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Posted December 2, 2011
Dispatch #2
Predators and Prey

This is one in a series of email dispatches from Africa written this fall by photographer Michael Nichols to his picture editor, Kathy Moran.

Dear Kathy,

The radio-collared lions to the south that Craig Packer studies are in the famine stage and their cubs will starve while the wildebeest migration is up here in the north. I will move south in September and get acquainted with them before we break for our oldest son Ian’s wedding. The migration creates a feast—wildebeest time is a candy store for lions—and it is what makes the Serengeti lions unique. I decided to come up here to try and capture some of the classic images we must have for an overview.

Our camp is in an isolated, untouristy patch of land that is remote and hard to reach but absolutely classic savanna with those skies that make Africa unique. We are settling in and trying to find the resident pride of lions that must own the small creek and fabulous real estate that surrounds us. Thousands of wildebeests surround us. I spent this morning looking on both sides of the drainage for the lions we heard calling the last two nights. We found a kill from yesterday covered with vultures but no luck finding the pride, which we expect from Packer’s research to be very large (over 20 lions). I hope one month will give me a chance to make some images that support his real estate theory, which basically says that prides are larger and stronger when they are protecting prime real estate like river junctions where lots of prey gathers. Location, location, location.

It is easy to see why Craig uses radio collars to track lions. We know these lions are here; we just have not found them as of yet. I have been teaching Reba, my wife, to drive the four-by-four so Nathan and I can photograph and film. Also am learning to communicate with Mohamed, the park guard. He’s what the Africans would call a mezee—a wise man—who is teaching me how to how to move around and work in the territory. I will write again when I have the time, and hopefully something exciting, to tell you.

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