“Expect the unexpected” is an apt phrase associated with the bush and the interactions that one may observe. This was certainly the case whilst recently watching the Tsalala breakaway pride finishing off an impala that they had killed. In the bush one is never sure what will happen next or when an interaction between rival species might occur.
Whilst feeding on the said impala ram, the Tailless lioness and her niece were seemingly unaware of the approaching breeding herd of elephants… or so we thought. With rustling in the nearby bushes and the cracking sound of breaking branches emanating from the thicket line, the elephants got a scent of the lions and gradually made an investigative approach. The experienced Tailless lioness realized the danger and grabbed the remains of the impala, dragging it in her powerful jaws away from the elephants that were lumbering steadily towards her. We could only assume that is what she was doing, but later found out the reasoning behind this calculated move.
Continuing to feed on the leftover scraps, the younger lioness kept a careful eye on the approaching herd, waiting until the last moment, when the elephants proceeded to trumpet and charge at her, chasing her off the kill.
By this time, the Tailless female had stashed parts of the impala and removed herself from the impending danger presented by the pachyderms. After the interaction between these iconic species, the lionesses began to contact call for each other.
Upon reuniting, we realised that something far greater than what we thought was actually occurring. There was a soft chirping sound emanating from the nearby shrubs, and after a response from the Tailless lioness her young cubs came galloping towards her.
It is amazing to note that that although we had no idea her young cubs were in the immediate area, the sounds created from the elephants had more than likely caused the Tailless lioness to hide her cubs away, removing them from the potential threat of the elephants. Having observed this situation far earlier than we did, she successfully managed to keep a part of the impala kill for her cubs to feed on. Even though the elephants were not going to eat any of the carcass themselves, it seems that the female was nevertheless attempting to stash some for later.
As the sun began to set we left the Tsalala breakaway pride as they finished off the remains of the impala ram. With relatively full stomachs they rested close by and were found the next day not far away. Resting on the cool sand alongside the Sand River, we watched them inquisitively watching passing waterbuck and the frantic behaviour of a flock of guinea fowl.