In Ngorongoro Crater we found some lions lying in tall grass. The first lion is emaciated. See how the rear haunches are hollow and sunken.
The second lion is a female in good condition.
A third lion was on the other side of the tall grass. This lion is also in bad shape — see the ribs showing.
In the afternoon we returned and saw a male lion by the same tall grass. From viewing the original image, the dark spots on his leg and side are sores and flies.
Our guide thinks that the female lion is the mother of the two other lions. We were surprised by the poor condition of the lions, especially since the crater floor has a high density of animals for the lions to hunt. Our guide was so concerned about the lions that he asked park rangers to look at them.
We researching this at home. In this 2004 BBC article,
“In large carnivores like lions, one might expect food supply to be the main limiting factor. But in recent years, disease is a more likely restriction, according to Bernard Kissui and Craig Packer, of the University Minnesota, US.
There are probably enough prey animals like buffalo in the Ngorongoro Crater to support about 120 lions.
But at various times over the last 40 years lion numbers have dropped well below that – and in the last 10 years there have rarely been more than 60 in the crater.
Kissui and Packer believe that disease is the biggest culprit in this population dip.
In 1962, the crater lion population crashed from about 100 to 12, which coincided with an outbreak of blood-sucking stable flies.”
From Parker’s study of Ngorognoro lions, “large swarms of adult Stomoxys became common throughout the Crater floor and the lions appeared to be a preferred host. The emaciated lions developed devastating skin infections and were unable to hunt their normal prey. By June 1962, the population had dropped to 10-15 animals.”
Lions brought down and killed by blood-sucking flies. Wow! We did notice biting flies, biting the back of your hand while you’re holding still, ready to take a picture when the subject animal turns its head.