With winter behind us, and the soaring temperatures of summer fast approaching, many of the animals find themselves (as they did during the drought months), making use of the Sand River as a source of water and food as many of the reserve’s watering holes have long since dried up.

It is during this time before the rainy season that predators concentrate their efforts along the river and surrounding thickets, anticipating the movements of their prey species.

The Tsalala Breakaway pride has been no different, and we have recorded numerous sightings of them hunting in and around the Sand River recently.

On one such occasion, fellow ranger Grant Rodewijk and I watched as the two females of the pride co-ordinated their movements to flank a herd of six kudu bulls further downstream. Stashing the two cubs away just beforehand, the Tailless female assumed her position further down the river amongst some reeds, whilst the younger female (her niece) ran round, flanking the bulls back toward the riverbed where the Tailless female was laying in wait.

The Tailless female stares downstream in anticipation. The cubs (pictured in the background) settled up some distance away, and watched the drama unfold.

The sub-adult Breakaway female used the opportunity while the kudu weren’t watching, to scuttle across the Sand River to position herself to flank the unsuspecting kudu from the southern bank

Locked on target! The tailed female gains focus on the kudu as she assumes her vital role in the hunt

The kudu turned back and entered into a thicket out of the field of view, which was the opportunity for the tailed female to get into position without being noticed

After a tense 20 minutes, there was an eruption from the southern bank of the river, and all six kudu came bursting out of the thickets, thundering across the river at great speed, jumping and splashing for the northern bank. In the confusion, the tailless female found herself too far away from the kudus, and on this occasion, they escaped with relative ease, much to the disappointment of the two cubs who were observing from a distance.

The Tailless female, who had been watching from a position further up the river and too far to give chase, watches the kudu bulls dash for safety.

A few days later, and with a new set of guests who are avid Londolozi Blog readers – and were particularly interested in seeing the Breakaway pride – we thought we would head down towards the river and look for the same lions. Leaving Pioneer Camp on our very first afternoon drive, tracker Rob “The Professor” Hlatshwayo, spotted a large number of vultures perched in trees near the river, and immediately concluded that there had to have been a kill nearby.

We continued on, planning on stopping at a clearing near the river to observe the multitude of vultures, and as we came around the corner, Rob and I turned to the right and spotted the pride feeding on the remains of a kudu bull that had been brought down only hours before, and probably during the time that I had collected the guests from the airstrip.

It was a particularly hot afternoon, and with a large portion of the kudu already consumed, Rob predicted that they would all head down towards the river nearby for a drink. Moments later, the tailless female got up, followed in short succession by her two cubs, and headed straight down towards the river.

We positioned ourselves downstream in the river and waited for the three of them to pop out at a pool of water. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait very long at all. Soon the entire pride came down to quench their thirst, before returning to feed on what was left of their kill.

The tailless female stood opposite the pool of water, calling her cubs, as if she was instructing them to return and not to stray too far away. Her calls went unnoticed and the cubs continued to play with each other

The tailless female, seemingly still exhausted from this successful hunt, approaches the water to have a drink beside her cub

Perfect light and perfect angle. What more could you ask for in a photograph? Rob’s assistance in getting us all into the right position was invaluable.

Looking up every now and then between drinking, to ensure that no danger was lurking nearby

The tailless female, who had been patiently waiting in position further upstream, watches as the six kudu escape across the sand river, too far away for her to give chase

Fellow ranger Greg Pingo, positions his guests for a front-row seat to view the unfolding action. The pride later walked right past Greg’s vehicle

The Pioneer guests were woken in the early hours of the following morning by the sounds of lions roaring and hyenas whooping. We set out on morning game drive the next day to find that the pride had been chased off the kill by what we could only assume to be two of the Majingilane male coalition, who finished the remains of the kudu and moved on. Luckily, the Tailless female managed to get her cubs to safety unscathed and the pride continues to thrive along the banks of the Sand River.

Filed under Lions Wildlife

About the Author

Alistair Smith

Guest contributor

Alistair guided at Londolozi from late 2016 to late 2017. Despite only a short stint here, he made a great impression on the guests he drove and formed a great bond with tracker Euce Madonsela. His photography is excellent, and is a passion ...

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10 Comments

on Lions Hunt Kudu in Sand River

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Alexander Hamilton

The tailless lioness is an amazing mother, hopefully she will be able to raise these cubs to adulthood.The Majingilane seem to be an ever-present threat to the 2 Tsalala prides,they chased the Tsalalas in MalaMala a couple of days ago and the pride split up.Have you seen them recently and do you know if they have found each other?

Shawn Cheshire

Thank you so much for the update! I could picture it all!

Marinda Drake

Great images of the Tsalalas. They seem to be in good condition.

Lucie Easley

These are the best photos of the Tailless lioness and her cubs that I have seen. I always look forward to my day “starting in Africa” through your blog.

Wendy Hawkins

Wow that was so exciting I was on the edge of my seat! The tailless “wonder” never ceases to disappoint, glad that her cubs are growing up “safely” I wish them a long healthy life 🙂 Thank you Alistair

Mj Bradley

I always enjoy reading about the Breakaway Tsalalas.. The tailless lioness is my favorite lioness in the bush, as was her mother who we called BB. I hope Tailless has passed on the knowledge to her niece as her mother passed it to her. I find it amazing how these two tailless lioness have lived lives so parallel to each other. Thank you for the update. I hope she has a few more years to let us enjoy her company.

Jenifer Collins

Thanks for the post Alistair! Happy to hear the tailless female remains a good mama!!!

Eulalia Angédu

Beautiful pictures with awesome text Alistair.Good work.Those lions show a fierce territory.Keep them coming.

Dawn Phillips

OMGosh Alistair! I have goosebumps. We will forever have these memories in our hearts. Seeing this amazing female legend was such an exciting start to our journey and we have such outstanding memories of our days at Londolozi. Wow, just wow! Can’t wait to return.

Callum Evans

Great sighting and photos! Hope to get the chance to see a hunt myself soon!! This pride is still making Londolozi headlines at the moment, going to be interesting to see how the dynamics pan out.

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