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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.