Last week I wrote about how the Ntsevu pride are not so hot at buffalo hunting.
I stand by that claim, but a further reason this pride might be – to put it bluntly – awful at taking on the bovines was put to me by a friend who also views the pride regularly on the reserve he works at, and who shares the same sentiment about these lions.
When he stated his theory to me I was slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t thought of it before, it was that simple.
What I overlooked in last week’s post that I now realise might be essential in understanding the Ntsevu pride’s poor recent record vs. buffalo is not how they try and go about it (or don’t try), not how big the pride is, and not whether or not they learnt the techniques from their mothers, but rather when they first started taking on buffalo. And if I’m honest, I’d completely forgotten how many buffalo they actually have brought down in the past, but….
If we look back at a condensed timeline of the pride, they were born in 2013, became independent with their three brothers just over two years later, and by the time 2016 rolled around they were a unit of six young lionesses concentrating their movements on central and southern Londolozi. And what big event was in full swing then?
I was looking back at some posts from that time, and had the shocking realisation that the Ntsevu females were actually deadly buffalo slayers once upon a time. Even taking down three adults in a night!
But if we’re brutally honest, we can hardly classify those walking skeletons as buffalo. They were living on a reserve devoid of grass. The herds had splintered into small groups and individuals in a desperate attempt to eke out an existence on whatever meagre grazing they could find. They were so starved that lions barely had to look at them funny and they’d keel over.
Some buffalo would simply drop and die where they lay, so it was a simple matter for the Ntsevu pride of that era to bag their fair share of the creatures. We’d find them on a buffalo kill in the morning, and by the evening they’d have killed another one only a few hundred metres away. It wasn’t only that the buffalo were weak, but they also offered so little meat for the local prides that lions had to look for more food within only a short while of starting to feed.
Fast forward three years and the large black grazers that the Ntsevu pride are encountering are now totally different beasts. The rains returned, the buffalo population has bounced back, and where there were once only starved buffalo ghosts wandering the reserve, we now find robust, fighting fit creatures who are certainly not easy targets. The furthest thing from it in fact.
Imagine you used to simply have to go to the local supermarket and pick your food off the shelf in order to enjoy a gourmet meal, but nowadays when you go there, you first have to solve a Rubik’s Cube to be let in, then when you approach that same shelf you have 500 angry store assistants waiting to punch and kick you. I’m sure that just like me, you’d also start looking at other options.
Maybe we should cut the Ntsevu females some slack when it comes to judging them as buffalo hunters.
At least for now…
Lions will do anything to avoid injury. The buffalo are obviously too strong now, so it is just easier too find different prey.
Put in historical context, these are snart lions! Opportunists when it makes sense, cautious when times change.
James, I agree with Marina Drake. Lions will do anything to avoid injury, and the buffalo are obviously too strong now! Wonderful blog today. The Ntsevu Pride was a buffalo hunting machine back in 2016.
Interesting… I’m confident the girls can learn and adapt. They’ll have to with all those mouths to feed! Do the Birmingham males ever assist with the hunts? They were fairly well known in the North for their buffalo hunting prowess. Here’s a great vid of them charging a herd at a watering hole and taking down two calves and a cow in Djuma. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5Ujy7KkOyI
They will learn how to hunt buffalo.
I’m sure the ladies will make their move when the time is right. They’ve learned how dangerous the buffalos can be and I understand their hesitancy to wade into the herd looking for a potential meal. They’ve a lot of little ones to support and the odd impala or other deer species doesn’t go far to feed their mega family. I’ve confidence they will figure it out.
Just shows how adaptable the lions actually are. When hunger calls, they will hunt smaller and safer prey until their skills are honed. A lioness or two may get hurt learning along the way.
We remember the draught and how lions killed buffalo at will, even near the lodge deck in the Sand River. It was a troublesome time for all the grazing animals … no place to hide and nothing to eat. Very happy the rains finally came!
I guess not all prides are like the Tsaro Pride in Duba Plains. But still.
James, love this part deux…as the saying goes, there is always more to the story🦁