Wild Frontiers

Cats and the memory of water

It is often said that cats don’t like water. Undoubtedly, this has some truth in it, but for cats living in and around the wetlands of northern Botswana these days, coping with water is a reality.

Lions wading through water

The Okavango Delta in particular is an area that is well-known for sightings of big cats moving through water. What I found most fascinating though, was seeing the behavior of big cats in a place that once was completely dry, and is now a wetland again. The return of water to the Savuti channel provided us with this opportunity. The Savuti dried up in the early 1980’s, and the only water around for years was that found in pans and rain-fed pools.

In 2006 it showed some very sporadic signs of revival, and then a year later the water came back in earnest. Today the dry riverbed is a deep, flowing channel, and a home to catfish, papyrus and hippopotamus.

The local lion pride, known as the Dumatau pride, had their territory neatly bisected by the revived channel. This provided us with a chance to see just how quickly the big cats can adapt. One could have expected young lions here to have been very nervous of entering deep water, as they would have had no prior experience of it.

Instead, these lions have shown this to not be the case at all. The photograph here is of two young lions from the Dumatau pride, caught in action midway across the Savuti channel. Not only are they not afraid of the water, but they are actually chasing and playing with each other, and appear to be enjoying it. Instinct never ceases to amaze me!

Visit my website for more: www.grantatkinson.com

I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page

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