By Kipchumba Kemei
Setting out at first light towards Paradise Plain, I saw and heard my first lion. He was sitting on a termite mound, perhaps half a mile from where we had parked our vehicle and was clearly visible through my binoculars, a full-grown male with a tobacco-coloured mane. The highland air was crisp and cold, and with every roar I could see his breath condensing in white puffs, like smoke from a dragonâs nostrils.
That did it. From that moment I was hooked, and although I have been back to the Masai Mara more times than I can remember, the magic is as strong as ever. Tourists in a game drive in the Mara. [PHOTO: COURTESY]
Tourists in a game drive in the Mara. [PHOTO: COURTESY]
British travel writer Brian Jackman, who wrote those words in 1974, may not have foreseen a dark era for the Mara lion that is now being hounded by negative factors into the endangered species list.
The Mara lion, regarded as the true embodiment of the macho accolade of king of the jungle, now only roars from a few anthills in the expansive savannah where it must keep its head low from dangers that stalk it.
If not checked, the dangerous trend could put the most prized wild animal on the endangered species list.
Already scientists say there is so little genetic diversity among the small number of lions left, that the king of the jungle is âfunctionally extinctâ. Crossbreeding with lions from elsewhere maybe needed to avoid having them nipped out by disease.