Umlani Sightings Blog- Lion hunt
LIVING AND WORKING OUT IN THE BUSH JUST NEVER GETS OLD, THE FACT THAT EVEN WHEN AT CAMP YOUR NORMAL OFFICE DAY CAN BE FLIPPED ON ITS HEAD CONTINUES TO AMAZE ME EVEN AFTER SPENDING 16YRS OUT HERE. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN AND THE TYPE OF DISTRACTIONS THAT ONE HAS IN THIS ENVIRONMENT CAN ONLY BE DESCRIBED AS OUT OF THE ORDINARY AND NOT REALLY A DISTRACTION BUT AN EXPERIENCE, AND MORE OFTEN THAN NOT ITS AN EXPERIENCE THAT WILL STAY WITH YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.
About a week ago, you saw the post on our Facebook page about the lions making a buffalo kill, this all came to being whilst I was busy in the office doing some good old admin work when Jordan came back from drive, walked into the office and calmly asked, "Do you want to go and see lions kill a buffalo?" Of course the answer was yes, so I grabbed my camera, left the admin work to sort itself out and headed off to what would end up being one of my most memorable sightings, fortunately the action was happening not too far from camp at Marco's dam where the herd of buffalo had been split into two groups by the marauding lions. One part of the herd was at the dam, quenching their thirst whilst the rest of the herd was still on the northern bank of the Nhlaralumi river bed, creating a scene you would expect in the Masai Mara of the famous migration. However instead of wildebeest, hundreds of buffalo were piling up on the top of the bank driven by their need to drink, but stopping at the crossing point knowing that lying in wait were the lions, their natural urge to drink slowly but surely forcing them closer to the danger beneath them.
Lying in wait for the buffalo to make their move towards the waterhole. Note how incredibly effective the camouflage of the male lion is as he remains undetected by the herd of buffalo less than 30m from him.
At a certain point in time the lions seemed to have had enough of the waiting game and the lioness got up and shifted her position closer to where the buffalo were wanting to cross, the male who had been lying off to the side also raised his head and started to pay attention, the coordination between the lions was incredible to witness, not a sound was made but they seemed to both know that now was the time.
What happened next happened so fast that even now while writing this it all seems like a blur. No sooner had the lioness re-positioned herself at the game path the buffalo would use to cross the river when the buffalo bottleneck at the top of the hill broke and buffalo came hurtling down towards her, hitting the soft sand of the river bed the buffalo tumbled and struggled to make it through at a pace that would get them away from the lions, dust filled the air and there were glimpses of the tawny shape of the lioness as she gave chase, the male also made his move coming down the river bank to intercept their target, to me it looked like chaos, and although the buffalo where slowed by the thick sand it seemed like the lions had missed, perhaps it was just a test to pick out a weak individual, but then the dust began to settle and I could only see the male lion moving across the riverbed, then the buffalo herd began to turn and run back towards where the male lion was heading, buffalo only do this if one of their own has fallen to the predator in an attempt to rescue their fallen comrade.
Making his move as the buffalo start making their way down the crossing point.
The chaos of the buffalo crossing, surprisingly it was none of these buffalo that got taken by the lions.
I re-positioned the vehicle in order to get a better view of what was going on and as I rounded a spike thorn thicket there stood a young buffalo with the lioness hanging of it, the buffalo herd rapidly approaching, but then in a moment of pure power and dominance over the situation the male lion arrived rushing at the herd and stopping them dead in their tracks with a deep guttural growl before he turned back and latched onto the young buffalo's neck and wrestled it quickly and effortlessly to the ground, time stood still as the buffalo's breathing became more and more labored until it took its final breath, at this point the male then took another defiant run at the buffalo herd before returning to the lionesses side where they began to feed on their hard earned prize.
The 2 lions come together for a bit of team work.
The take down, Although the young buffalo didn't stand a chance, it took the lions some time to finally bring it down.
What really stood out to me was the effectiveness of the lions, they seemed to be in control the entire time, using the fear and panic of the buffalo to their advantage and then clearly showing how they were the victors at the end of it all. Watching nature doing its thing in its rawest form is truly an experience that leaves you in awe of how it all works, make no mistake things don't always go the way of the lions but on this day they really did take the lions share, having this new pride in the area is incredible and we look forward to many more sightings like this one in the future.
Here are a few more photos of the Zebinine pride and the Mbiri males from the days that followed this sighting as they remained around the waterhole.
With that I will wrap up this blog and look forward to many more sightings of these lions as they continue to flourish bringing back lion sightings that we have missed since the end of the Machaton pride.
Written & photographed by: Greg McCall-Peat