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.
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.
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, 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
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.