Assume nothing and expect the unexpected!
On a recent morning game drive, these two phrases held true once again. A lioness… in a marula tree… feeding on an ostrich – and it still sounds absurd every time I say it. After a long morning of tracking lions, ranger Robyn Morrison and I got the call over the radio from tracker Jerry Sibiya, he had found the lions. He could see two lions in the distance, under a marula tree. Excited that the tracking mission had come to fruition, we scurried across to see the lions.
Upon arriving at what Jerry had seen, you can only imagine my utter bewilderment when we saw a third lion up in the marula tree feeding on the remains of a carcass!
First of all, although lions aren’t built to gracefully climb trees, it would be wrong to assume that they don’t. Ranger Nick Tennick has recently discussed the tree-climbing abilities of lions and the reasons they are willing to do so. The second assumption that nearly caught me out was thinking that the lioness was feeding on the remains of an impala carcass. The simple fact that the carcass was hoisted into a tree points to it being stored there by a leopard, and impalas are the most common prey species of leopards. The fact that it was an ostrich was rather unexpected and got us wondering which leopard would have gone after an ostrich. There was later evidence, in the form of a female and a young male leopard’s tracks found nearby, to back this assumption; in other words, we believe the Ximungwe Female and the Ntomi Male were the culprits.
Already blown away by this unique sighting of a lioness reaching towards the higher branches of the marula tree, I had to assure myself, tracker Geshom Mathebula, and my guests that the very little remains that we could still make out of the kill were, in fact, those of an ostrich. Put all of this together, and it was certainly a reminder that one can always expect the unexpected in the wild!
Without a doubt, this is one of the most unique sightings I have witnessed, so if you haven’t already, make sure you watch this virtual safari, as Sean Zeederberg tells the story from his side. As Sean mentions, I am happy to report that I did have my camera with me that morning, and I trust you will enjoy the results…