We were late getting down to where the Ntsevu pride had been the night before, but we had been delayed by a leopard and wild dogs, so weren’t too displeased.
A funny noise from the riverbed a few hundred metres from where we had stopped to stretch our legs caught our attention, and investigating, we were thrilled to find the Ntsevu pride on a fresh kill. SO fresh in fact that the funny noise we had heard was almost certainly the distress call of the animal as the pride took it down.
The pride was on the open sand, ringed around their victim, and all we could see of the kill was the occasional glimpse of dark fur.
Big kill in the riverbed? Buffalo, guaranteed.
We called it in on the radio then settled in to enjoy the sighting.
Now once you have pronounced on something out here, that idea kind of sticks in your head, despite potential evidence to the contrary.
Other rangers take your word for it, assuming that you know what you’re talking about, and they in turn will describe the sighting based on the initial information you gave them. This is why it’s crucial that your first call is the correct one.
Turns out, ours wasn’t…
It was an interesting one, as for the duration of the morning something wasn’t sitting quite right; there was a growing unease without any apparent reason for it.
It was only when reviewing the footage later that Jess MacLarty – who had been with me at the initial discovery of the sighting – said suddenly, “Buffalo?”
Then the penny dropped. Not a buffalo.
It was, in fact, most definitely a big wildebeest bull. I’ll make the excuse that the habitat was exactly suited for an old buffalo bull and not a wildebeest. I could also say that 22 lions smothering a kill hide almost all of it, so all we initially had to go on was a small window of fur that got exposed between two of the pride.
But then I’ll realise that a buffalo is considerably wider than a wildebeest, so much of its bulk would surely have been protruding above where the lions were feeding. I’ll also realise that a buffalo’s horns should have been considerably bigger, and almost certainly protruding above the Ntsevu scrum. I’ll also realise that one should never jump to conclusions out here, and should analyse each situation based on what’s in front of you.
Finally, I’ll accept in a very embarrassed kind of way that if there was no lockdown in South Africa right now and a full complement of rangers and trackers were on site, I would have been ribbed mercilessly for this.
And now I’ve realised that that will start as soon as this post is published.