For as long as they have coexisted on earth, there has been conflict between lions and buffalo. For a pride of lions, a buffalo could provide them with food for a few days, depending on how many lions there are. However, when lions do catch buffalo, it is not a case of the pride selecting which buffalo they’d prefer and going out and getting it. There is a lot of risk involved. Although interactions between lions and buffalo can go one of two ways, what the sighting we witnessed a few days ago reminded me of is that we can never predict what is going to happen.
Earlier that morning, the six Ntsevu lionesses, together with a single Majingilane male were found in the southern parts of Londolozi. They had been moving through the thickets for most of the morning and just as it seemed that they were about to settle, one of the lioness’s ears perked up and she began staring into the distance. Noticing the change in her body language, all of the other lions stared in the same direction. Bellows in the distance, followed by a cloud of dust and associated calls of oxpeckers indicated that a herd of buffalo was approaching a nearby waterhole. The lions immediately got up and began to stalk.
Catching the scent of the lions, the buffalo broke and ran, and the lions manage to single out one of the young cows.
They chased her to the edge of the water. She had nowhere to go.
All six lionesses were circling around her, trying to avoid the horns the buffalo was bravely attempting to defend herself with. Then, in an instant, the large male lion lunged up onto her throat, twisting his body around and going over onto his back to do so. The immense power of the male and the additional lionesses joining in as well were too much for the buffalo and it eventually succumbed to the lions. In just a few minutes, it was over – at least for the morning.
Later that afternoon, we returned to the scene. The male and one of the lionesses were lying next to the buffalo carcass with their backs to the waters edge. The remaining five lionesses were resting nearby. The lioness closest to the carcass looked up as a different herd of about 80 buffalo approached the waterhole. The buffalo had their heads held high, smelling the lions. The whole herd grouped tightly together and edged closer toward the tawny cats. Right on the water’s edge and unable to retreat, the two lions crouched down and began to growl at the herd of buffalo. At one point the noses of the male lion and that of a large buffalo could not have been more than two meters apart, separated only by the carcass of the dead buffalo from before. Each time the male lion would growl, he would flick his tail through the water, splashing droplets onto his back. The rest of the pride tried to rejoin the male and the single lioness, but were greeted by several enraged buffalos which chased them up a large termite mound.
The stand off took place over a period of about an hour, with neither the lions or the buffalo willing to move off. As darkness began to set in, the herd slowly began to turn around and disappear back into the bush, and eventually they had all disappeared. This was one of the most incredible things I have ever witnessed while being out here and is probably something I will never see again.