NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 







On Assignment

On Assignment

Maneless Lions
Step into the world of writers and photographers as they tell you about the best, worst, and quirkiest places and adventures they encountered in the field.

Zoom In

Get the facts behind the frame in this online-only gallery. Pick an image and see the photographer's technical notes.
Zoom In thumbnail
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In thumbnail
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In Thumbnail
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In thumbnail
Click to ZOOM IN >>

Zoom In thumbnail
Click to ZOOM IN >>




Maneless Lions

Maneless Lions Map Thumbnail
Click to enlarge >>




By Philip CaputoPhotographs by Robert Caputo



Legendary Kenya lions shed their mystery.




Read this compelling excerpt, or print the whole story.

We bounced along a rutted track bordering the Kanderi Swamp and the Voi River, hornbills flying past with plaintive cries. We found a place where the undergrowth thinned, affording us a good view. Peyton played the hyena tape, and as the hideous wails echoed across the landscape, we scanned with binoculars.

"Oh my God!" Peyton said suddenly. In the same instant came the shrill trumpets of elephants angered by the hyena cries. Turning to look, I saw nine of them, charging out of the scrub to our right: three calves and two adolescents behind a phalanx of four females, coming on at a stiff-legged run, gray hides reddened by Tsavo's lateritic dust, ears flapping like unsheeted sails in a gale, trunks raised, tusks glinting in the early light.

They were a hundred yards away at most, a distance they halved in about two seconds, which was when the matriarch ceased trumpeting and lowered her head—a signal that the threat displays were over. This was the real thing. She came straight for us with a terrible singleness of purpose. Her tusks could easily pierce the Land Rover's thin aluminum skin, and with a little help from her friends she could overturn the vehicle and leave it looking like a flattened beer can, with us inside looking like—well, I didn't care to think about that. With admirable sangfroid, Peyton switched off the tape recorder, started the engine, and took off as fast as the road would allow, meaning not very fast. We hadn't gone far by the time the matriarch, followed by the rest, thundered through the spot where we'd been parked. Eight of the elephants carried on, but the old girl, with astonishing agility, turned abruptly and chased us down the road, like a traffic cop pursuing a speeder.

Peyton stepped on the gas. Finally, satisfied that we'd been seen off, the matriarch halted and, with a parting trumpet and final toss of her great head, turned back to rejoin the others. We watched the herd shamble off, now as calm as they'd been enraged—a magisterial procession against an eastern sky going from bright orange to peach to primrose.






Multimedia

VIDEO Bob Caputo discusses the difficulties of photographing lions in the wild. Click here.
 




In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.


Using an infrared thermal camera, biologist Peyton West took photographs of the maneless Tsavo lions for our story, marking the first time lions have been documented in the wild using thermal imaging (see page 48 of "Maneless in Tsavo" in the April issue). West hopes to compare thermal photos of males and females in the Serengeti and Tsavo to determine two things: whether males with manes have a higher overall body temperature than females, and how much environment affects temperature.

But thermal imaging technology isn't limited to lions. In a recent Nature article ("Seeing Through the Face of Deception," Nature, January 3, 2002) scientists say that thermal imaging may detect deceit in a person by recording facial patterns caused by the change of blood flow. Previously the researchers had shown that when a person is startled, there is "instantaneous warming around the eyes," represented in thermal images as red, orange, and yellow, with yellow being the warmest temperature.

Comparable to the standard polygraph test in terms of accuracy, thermal imaging may one day surpass polygraph tests because it is less labor intensive—neither physical contact using instrumentation nor as many trained staff to analyze and interpret data are required.

—Christy Ullrich



Lion Research Center
Lionresearch.org
Information by Craig Packer and others about lion research in Africa.

Field Museum
www.fieldmuseum.org/exhibits/exhibit_sites/tsavo/default.htm
Take a virtual tour through Chicago's Field Museum, which features the two man-eating lions J. H. Patterson caught.

Top



Estes, Richard. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. University of California Press,1991.

Patterson, J. H. Man-eaters of Tsavo. Macmillan and Co., 1924.

Sinclair, A. R. E. Serengeti: Dynamics of an Ecosystem. University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Trillo, Richard. Kenya: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides, Ltd., 1999.

Top



Joubert, Dereck. The Africa Diaries: An Illustrated Memoir of Life in the Bush, National Geographic Books, 2001.

Caputo, Philip. "Among the Man-Eaters," National Geographic Adventure (May/June 2000), 74-94, 146-149.

Sunquist, Fiona. "The Mane Story," National Geographic World (September 200), 14-18.

Joubert, Dereck. "Lions of Darkness," National Geographic (August 1994), 32-53.

Top


© 2002 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe