Just a few weeks earlier, in almost exactly the same the spot as we now found them, the two Sparta lioness killed a young buffalo for themselves and their three cubs. Unfortunately, the noise attracted the attention of the four new males in the area, the Majingillanes. That night, two of the cubs were killed and one of the lioness was savagely injured.
Now they lay, just one cub and one healthy lioness, and a herd of buffalo numbering in their hundreds, strengthened by the summer rains and new lush grass. We sat for and hour or so watching the lions. For the most part they just slept, occasionally lifting their heads as one of the herd strayed a little too close. It seemed as if they would simply let the herd pass them by when suddenly the bulk of the herd turned straight towards where them. The injured lioness remained seemingly passed out on her side, whilst the other was in full crouch position and had lined herself up behind a tree just wide enough to hide her from view. The herd continued to file past, not more than 20m away and completely oblivious to the lions presence.
She was clearly waiting for a younger one, or one that would stray from the protection of the herd. Sure enough, two cows and a subadult broke away from main group the and wondered past on the other side of out vehicles. She immediately turned her attention to them and soon broke cover in a full sprint towards the younger of the three.
Although her first attempt didnt do much more than slow it down, it was her sister who came from nowhere to deliver what almost turned out to be the decisive blow. Launching herself into the path of the oncoming beast, showing no regard for herself or her injuries, she was able to slow it down enough for her sister to get a throat hold. Side by side they hung onto the throat of the buffalo, ancient enemies involved in an epic battle for survival. Knowing that the herd would soon return in defence of their companion, they needed to inflict as much damage as possible before the time. Sure enough, the sound of stampeding hooves grew nearer and the cavalry, led by some bulls and older cows, soon arrived. Hanging on to the last possible second, the lioness finally let go and headed for cover, the last remaining cub already in a precarious position up a nearby tree. The herd, worked up on adrenaline and the scent of lion, milled around, kicking up the soil and even chasing the young bufallo who know smelt like a lion.
Unfortunately for the small pride, the game was up and they would need to wait for another opportunity to hunt, possibly with less intimidating prey!
Filmed by: Elizabeth Tucker (Londolozi Guest)
Photographed by: John Holley
Written by: David Dampier