Quietly the three cubs lie still in their den as the sound of the approaching buffalo herd gets closer. The sound of the grunts and moans of the buffalo ring through their ears and the vibrations of 200 buffalo’s hooves pulse through their fragile bodies. Filled with fear the little ones instinct tells them to stay put, yet every part of them is screaming ‘RUN!!!’ Heads all focused on the approaching danger and hoping that mom will arrive just in the nick of time to get them out of this pickle.
The scent of lion fills the nostrils of the buffalo…the herd starts to sniff and gather closer as the large pathfinders investigate the area with their nostrils. A deep anger and hatred fills the buffalo as they draw closer to the den site. One of the cubs panics and moves giving away their hiding place and a mass of black engulfs the den site.
Horns slash and prod, beating down on the area where the cubs are squirming to get away. A cub yelps as a horn crushes down upon it. Another yelp…this time more faint…the little cub lets out his last breath as he is crushed under the weight of the buffalo. The danger is not over…another cub attempts a get away but is caught by the sharp end of another horn, which enters her rump, and as she hits the floor she quickly squirms into the base of a nearby bush, pain shooting through her whole left side. She cuddles close to her remaining sibling, both shaking with fear as the herd tries to get into their safe house.
Eventually the herd lose interest and start to move on. As the last of the buffalo move past, the injured cub crawls out to see if her brother is alive, the other cub too frightened to move, stays put. There is no movement in her brother, not a squeak of pain, not even a breath. Her brother has joined the 60% of cubs that don’t make it to adulthood. The pain shooting down her side grows and she squeals in pain hoping her mother will hear her and come to assist, but she is too far away. She is out with the pride trying to get food to support her new litter. The cub crawls back to her sibling, cuddling close and not knowing what her fate will be. Blood is streaming from her leg but it doesn’t seem too bad. Maybe she has a chance, she has the spirit of a lioness and she will fight until her last breath to keep herself strong.
On the other side of the reserve the Southern Pride is just starting to stir, as they wake from their day long slumber. The light has all but gone and the chill of winter has crept in to take its place. As they move silently through the night the lions spot a lone bull buffalo who has found his place for the evening and is chewing on the food he gathered all day, ensuring that it is fine enough to extract all the minerals he needs. He is old and weary and left his herd a few years back and even though he is alone and knocking on deaths door, his will to survive glows as bright as the midday sun.
The cubs drop back and the lionesses begin to stalk into position. They know they must be wary of their target as he is 900kg and full of aggression but they also know that if this pride of over 20 lions is to survive, they need to bring down something big. Fears aside, the females fan out and stalk silently towards their oblivious target. Suddenly the silence of the night is broken as the lions launch their attack. The buffalo is onto his feet in an instant and hits top speed in no time. The lionesses have the element of surprise on their side and are right on the heels of their prey, one of the lionesses launches herself, claws exposed and lands on the back of the buffalo. Her claws dig in deep and hold on as the buffalo attempts to buck her off…the rest of the pride now closes in and it is not long before they are attached to his muzzle and his throat. He moans in agony as he fights to free himself from the grip of death, but he is too old…his light begins to fade as the lionesses clamp down harder…his legs begin to give way and eventually he is on the ground with no hope. He lets out one last groan before the females finish him off.
The feast is now on and the lions get tucked in. Their table manners are horrendous as each of them try to find a place at the feast. Claws fly, lions snarl and growl at each other trying to assert dominance over their prize.
With the final score for the day sitting at Buffalo 1 – Lions 1, in a never ending game that will go on for as long as time itself, nature is the ultimate winner. What we see as saddening has made nature what it is. It has been operating in this way for millions of years with the most unbelievable success. Although this leaves us all sad I want to try put across the sadness from both sides, but at the same time show you all how nature has a perfect plan, which is never ending. Long may nature be able to carry on in its beautiful way… we may at times not understand it but it is the knowledge that this has happened before and the system is still working today, which allows us to embrace the harshness of nature and wait for the next chapter of this amazing story to start!