The bush at the moment is producing some pretty incredible game viewing. We have been witness over the past couple of months to some of the most spectacular sightings.
It is always challenging to ask a guide what his or her favorite sighting is, because we are privileged enough to witness amazing things on a frequent basis in this great wilderness. It is also particularly difficult to choose which of the sightings of late I have enjoyed the most, but there is one sighting that comes to mind – a pride of lions hunting a buffalo bull.
Given the current drought conditions, the grazing animals such as zebra, wildebeest, white rhino, and buffalo in particular, tend to take quite a lot of strain due to the absence of nutritional grasses. It is in these times, exacerbated by the lack of water and rising day-time temperatures, that these animals are weakened in their constant search for food and water.
Although it is tough for them during these times, the predators – and lions in particular – are thriving. Lions, being the expert hunters that they are, have the ability to wait patiently, in order to seek out the weakest, or isolated members of a herd.
Unlike the large buffalo herds of up to 1000 individuals that join up in the summer time when grass and water are abundantly available, the herds tend to split up and fragment during droughts into smaller satellite herds to improve their chances of finding food. It is under these conditions that lions take advantage of weakened stragglers of these satellite herds, hunting more frequently and sometimes even two or three buffalo at a time.
One afternoon a short while ago was no different. After spending some time on foot, Euce and I managed to track down the Mhangeni breakaway pride; five females toegther and three young males at the time, all of which were lying in the shade of a large Boer bean tree beneath a termite mound, trying to escape the scorching afternoon sun.
A short while later, another ranger Greg arrived to view the cats. At this point the lions were either sleeping or grooming each other in an attempt to maintain social bonds.
Scanning the immediate area in search of the 6th lioness who was missing from the group, Greg spotted a small herd of buffalo and the missing lioness about 500 meters away.
Greg, anticipating that the lions would attempt to hunt the buffalo, moved off in the direction of the lioness and buffalo herd. It wasn’t ten minutes later when the remainder of the pride got up, and proceeded in the direction of the herd.. The hunt was on!
Not wanting to interfere in any way, we hung back and allowed the lions to move off toward the buffalo.
At this point it was a waiting game, as the lions held off for the perfect moment for the buffalo to head down into a dry river bed where it would be difficult for them to escape. Suddenly there was an explosion of dust and speed and the lions were off! Moments later the lions emerged from the river bed chasing a buffalo bull who was doing his best to evade the onslaught of nine lions.
After chasing for some time, the buffalo moved into an open clearing, where he was forced to continuously spin around in circles in an attempt to face his attackers head on. Despite the efforts of the lions, the buffalo bull managed to escape and seek refuge in the most unusual of ways.
The buffalo ran behind three white rhinos (a species very seldom preyed upon by lions), who formed a protective ‘wall’ between the pride and the buffalo. This kind of interspecies interaction against a common threat, was something I had never witnessed before. The lions, who were met by this ‘wall’ of rhinos and buffalos, decided to avoid the potential for injury, and eventually moved off.
Thankfully, my guests Ben and Bernadette had had the foresight to ready their video cameras, and they managed to capture the entire series of events on film. They have allowed us to make use of this video, so that others can witness the incredible events of that day.