photographer michael nichols spent two and half years documenting two dozen lion prides in the seregenti. taking close to a quarter million shots, he used cameras mounted on small remote control vehicles to take many of these close up images.
“we had incredible intimacy. our car was closer than close, just a few feet away. We saw cubs when they were tiny and watched them grow up. i never thought i’d find so much family support among them. lions are different from house cats, which can live individually. being there, you really see how much they depend on each other to survive.
“you have to take the leap of faith that they have no desire to hurt you. but if you make a mistake, like putting your arm or leg outside the car, all of that could change. one swipe and you’d be done. one time a lion three feet away almost walked into our vehicle.
“they were nervous at first but quickly got habituated to us. they see the car as one entity, not understanding that humans are in it. lions are very efficient animals, so they won’t expend energy unless they see you as a threat. we got very close, but we never interacted.”
lions, it should be noted, are vanishing from the wild. africa’s lion population has declined by 90 percent in the last 75 years, with their numbers plummeting from 450,000 only fifty years ago to less than 20,000 today.