcass, claiming rst bites. C-Boy had fed on the eland alone, taking choice morsels but not too much, before allowing the lionesses and their cubs to get at it. Hildur had been elsewhere, presumably consorting with another estrous female. So they were living the good life, those two, with all the prerogatives of resident male lions. is was just 12 hours before we saw evidence suggesting that trouble had followed them east. The trouble was male competition. Early next morning Rosengren drove us north from Nichols's camp to the river, seeking a pride known as Kibumbu, whose small cubs had been fathered by still another coalition. ose males had gone absent in recent months---departed to places un- known, for reasons unknown---and Rosengren wondered who might have supplanted them. at was his assignment, within the broader context of Packer's lion studies: to chronicle the comings and goings, the births and the deaths, the a liations and retreats that a ect pride size and territorial tenure. If the Kibumbus had new daddies, who might they be? Rosengren had a suspicion---and it was con rmed when, amid the high grass of the riverbank, we came upon the Killers. They were handsome devils, a quartet of eight-year-old males, resting in a companion- able cluster. ey looked forbidding and smug.