Fritz Pölking

News from the family…

Zawadi, the third daughter of "Half Tail" had three cubs in August. So that was why I went to the Masai Mara in the beginning of November 2002, in order take pictures of the mother together with her cubs. The best chance of doing this is when the little ones are three months old.

Unfortunately all three cubs were dead by the time I arrived, something I had known already two weeks prior. The first two were killed by hyenas and a week later the third and last cub disappeared as well. Since the Maasai burned large portions of Zawadi´s homeland at the time (something our local farmers do as well), it is assumed that the last cub died in the flames.

The three cubs Zawadi had last year were also killed by hyenas and the year before that, a strange male leopard killed the two cubs from that previous year. Merely a daughter we called "Dark" and which is three years old in the meantime, survived from all the offspring. When only one of nine cubs in a three-year period survives, you can bet that the living conditions are extremely harsh.

After Half Tail’s daughter Taratibu was killed by a lioness in December of 1994 we named her next daughter Zawadi which, translated, means Gift.

I have known Zawadi practically from her first months of life on, which was about 6 years ago. At the time I was looking for mother Half Tail and the three months old Zawadi for more then a week in the Masai Mara in Kenya, until I found them one evening just before dark close to leopard canyon. Half Tail was lying in the grass all relaxed and her daughter was drinking mother’s milk. After that she was just running around a bit when suddenly a hyena showed up and enabled me to take one of the most beautiful pictures of this little leopard:

When little Zawadi saw the hyena coming, she ran to the nearest tree and leaned up against it in order to be able to climb up quickly at any time.

Doing that, she took turns looking at the hyena, if it was coming closer, and at her mother, if there were any instructions coming from her as to how she was to behave.

Zawadi at the age of three months
Nikon F5, 4.0/600mm, Provia – 400

The hyena moved on, the situation relaxed and I had a beautiful picture in the remaining light using a 4.0/600mm, 1/30sec. with an open aperture and the 400 ISO Provia-film since there was not enough light left to use a better type of film.

In November of 2002 I only met up once with the, in the meantime 6-year old, Zawadi, in the area of the Kichwa Temba Bush, where she captured an impala baby and took it up a tree to keep it away from lions and hyenas.


Zawadi in November 2002 at the age of 6
Canon EOS-1V, 4.0/500mm, 1.4x converter, Sensia-100
Taken through the sunroof of a car with the lens resting on a sack of sand.

Zawadi yawns and you can clearly see the, 
at age 6, still wonderfully healthy teeth.

A picture of mother Half Tail, at 12 years of age, 
after she has lost one of her most important teeth (lower right).
Following that, she enjoyed slaying the Maasai´s goats, 
which in turn made her the target of a Maasai spear that killed her. 
If a wolf periodically kills a farmer’s livestock here in these regions, it would be killed as well.
Most likely Zawadi will meet a similar fate when she is older.
Nikon F5, 4.0/500 mm, 1.4x converter
Burzynski car window clamp (tripod), Sensia-100

The day before in the afternoon at the Rhino Ridge, I had met up with a male leopard which had slain an about 10 months old and approx. 60 kg heavy gnu. He was unable to drag it up a tree, so he ate enough of it at the foot of the fig tree until he was able to transport it up onto it. He continued to feed on it the next day and after about 24 hours practically nothing was left of the gnu, with the exception of a few bones that fell down for the hyenas.

Unknown male leopard in a fig tree
Canon EOS-1 V, 4.0/70-200 mm with a tripod clamp, polarization filter
Sensia-100, Burzynski car window clamp (tripod)

Two background reports about other family members are to be found in the workshop book-1, under: "from the life of a mother and her nine kids" and in the case study "how to do and follow-through a project as nature photographer".

A picture book on Half Tail and her first three kids has been published by the "Tecklenborg Print" titled "Leopards – the secretive cats". ISBN 3-924044-17-1. See "links" and "Bücher" on the german pages.

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