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:
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:
What happened next left us all speechless.
To see what it was, check back in tomorrow for the next part of this post….