Today’s blog is a prelude to Pat’s blog that went out last week on a “Display of Dominance”. Many people were asking about what happened in the build-up to it and so I have taken this opportunity to highlight the excitement of the day before.
Setting out early one morning across the Sand River in search of the newest pride to be found on Londolozi, the Talamati Pride. As we approached Finfoot Crossing, we were delighted to find the Tsalala Female and Mhangheni Female lying on an island in the Sand River. A great start we thought to see these two lionesses together as they lay trying to digest belly full of kudu they had been seen eating the day before. After a short while with them we decided to continue with our search for the Talamati Pride.
Fortunately, we found tracks of the pride quite early on the drive but knew this pride was capable of travelling far distances in short spaces of time. To optimise our searching efforts, tracker Lucky Shabangu headed out on foot to follow the tracks that headed off the road into the block. I drove the nearby roads in the area hoping to leapfrog ahead and help Lucky find tracks further ahead and catch up with these lions.
Lucky then found that these lions had been hunting, by looking at the tracks which scattered in every different direction while running. This made it challenging to determine the final direction but thanks to Lucky’s expert skills he then found more tracks heading away from the area, sticking to the tracks they lead Lucky through thick combretum thickets and weaved around drainage lines, searching high and low as the sun continued to rise.
After about two hours of tracking we decided it was time for some coffee, so we stopped in the Leadwood forest. Lucky, who had now been joined by tracker Jerry Sibiya, was adamant to continue tracking … they were going to find them! After our coffee, the trackers had not yet found the lions, and our guests were getting ready for breakfast, so I quickly dropped them off and returned to help Lucky and Jerry.
Having followed the tracks for roughly three hours, reinforcements were called in. They were joined by the Tracker Academy and together they followed the tracks for a total of more than 3km until eventually finding the lions resting in a clearing. I drove in to fetch the tracking team and found them with smiles all around waiting on a termite mound.
As we were crossing the river we saw a lone buffalo bull feeding in the Sand River which caught the attention of the full-bellied Tsalala Female for a while until she then lay down to sleep once more. As the buffalo was a challenging target and a bit too far away to urgently go after it.
The plan for the afternoon drive was to go straight to where the trackers had found the Talamati Pride, only to find no lions… Ranger Andrea Sithole and Tracker Sersant Sibuyi soon joined us as we began another tracking mission. While assessing the direction of the tracks we heard the bellowing distress calls of a buffalo in the Sand River. Without saying a word the four of us knew – it was the Talamati Pride. One of the other rangers who was with the Tsalala Female and Mungheni Female in the river radioed exclaiming that the lionesses had suddenly got up and ran towards these distress calls. We quickly made it back to our vehicles and rushed towards the commotion.
The Talamati Pride and the Dark-maned Northern Avoca Male had caught the same lone buffalo we had seen earlier that day. Unfortunately, the buffalo being outnumbered, and cornered on the steep banks of the river did not have much of a chance. Soon vultures circled ahead and the pride fed frantically. All while in the near distance the Tsalala Female and Mungheni Female gazed down at the scene knowing that they did not have a chance of claiming any of this carcass. They simply sat back and waited.
As the sun began to set and their bellies grew full, the Talamati Pride slowly settled down nearby to the carcass as darkness took over. We left the two different prides of lions with the one buffalo carcass in the excitement with what could transpire over the course of the evening and the next morning.