So often when we talk about lions we talk about their hunting prowess, and how the power of the collective allows these animals to do the most remarkable things. Let’s take a moment to put their skills into perspective. These animals kill buffalo. At the most, a buffalo bull can weigh 900kg. Ian Thomas puts the size a buffalo into perspective by comparing it to an entire rugby scrum; the total of eight unusually large men. How do animals a sixth of their size bring them down? Through the right combination of focus, precision but ultimately teamwork.
The part that we don’t always talk about, however, is what happens once the prey has been bought down. Lions are the only truly social cats but they descended from solitary ancestors and when it comes to food, they do not like to share. Literally any niceties, manners, allo-grooming or teamwork that may have been obvious just minutes before, go out the window and a completely selfish, ‘me attitude’ takes over.
For the most part, I think the growling, snaps and snarls are more for show than anything. Any little scratches, nicks or blood seen on the faces of the pride members after a feeding fest are generally surface wounds, which will only help to make the individual stronger. This however doesn’t detract from the intensity with which they descend on the situation and the noises that go with it.
For me, one of the funniest things to see is how often the lions spend more of their time trying to stop another pride member from feeding than actually trying to get at the carcass themselves. This is particularly true of the younger males who are all noise and no show. Two may cling onto a measly leg for minutes at a time, grumbling and growling at each other, while a lioness quietly feats on the best morsels close by, completely undisturbed.
Recently, tracker Bennet Mthonsi captured some brilliant footage to illustrate exactly what it is that I’m referring to. The Mhangeni pride had killed a young buffalo, and the relatively small animal meant that there wasn’t much food to go around when 13 hungry lions descended on it. The result is the pandemonium and aggression captured below. When you watch the clip, keep an eye out for the young males, who rather comically demonstrate the ‘all bark and no bite’ scenario I described above.
Quarrels like this prove that even in the strongest of relationships there’s bound to be tension and sporadic tiffs. Lions are spirited animals and just like any other family, these animals have fiery moments that can spark a flame. The point is that once the dust has settled and bellies have filled, they re-group, groom the blood from each other’s faces, rest together as a unified unit and peace resumes. Possibly these moments of seemingly passionate disagreement that the lions eventually overcome, only help to strengthen the overall power of the pride.
Written by Amy Attenborough, Media Team
Filmed by Bennet Mthonsi, Londolozi Tracker