Mister Tongue

The previous days of our safari in the Okavango delta in Botswana we had seen two lionesses, each with three cubs, the most charming little creatures one could possibly imagine (see earlier blog posts). But there were three lionesses in the pride, and now we were in front of this third lady. She was in the company of a male, so we expected some action.

But nothing happened.

The lioness seemed utterly uninterested. She looked away, she turned the other direction, she tried to walk away. He wasn’t the type to give up though: he stalked her, but to no avail.

As we observed the failed amorous event, we noticed that the male had his tongue sticking out most of the time, sometimes just a little, sometimes quite a lot. Not very awe-inspiring, if you ask me. It was difficult not to laugh a little at him. Very silently, of course, so that he wouldn’t take offence.

Mister Tongue was an intruder. The lionesses’ pride was led by three brothers, but now he had come into their territory with the aim to be the leader and spread his own genes (which apparently included genes making the tongue stick out).

There was tremendous roaring during the night. Would Mister Tongue’s endeavour be successful? Would he beat the three brothers? If so, he would kill their six cubs in order to favour his own genes.

We slept very poorly and boarded the jeep with anxiety in the early morning. But oh, there was a cub! And one more, and one more! And within seconds we had counted six of them! The relief in the jeep was tangible. The cubs were together with all three females.

At one point there was a family disagreement – if you look carefully you can see how the cubs watch, with some apprehension, it seems, what is going on:

The commotion didn’t last long, and soon the cubs trotted around again, happily unaware of the drama that had unfolded during the night. But doesn’t the mother look a bit tired?

For my part, I’m quite pleased that at least for now there won’t be any offspring with tongues sticking out in the area.

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