With the sixteen-strong Mangheni pride spending most of their time west of Londolozi we had not had a sighting of them on Londolozi soil for a couple of weeks. When the pride decided that they were going to march eastward onto Londolozi again they created a truly memorable spectacle and a morning I will not forget anytime soon.

The pride was found through a superb combined tracking effort from four of Londolozi’s best; Mike Sthole, Eckson Sibuyi, Raymond Mabelane and Rob Hlatswayo. The southern grasslands, where the lions had been moving, don’t have as many prominent game paths as other areas of the reserve, and without a dusty surface to follow tracks on, the trackers were relying on only the faintest scuff marks, discolourations of soil, and the occasional bent grass stem to chart the course of the pride.

Eventually they found them, and gave the excited radio call that the lions were feeding on the remains of a buffalo they had brought down sometime during the course of the night.

Arriving at the scene, we were thrilled to see that some of the pride were still on the carcass, as a pride of this size (including one of the Majingilane, who was with them) can easily consume an entire buffalo over the course of 12 hours, and even in this case there were barely more than a few scraps left. A host of vultures and a couple of hyenas were waiting in the wings, hoping that the pride would move off and they’d get a chance to feed:

Some of the sub-adults finish off the remains of the buffalo. A pride of 16 would make short work of even an animal as large as a buffalo cow, and the kill had been completely consumed in only one night.

The Majingilane with the missing canine contemplates whether or not to continue feeding. Lions will gorge themselves until completely full when food is available, as their next proper meal could be well over a week away.

One can see how the ribs have been crunched through to access more of the chest cavity. This sub-adult was picking the last scraps off the bones.

One of the young males shakes his head after feeding. With a full belly he did not move far, and lay down a short distance away amongst the rest of the pride.

A pair of hooded vultures squabble over some scraps. These smaller members of the vulture family are often the first to locate carcasses, and lead other vultures to the scene.

The larger whitebacked vultures gather at the carcass. They were only able to approach once the lions had moved off.

Spotted hyenas were gathering in numbers, and three were skulking around waiting for the lions to leave before moving in to crunch the bones.

Along with vultures, hyenas form part of nature’s clean-up crew.

We knew it wouldn’t be long before the pride decided to move, as they’d consumed 99% of the buffalo and there wasn’t much shade around. When the big male, who was the last to feed, finally moved off, the opportunity opened up for the vultures and hyenas to move in; when they were sure that no lions were in sight they came down in numbers. First the hooded vultures came, then the white-backed, all swooping in from the sky or from surrounding trees to snatch away any scraps of the kill that they could. The hyenas, three of them, only when they were very sure that the male lion was not in the vicinity, sprinted in from all directions, chased off the vultures temporarily, stole a leg or a rib, and ran off to feed at a distance. A side-striped jackal even joined the scene. The feeding frenzy was a spectacle!

Slowly but surely the activity levels died down. We could see the pride still moving away in the distance, and knowing that the first thing lions usually do when full-bellied is go and drink, we moved off to follow them, as there was a waterhole nearby.

One of the sub-adults was the first to reach the water:

The first of the pride setlles down at the water’s edge…

What happened next left us all speechless.

To see what it was, check back in tomorrow for the next part of this post….

 

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Bruce Arnott

Field Guide

Bruce grew up on a plot of farmland in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. He always had a passion for the bush and the outdoors, having been camping and fishing since he was a young boy. He attended school in the Natal midlands after ...

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9 Comments

on Mhangeni Pride Brings Down Buffalo

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Marinda Drake

It is incredible to see such a big pride. I remember when they consisted of 13 members. We found them one morning after they killed a hippo. That was before the pride has split.

Denise Vouri

How thrilling to have witnessed this magnificent pride with their buffalo kill. I saw this pride earlier this year lounging around a water hole and was so mesmerized by the size of the group, I didn’t take any photos. Eagerly awaiting your next installment.

Darlene Knott

I would say you had a great morning! Lucky you!

Wendy Hawkins

Thank you Bruce & now I cannot wait until I receive the next exciting episode of this saga! Wow your pictures are stunning & certainly tell a fascinating story!!

Bruce Arnott

Thank you very much Wendy!

Callum Evans

Now that is a sighting and a half, not just of lions but of a whole host of predators and scavengers!

Joanne Wadsworth

What a sight watching the group feast while others eventually snatched a tidbit to carry away. It’s times like this that …. “all is well.” Great images and storytelling.

Bruce Arnott

Thank you very much Joanne!

Judy Hayden

Oh the anticipation!. What a wonderful pride of lions. Thank you for the great pictures.

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