Lately, the Ntsevu Sub Adults, or, more aptly, the Ntsevu Males, have gained recognition and a lot of attention from us for their impressive buffalo hunting prowess. Following their relatively premature independence, brought about by the arrival of the Ndzhenga Males in 2021, these young males, accompanied by their younger sister, swiftly embraced a nomadic way of life. They sought refuge in the expansive grasslands, which were devoid of dominant males capable of posing a genuine threat to their existence. Their transformation into formidable lions has prompted us to adopt this new designation whereby they are no longer, sub-adults.
The grasslands are home to numerous dazzles of zebras, impala and wildebeest herds, rhinos and elephants as well as a renowned herd of buffalo numbering over a thousand strong. In this expansive and mostly open terrain, hunting opportunities predominantly involve larger and more formidable prey. Undeterred by the challenges, the young lions, known for their bravery, adventurous spirit, and strong will, seized every chance that came their way, regardless of the target’s size. Initially, their endeavours met with limited success.
However, over time, they developed a highly effective strategy of trailing the buffalo and selectively targeting the slower, weaker, or younger members who proved to be easier prey. This approach provided them with sustenance and the opportunity to grow and refine their hunting skills. Today, they are larger, more confident, and armed with a considerable level of hunting experience, enabling them to frequently take down larger buffalo while fending off the retaliatory efforts of the rest of the herd, determined to protect their fallen comrade.
Now, how does all of this connect to the events of today’s blog? Not too long ago, on a morning that piqued the rangers’ curiosity, tracks of these emerging lions were spotted heading northward, crossing the Sand River at Finfoot Crossing. It had been a while since these lions had been seen in this region, ever since they were driven southward by the Black Dam Males.
During the early hours of the morning, the north echoed with the calls of lions, creating a suspenseful backdrop to the tracking mission with uncertainty as to which lions had been calling earlier. Before long, the Ntsevu Males were found on Ximpalapala Crest, resuming their roaring. While this was an exhilarating sight, it also injected an element of tension into the air, given that they were making their presence known in an area where they might encounter two other lion coalitions.
One of these coalitions is the Plains Camp Males, a formidable threat that could easily disrupt the status quo and send the nomadic lions scrambling for the hills. The other was the smaller Black Dam Males, who might not be a match for the four young yet potent Ntsevu Males.
With it being early on a cool morning, the anticipation of witnessing some lion activity ran high. Dan and his guests along with the other rangers decided to sit it out with the lions. At this point, the lions were resting in two separate groups, roughly 70 metres apart. Dan’s vehicle was positioned near the closer group of one male and the female, while the other three males were in the distance near a termite mound.
Moments spent with a lion are always captivating, irrespective of the level of activity. Watching these majestic, handsome lions go about their relaxed morning routine was a real treat and Dan’s guests couldn’t have been happier. Little did anyone know, that what was about to unfold was beyond anyone’s expectations or even the most creative imagination.
A solitary hyena, roaming the open clearings in search of a resting place after a night prowling around for a meal, unknowingly found itself on a path that could potentially put an abrupt end to its life. This path would take it straight into the proximity of the dozing male lions. Whether what followed was a blessing or a curse, remains uncertain. The hyena happened to glance up, possibly catching sight or scent of the lions ahead, triggering an abrupt change in its direction. It veered widely to avoid the three males. Unbeknown to the poor lone hyena was its new trajectory would lead it directly into a perfectly coincidental ambush.
The lions closer to Dan’s vehicle had by now strategically positioned themselves for an attack that would likely have spelt doom for the hyena at the hands of its arch-nemesis. The lions broke from cover and the hyena’s attempt to escape proved futile, unable to match the speed and precision of the meticulous ambush. In a matter of moments, one of the young males had the hyena firmly within his powerful jaws. The remaining lions swiftly joined the fray, converging to bring the confrontation to an end.
With the hyena’s chances of survival dwindling rapidly, three of the five lions distanced themselves slightly from the scene expecting for it all to be over. Meanwhile, the anguished distress calls from the embattled hyena had reached the ears of the rest of its clan. Their rallying whoops carried across the crest as they moved in to fend off the lions and rescue their pal.
Why would the lions do this?
Now, let me take a moment to shed light on why such a dramatic interaction would unfold. In the world of predators, in fact for all animals we see out here, the primary focus is self-preservation, a critical aspect of ensuring the passing on of their genetic legacy. If an animal can successfully reproduce and pass down its genes to future generations, it has fulfilled its vital role in the grand scheme of nature. To delve a bit deeper, every action an animal takes, whether directly or indirectly, is intricately connected to this fundamental goal. They eat and rest to gather energy, which enables them to stake out territories, eliminate competitors, and secure their position as the ones most likely to transmit their genetic code.
Within the intricate hierarchy of predators, lions reign as the apex predators in the African Bushveld. Their only formidable rivals are large groups of hyenas. It’s worth noting that hyenas typically need to assemble in groups of more than ten individuals before even contemplating challenging a single male lion when it comes to a meal. The threshold is lower for confronting a female lion, so occasionally, hyenas may congregate around a carcass and attempt to drive lions away and claim the spoils. The rivalry between these two species goes to such lengths that if an opportunity arises to eliminate each other, they seize it without hesitation. Therefore, a hyena wouldn’t think twice about killing a young lion, leopard, wild dog, or even a cheetah. In response, lions actively seek out hyenas to eliminate or reduce competition. Hyena populations in an area are inversely correlated with the prevalence of dominant male lions – in other words, male lions are known to kill hyenas.
So with this in mind watch this incredible video by Londolozi Guest Trevis Brendmoe and Ranger Dan Hirschowitz of the whole sighting. A word of warning, it is not for sensitive viewers, but the hyena does survive and manages to get away.
And here are a few more photos of these magnificent lions…