It takes time to become as skilful a hunting unit as the South Pride. With many foiled hunts under their belt, the sub adults are finally at the age where they are adding massive value. Now, the experienced females are no longer alone in hunts and as a result the prides precision has been taken to new levels.
Early last week the pride had been eyeing out the large herd of buffalo since the morning drive, however there was still no kink in the herd’s armour when we returned that afternoon. We sat with the pride, with the most action coming from a young male who spent the time snoring (along with my guests). Then a large buffalo bull wandered up the road towards us and the pride.
Neither species paid much notice towards each other at first, until one of the invincible young male lions yawned and tried to sneak behind the bull. Within a few seconds the rest of the pride were observing what was going on, just in case they missed out. Suddenly the bull became startled, snorted and then turned and ran. The pride rose in union and began to steadily follow with renewed enthusiasm.
At the bottom of the hill, the pride spotted a portion of the large herd of buffalo heading down to a watering hole for their afternoon drink. Gazing at the herd with killer intent, one could see how they were strategising a massive assault between their pride numbers and epxerience levels. The lead lionesses started to move into position. Not one of the sub adults moved. They watched their older females positioning and when they got the signal they followed suite.
Patiently waiting until one of the lead lionesses broke rank the rest immediately followed. The buffalo herd panicked, splitting apart and within a heartbeat a small calf had been caught. While the calf was pinned down, the remainder of the pride chased a cow right passed our vehicle. We followed after them and found that the pride had chased the cow into a watering hole. The lions did not follow her into the water, but they circled the pan, eagerly awaiting their next victim. The bellowing of the cow brought a group of big bulls back into the arena and the lions were quickly forced back. What we witnessed next was utterly amazing:
Looking at this video and reviewing the hunt in hindsight my thoughts are these: The oldest lioness had quickly assessed the buffalo’s assault and realised that with the bulls around there was little hope of luring the cow out of the water. She charged full speed at them and was forced to pull off a killer sidestep before they ran over a tree. This brave move changed the bull’s attention and allowed the rest of the pride to focus in on the cow.
The cow tried once more to charge at the lions in hope of catching up with the rest of the herd but the lions got their 2 inch claws into her face and neck. She retreated back into the water and dragged two of the younger pride members with her. The young lioness held on for dear life and after a battle of 15 or so minutes the cow gave up and the lions drowned her.
Many experts suggest that lions are rather simple, lethargic creatures. However, after seeing such a precise assault, there is a lot more to the strategic thinking of these brutish animals than we give them credit for. Furthermore, the shifting dynamics with the dominant lion coalitions adds a current angle to the above thoughts on this pride and whether this has played a role in refining their skill as a unit. What do you think?
Huge credit goes to my guest Anthony Cheng for filming the incredible episode as it unfolded, amidst the rushing and excitement of the hunt and for giving us the footage to use on the blog.
Filmed by: Anthony Cheng (Londolozi Guest)
Written and Photographed by: Mike Miller