Sabi Sabi yesterday, today, tomorrow

lions pull down a buffalo

by Richard de Gouveia on August 7, 2012

There is something special about living in the bush and seeing these amazing animals interacting on a daily basis. There are some days that take special to whole new level! This particular morning was one of them.

The morning plans were to spend some time at the wild dog den with the pups. Just to see these highly endangered creatures is a treat, but to spend time with them and watch their pups playing all around you just leaves me dumbstruck.

lion at sabi sabi private game reserve

After a good half an hour at the den we made our way south to go and find the Southen Pride. They had been a little scarce over the last few days and this left us chomping at the bit to see them. Darred had done an excellent job tracking down the pride and by the time I got there they were hot on the heels of two buffalo that had been spotted earlier. The pride marched through the long grass with 3 tiny cubs in tow. They stopped periodically to listen, noses up in the air filling their nasal cavities with air to pin point the position of their potential meal.

lion at sabi sabi private game reserve while on safari game drive

We followed them as they slowly approached the buffalo’s concealed location in the thick bush along side the Msutlu River. As soon as they saw the two 900kg buffalo they stopped in their tracks. The lioness leading the pride looked back at her sisters to see where they were. Without a sound the females communicated their intention and they all split up into position. One female bled off right and disappeared from sight, another female flanked left. My heart was pumping as we waited for the chaos to begin. The other females and adolescents were close to my vehicle and stalking forward as they prepared the ambush.

lion at sabi sabi private game reserve

The next thing all hell broke loose as the lions launched the attack. Bushes crashed and cracked under the power of the 2 stampeding buffalo whose cries echoed through the river as the lions closed in. Suddenly one of the buffalo came running down towards us straight into the ambush. A lioness flung herself onto its back but was quickly bucked off by her formidable prey. The buffalo doubled back around and tried to get away from the ambush but the other lionesses had tightened the noose and there was no escape.

lion at sabi sabi private game reserve hunting buffalo

The buffalo dropped his horns in preparation for the battle to save his life. One lioness launched onto the buffalo’s back causing him to swivel fast; her claws dug deep trying to stay on but was flung off. Two more females launched onto his back and he carried them through the spiney sickle bush trying to dislodge them. This time he was not so lucky, two became four, four became six and eventually all the adults and adolescents were having a turn to ride the bellowing buffalo. He gave off long, slow moo’s trying to call his brother in arms back to help him but there was no response. Eventually the weight of the lions became too much and he went off his feet, still calling for assistance. The pride tried hard to sever his spine by biting down with canines on the spine.

lions at sabi sabi private game reserve while on safari game drive hunting buffalo

The buffalo kicked and fought for 25 minutes with such fury, which left all watching emotional over the incredible valour he was putting forward. One of the lionesses attached herself to his muzzle hoping to suffocate him while some of the pride had already begun to feed on his rump. I expected it all to be over soon, but without warning the buffalo managed to fight his way to his feet with the lions still attached to both ends. We pulled away to allow the buffalo some space to move if he found a way out of deaths clutches. He stood fighting for another 5 minutes before exhaustion and severe blood loss overcame him and the lions brought him off his feet for a second time. Still he fought and cried out for help and this time his cries had been heard by the buffalo he had been hanging around with earlier, but there were too many lions and no clear chance of getting his friend out of the pickle he was in. It was too risky to go in as he might also end up on the menu, so he stood there staring at his friend, shaking his horns angrily, but in vein. This video is not for sensitive viewers.

Eventually the buffalo succumbed to extreme blood loss and exhaustion after 45 minutes of fighting and being fed on while alive. Nature’s brutality and beauty were wrapped up in one incredible sighting. The strength and will to live portrayed by the buffalo as fought bravely for his life; and the ferocity, agility and strength of the lions as they fought hard to secure a solid meal for themselves and their cubs left me emotional and drained.

These two eternal enemies fought to the death with the numbers of the Southern Pride succeeding over the bulk and power of the buffalo. It is not always the easiest thing to watch but it is nature and it is perfect. Long may we be able to view such incredible interactions.

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

anat August 7, 2012 at 7:12 am

Thank you Richard , hard to watch but amazing !

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:14 am

It was even harder in person! On a number of occasions I felt myself swallowing hard to keep the emotions back.

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katlego raito August 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

Nature’s brutality n beaut all wrapped in 1. That was a lovely sighting Richard,

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:14 am

Thanks Katlego!

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paul August 7, 2012 at 9:34 am

Was the KNP males with them on the Kill?

You heard anything new about The KNP male with the Limp?

Heard anything about the mighty Makahulu?

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:17 am

No Males were on the kill Paul. One of the adolescents was injured and it looked like a bigger male had attacked him. I did hear news that the reserve north of us found the KNP with the limp but he was badly injured and not looking good. Unfortunately I can’t anymore than this as this is just what has filtered through the grape vine!

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shannon August 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Such amazing animals, hard to watch but amazing in it’s own right

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:17 am

Nature in its harsh beauty!

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frank August 7, 2012 at 5:46 pm

What a ghastly story. If my wife reads it she will not come back for our fourth visit.
I know these things happen but this is enough to stop potential visitors coming and I think you should think hard about what you put in this report.
Fortunately witnessing this sort of kill is I think unusual isn’t it?

Sorry to write this and maybe you think I am wrong and I accept that. Frank

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Sabi Sabi August 8, 2012 at 8:54 am

Thank you for following our blog and for your comments. This is indeed an unusual yet amazing sighting to witness – we are aware that this circle of life occurs on a daily basis throughout nature, but to be there and witness it is a privilege. However – many emotions do surface in such a sighting as mentioned in our blog and we can assure you that nobody becomes immune to this. The skill that this pride portray in hunting buffalo is what has ensured the growth of this pride.

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:01 am

Thank you for comment Frank! This such a rare thing to witness and I understand that some people are more sensitive to these things than others. Through my yeas of guiding I have been fortunate to see a number of kills but none as had to watch as this. I was wracked with emotion and if someone was uncomfortable with the sighting I would definitely not have put them through this. I try my best to portray the bush as it is rather than a glitzy cover story and this is how it happened.

Have a good day.

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sheila August 8, 2012 at 3:38 am

Super blog, Richard. I watched most of the video without headphones. I can handle watching if I don’t hear the pleas for help. What will I do should I get lucky enough to go on safari, rwl?

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:10 am

Thanks Sheila. I am aware that some people would not be comfortable watching this happen but the chances of seeing something like this are tiny and I would have enough sympathy to take your feelings into account and pull out of the sighting!

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sheila August 11, 2012 at 12:51 am

I’ve watched ‘kill’ videos many times but this one was hard to listen to, for some unknown reason. I would kick myself so hard if I ever made it to Africa and had to leave a sighting like this. I don’t think I would ever ask to leave this kind of sighting. Like you said, chances are slim and for me, I would probably never witness something like that again. I’d bear with the rest.

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ranger rich August 12, 2012 at 8:32 am

Sheila, in my experience this is the way that most people feel but we have to be sensitive to those that are visiting us! I am a lot more hardened to these events and when they happen I feel privileged to be able to experience it but when the guests do not feel the same way I have to be sensitive to their needs.

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garth August 8, 2012 at 11:14 am

I was fortunate enough to been with Richard and Solly as spectators to this event. Nature can be brutal and such sightings are not for the feint hearted, however I felt extremely fortunate to have witnessed this hunt. Thanks to Richard and the teams of rangers and trackers that spend thousands of hours ensuring that we are able to glimpse back into the history of Africa’s animal kingdom.

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:11 am

Thanks so much for the comment Garth! I am still dumbstruck by this amazing sighting!! I hope that you guys will come back and visit!

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lamp August 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

The video is a wakeup call to someone like myself preparing for a first visit. The excitement I feel is palpable, bit this is also a reminder that this is nature and not controlled by anythng other than laws among the animals that live in it. Thanks for sharing this and like always, the written explanation so even a novice like myself understands and appreciates the beauty of the circle of life!

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ranger rich August 9, 2012 at 4:13 am

Thanks Lamp! I am glad that the explanation helped! I can promise you that you will have an amazing time with us here at Sabi Sabi!

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garth August 10, 2012 at 10:51 am

Oh yes Richard, like the Wildebees this will be a yearly migration :)

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ranger rich August 12, 2012 at 8:33 am

Whahahahahahahahaha…brilliant Garth!

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syl August 10, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Excellent blog Richard…nature is harsh indeed! I’m always amazed at the battle a buff will put up. I always try to view kills for technique…especially when there are many subs involved. I’ve always found those kills to take the longest…because they are trying to learn.
I don’t watch these with any sense of thrill….but with a complete awareness of the give & take in nature. Lions struggle daily for meals…so many think they are constant killing machines, but we know better, don’t we?
I always silently thank the prey that’s lost its life…for giving life to another.
The injured sub???? by a buff??? and how bad?
Cheers, Syl

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ranger rich August 12, 2012 at 8:36 am

As far as I have heard Syl, the pride was kicked off a double buffalo kill the night before by some males. I can’t be sure but it sounded like the Toulon Males were pushing back. He had a bit mark on his back and another adolescent had an injured foot. All this happened off our reserve so I can’t give you the full story, just what has trickled down the grape vine.

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