Even an adult wildebeest wouldn’t go very far between four lionesses, two big male lions and 13 cubs.
One unlucky individual got encircled in a Tamboti thicket recently, and ended up in the belly of 19 lions.
Tracks told of the movements of the Ntsevu pride in company with two of the Birmingham males, but at one point the trail got less clear as the tracks split up, with one set going one way and others taking different directions. In the same area there were tracks of a herd of wildebeest fleeing towards the Maxabene riverbed – probably their only option as if given a choice they would have tried for their lives to stay on the open where they could use their blinding speed to escape.
While trying to work out exactly what the pride had been doing – although splitting to encircle the herd was by far the most likely scenario – the trackers heard the unmistakeable sound of lions scrapping in a thicket line only a couple of hundred metres away, and knew for sure that a kill had been made.
Entering a dense copse of Tamboti trees, rangers encountered a seething mass of lions; 19 all told.
A few ribs remained of the wildebeest kill they had made, and it was all too clear what had happened, probably only an hour or so before. One or two lionesses must have circled up ahead, with the other females then chasing the herd towards the waiting lions. Fleeing into the dense riparian vegetation near the riverbed, the wildebeests’ maneuverability would have beens severely compromised, and it would have been a far simpler prospect for the lions to corner one.
Ranger Grant Rodewijk was at the other end of the property when the lions were found in the morning, so decided to head there that afternoon, when there might be some scrapping over the last bit of meat left on the kill and when the lions were most likely to emerge from the thicket to drink.
For 2 1/2 hours Grant and his guests enjoyed a wonderful – although slightly obscured – view of the lions on the kill, with the diminutive size of the cubs emphasised by one of the Birmingham males feeding amongst them. Towards the end of the sighting some of the pride came out of the thicket to drink at a pan; lions will often head to water just after feeding.
We mentioned in a recent post that the Ntsevu pride will most likely be spending more and more time moving operating further west than their winter hunting grounds along the Sand River, as the rain and good grazing across the whole reserve has meant that the prey species are no longer concentrated along the Sand River.
This wildebeest will likely – we hope – prove to be one of many hunting successes they experience over the rest of the summer. With cloudy nights and windy conditions having been the norm for the past 10 days or so, their usual less-than-20%-chance of catching something has soared. The darker the night, the better for lions on the hunt.