Knowing lions are predominantly nocturnal and tend to be primarily active in the coolness of the evenings, a lot can change overnight since the previous afternoon game drive. That being said, we had no preconceived plan other than to hopefully find any fresh tracks or signs of what may have transpired during the course of the night.
After we all spread out to check a few roads, Tayla’s voice crackled through the radio to say that they had found tracks of a single male lion near the Sand River, and the tracks were fresh! While Tayla and Tracker Phendulo stayed on the tracks establishing which direction this male lion was heading, Barry and I looped around a little further trying to triangulate his position (in case he had moved a far distance from the initial tracks found).
While we were not coming up with any further signs or fresher tracks, according to Tayla, this is what happened next:
“After finding the initial tracks heading away from the river, the longer we followed them the more a clear sense of direction or ability to follow them became difficult and our hope started to dwindle. We then spotted a single hyena, which was the first hyena our guests had seen – so we headed in its direction to have a closer view of it. As we got closer, there was not just one hyena, but three in close proximity alongside a drainage line and thicket of bushes. This made Phendulo and I think that there may be something more in the bushes – possibly the remnants of a kill. We drove deeper into the bushes just to double check, when suddenly Phendulo fist-pumped the air and looking back at me saying “lion” as he’d managed to catch a glimpse of the Nkuhuma Male deep in the drainage.”
Simply ecstatic with Tayla’s update, we headed towards where he had been found even though we knew that based on Tayla’s update, the view of him was difficult as he had been found in a thick drainage line surrounded by many lush bushes. Regardless, we were en route! Not long after we arrived, the Nkuhuma Male was up and had decided to move what was left of a warthog kill. And what happened next was a spectacle that left all of us speechless and in awe…
With a few lurking hyenas in the area, he remained unphased, and with determination, he continued past our vehicles as we continued looping up ahead.
As we got closer and closer to the river, we drove further up ahead and waited for the inevitable. With adamant persistence, the Nkuhuma Male headed down into the Sand River and headed straight towards the middle channel of the river where a prominent Matumi Tree provided a canopy of shade and a perfect place to stash his food.
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The cause of the Nkuhuma Male’s tenacity to move his food such a far distance made us Rangers and Trackers ponder the greater story at play…
A possible scenario we began thinking about was that the warthog could have, in fact, been killed by one of the territorial leopards in the area (possibly the Nhlanguleni Female or Senegal Bush Male, although we went back to investigate the area and had no further signs of any leopard in the area). If that was the case, a few hyenas in the area may have then stolen the kill from the leopard before she/he had a chance to hoist it (this would then explain the state of the kill, as the bottom half of the warthog looked like it had been ripped). The Nkuhuma Male, being in the area, would have then either heard the hyena or followed the scent of a fresh kill before chasing the hyena off the carcass and stealing it for himself.
Although we will never quite know exactly how it all played out, this is the beauty and magic of the wilderness with all its unpredictability and interconnectedness!