Steven NY

Why don't the lions???

15 posts in this topic

I am going on a Tanzania Safari in mid-September.  I have asked the following question of a number of people and always get the same answer (makes sense.) However, wrapping something around my mind and my gut are two different things.  Here we go!

 

Why don't the animals - particularly big cats - jump into/onto the game vehicles?  The answer I get is that the animals see the vehicles as a big nondescript rock or something -  that they are used to looking at/for animals on all fours moving fast.  While this makes some sense, I cannot get past a few questions.  How about smell?  Don't they smell all of those humans?  How about small movements, don't they see movements from the vehicles?

 

I've seen countless photos of cheetahs on game vehicles.  Yes, I know they like to be up high to look for prey.  However, in a few I've seen them jump into the vehicle.  In one, a cheetah almost sat on the lap of a man in the back seat.  How is it explained that the cheetah doesn't lash out when it realizes it is up agains another mammal?  

So, it is simply the easy answer that they aren't interested?  What do you do if a big cat jumps on the vehicle and is interested?

 

BTW:  Despite my questions I can't wait until I get to experience all this first hand.

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What I say is totally non-scientific and non-educated. But personally I don´t really buy the "big rock" thing at all. Too often I was convinced that a lion walking by was looking straight at me, and not just at the car as one big entity. While guides sometimes tell you not too "break the silhouette" I tend to believe that they just say this stuff to give people security. It never made sense too me - in India in the open gypsy´s with all kind of people frenzy selfie mad stuff going on (the kind you only believe when you´ve been there) that theory doesn´t hold up at all. Nonetheless, Tigers luckily still ignore all these human snacks.

 

So personally, I believe, yes, the Big Cats do see and hear us quite clearly, and yes, they are just not interested. Humans in cars are just not thought of as suitable prey, luckily Big Cats have never thought of or learned to hunt that way.

 

The important thing is you should not worry - you will be safe, and getting close to a Lion, Leopard or Cheetah is an incredible experience - you will love it.

 

And if one does hop on the car and is interested just say

 

"You´re not my type honey." :)

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I don't know...I am a believer of the "big rock" theory. I say that because I had one experience where I was in an open jeep and there were several lionesses lounging right next to us. They'd look, then move on with their eyes- the usual. Then the dipwad in the back seat swung his leg out of the jeep- I can't tell you how quick one of the lionesses zoomed in on him- it was freaky. This was the one and only time I saw a guide really pissed, but he kept his cool and told the idiot to get his leg back in the jeep - and in such a tone that  made no mistake as to his displeasure.

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I think the point is that the leg appeared outside the vehicle. That movement would trigger a response.  No wonder the guide was annoyed. Best to sit quietly and calmly. I do remember one evening being with a pride of lions near sunset when they all got up;  some walked at either side of the open vehicle and one or two behind. At that point we decided it might be best to move on. Too remeniscent of a hunting formation. 

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Posted (edited)

I always imagine it's somewhere in between all the answers above. I've been sat in a vehicle and had lions all around completely ignore us, even in the dark and lets face it they could see us better than we could see them in the pitch dark. 

 

I've been sat in vehicle and had a lioness fix her gaze on one of our party and not break it. It unnerved my friend to the point she shuffled over slowly to the other side of the vehicle. The Lioness didn't break her gaze until we drove off. She didn't do anything and we just said to my friend to maybe not wear the impala coloured top she had on again 😉

 

Whilst in Botswana we had a leopard climb out of a tree and stretch out for a snooze close to the vehicle and when MrId reached very slowly into his camera bag at his feet the leopard fixed his gaze on him and snarled quietly. So I do think they follow even the smallest movements and can tell it's not just a big rock.

 

I still wouldn't worry though, we've tracked lions on foot in Zim and obviously you don't get anywhere near as close on foot as you do in a vehicle but on the whole big cats will avoid humans and any getting too close they will move then away. On the same trip we startled a cheetah in a thicket and it sprang out and ran past us as we had just left the vehicle. Of course all of this is with a good guide and they are there to keep you and the wildlife safe and happy. So try not to worry beforehand once you get there the sheer wonder will take over and fear will be like no gone. Of course as the book says Don't run whatever you do, only food runs 😁

Edited by ld1
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One time I moved with my camera too quickly, and a lion really snapped to attention.  Our guide told us not to move and I thought that I was going slowly...but.  You will have a guide won't you?

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And we are all still here so all is well. Just listen to your guide....and take his or her advice. You will love it I am sure.

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Posted (edited)

Tanzania, mid-Sept, a perfect combo.

 

I have also been told the the strong smell (to the animals) of gasoline, which masks the human scent, contributes to the vehicle and its occupants being a big non-threatening, moveable blob.  I can relate to the eye contact, especially with lions.  You'll see.

 

Cheetahs have been known to climb on the hood/bonnet and even on top of the vehicle and look in.  That behavior should be discouraged, but it happens.  No attacks or injuries that I've ever heard about.  You ask what to do?  The guide may honk the horn and rev the motor to discourage them.  The one time a cheetah was peeking down at me above in a pop top, I stayed quiet and sort of moved out of his direct line of sight.  He hopped off quickly when the driver turned over the engine.

 

Your question is very reasonable.  In Tanz, you are more likely (than in southern Africa) to be in a closed vehicle with a pop-top, which can add a measure of comfort.  As all have indicated, just do what the guide says, refrain from stupidity, and you'll have the time of your life!

 

Do post where you are going.

 

Wait, I found it.

 

two nights at Lemala Ngorongoro Camp on private safari. (lovely, with 2 nights consider a walk along the lake)  Game drive in Lake Manyara along the way.  Coastal Aviation flights once in Tanzania.  

3 mights in Northern Serengeti at Lemala Serengeti tented camp on group safari.  Will be there for the Great Migration. Looks great.

Edited by Atravelynn
answering my own question

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@Marg's comment reminded me: don't point a long object like a stick at a lion.  One guide told us about somebody sitting in the vehicle who motioned to the lion with a tse tse swatter (zebra tail hairs tied to a stick) and the lion started to charge at the car and lunge at the open window.  The lion had spent some time in a hunting concession and knew about guns, and could not distinguish the tse tse swatter from a rifle.  Never ever heard of a problem with cameras, even those with long lenses that protrude a distance out of the window.  It may be how the swatter was held.

That reminds me of the discussion awhile back over sticking selfie sticks out of the window, which would be a big no-no.

 

Dehydration and burning rays of the sun are far greater menaces than the animals.

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My personal take on it is that there is an inbetween and it is all about context for the animal... I believe we credit animals with perhaps more (and sometimes maybe less) perception than is there when it comes to them encountering humans in vehicle.  For example; of course the lions smell the humans on the vehicle and for sure they see them.  But they don't see the humans in their normal context - i.e. on two legs and mobile. As such they cannot put together the 'normal' human situation and so in areas where they are used to vehicles and have learned that they are not a threat then their behaviour is very tolerant.  However  generations and generations upon generations have learned that humans are a threat (but when on foot).  Get out of the vehicle and everything changes....   In areas where big cats are less used to vehicles often lions will flee or behave quite threateningly to the vehicle (not necessarily the occupants).  They haven't yet realised that they are not really a threat.  The leg outside of the vehicle: well the lion is suddenly seeing unusual movement and behaviour - it might well be not suddenly thinking "ah, a human", but they are attracted and interested in movement (like all cats) and this is a different movement so the interest level rises massively.  As does the risk factor...

 

As for what to do if a cheetah jumps in the vehicle -  I would recommend you be very still and calm and thereafter complain to the guide and explain that allowing (and indeed promoting this behaviour) is going to end badly (for the cheetah) and must be stopped.  

 

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  • guides say predators have fear of people
  • however,vehicles can be used as a tool to assist hunting or prey animals escaping
  • cheethas jumping on vehicles is relatively unusual ,perhaps the vehicles are crowding them in the Mara

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Thanks or all of the answers.  I'm not worried about my trip - just curious.  That is why I'm here at this site, 2 1/2 months before I go.  

You should Google a video - maybe it was a set of stills - of a cheetah who climbed into the backseat of a game vehicle and stared at a very frightened man, from about one foot away.  The man later said he thought the cheetah was going to sit in his lap.  Try a search of "cheetah - safari vehicle - backseat - that ought to do it, I think.

I know I'll be in good hands if I simply listen to my guides as to what is appropriate.  If you come to NYC, I hope you'll listen to me as to where to go and where not to go.

 

Thanks to all who contributed in this thread.

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I've seen Lions charge at trucks in the CKGR in the Kalahari - especially the tires of the trucks and the caravan attachment with the camping gear ........ That was the only time though in 16 years that I've been on safari in Africa.

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some of you are sure they are able to smell us despite the smell of diesel and oil, others believe they cannot smell us because of the smell of diesel and oil...

 

imho @KaingU Lodge is spot on: pretty much all African animals will act completely different once a human being can be spotted outside a vehicle - most of them will of course run away, others (especially predators close to a kill or their offspring) might charge - for hundreds of years humans on foot meant (and sometimes still mean) danger to African mammals, so it's got to be in their genes (instincts) to run off once they see us. Perhaps they are able to distinguish between humans inside a car and humans outside a car. And simply because sometimes humans inside cars are attacked,too does not mean this theory does not hold up, quite the opposite: to every rule there are exceptions, especially in nature.

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Then there's always the exception. This older Safaritalk topic is worth reading.

And many of you will remember this discussion we had about cheetahs entering vehicles...

 

Matt

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