This week, families gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was a particularly celebratory occasion because the pandemic last year kept many families apart. It’s been a tough year, no doubt about it. And all of us were in the mood to celebrate our slow emergence from the COVID tunnel.
I had just gotten back from the Maasai Mara in Kenya a few days before Thanksgiving. The gathering of family and friends this week reminded me that one of the dominant impressions I had in the Mara was the importance of family. I spent hours photographing the Topi pack cubs and the lionesses in charge of the group.
The interactions between the group were amazing–full of love and attention. The lionesses had incredible patience as their cubs rolled over them and tugged on them.
I was particularly struck by the cooperative and attentive behavior of the members of the Topi pride. It was such a contrast to my human tribe, which is fractured and deeply divided.
As much as I enjoyed observing the Topi pride, one moment with a group of chimpanzees and their babies was particularly memorable. A chimpanzee mother was holding her infant close to her chest. I had stopped to photograph her and another chimpanzee came running over to stand next to the mother. I guess when it was obvious that I was not going to be a danger the chimpanzee, who had run protectively to the mother, reached over and touched the infant on the head, as though saying, ‘Yes, this is a beautiful baby.’
There were, of course, other family groups. I was very lucky to photograph a leopard family, Luluka and her cub–Jilime–on a tree branch. It was such a special opportunity, watching them interact.
I was also fortunate to observe a cheetah mother and her three cubs on several occasions. On two separate days, I watched her hunt (unsuccessfully). Watching a cheetah in full run is an incredible experience but both times, her prey was able to escape. I actually started worrying about her because she looked very, very thin and she had a large family to feed. Most of the time, when I observed a predator/prey interaction, my sympathy was generally with the prey. But, in this mother’s case, I was hoping that she would be successful soon at feeding herself and her family.
I loved watching all of the mother-baby interactions in the Mara!