GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING!
It was about 15h30, I was in my room preparing to go on leave when there was a pounding on my bedroom door. I opened the door and standing in front of me was our Earth Lodge receptionist, Taryn, who was frantic. “Come quick – it sounds like a warthog is being killed” she said. Leave or no leave, there was no way I was going to miss this! I grabbed my camera and ran out the door.
As I got outside, some of the other staff were ready to go, including James and George who had heard the commotion. In the distance we could hear the distressed squeal of the warthog which was coming from behind the staff village on the other side of the river. We drove along towards the crossing to try and find the source and within 3 minutes we had found what we were looking for.
A lone lioness had taken down a huge male warthog, who was in his prime and probably weighing in at close to their maximum weight of 90 kg. You would think that a 190kg lioness would have no problem in killing a warthog, but the resilience of a warthog is well known and this big male was no exception. The two were locked in a dance of death, locked together with constant manoeuvring from one side to the other with each trying to get the upper hand. The lioness was fighting for her next meal and risking injury, while the warthog was fighting for his life.
Warthogs are popular prey for both lions and leopards but formidable tusks make them a very dangerous adversary and this lioness was extremely aware of this threat. From the lacerations on the warthog’s rump, it looked like the attack was made from behind but her attention had then changed to the back of the neck, in an attempt to break the neck. All this time she was trying to avoid the throat area to kill by suffocation as this particular warthog had tusks that could cause huge damage and potentially end the hunting ability of a lioness due to injury. All the time she was using her weight to subdue the warthog and bring it to complete exhaustion. In a gruesome display, while the squeals echoed around the bushveld coliseum, the lioness started to eat the warthog alive and the trauma involved was clear to hear and see. The vehicle was silent, with some staff members burying their eyes in their hands from the brutal act that was taking place. Gasps of anguish and sympathy for what was going on, with a natural human instinct of supporting the underdog. The warthog taking breaks to replenish its energy reserves, then giving a burst to try and wriggle free of the vice like death grip that this lioness held. The blood stained neck and face of the lioness and the blood drenched head and rump of the warthog, were evidence of the struggle for these two warriors – neither of which were prepared to take a backward step.
After a struggle of 20 minutes, we had to leave to get back to the lodge so that the members of staff could continue their work at the lodge. The rangers could then pick up their guests to come back on afternoon safari to witness the outcome. When we left the squeals were still very audible but when we returned 10 minutes later – a deathly silence. The blood drenched body of the fallen gladiator in the open area while the lioness lay under a tree some distance away from the carcass. It was an extremely hot day and the amount of extra expendable energy used because of this had clearly taken its toll during the battle, with recuperation proving more of a necessity than the sustenance of her hard earned quarry.
This is without question the most brutal and traumatic kill I have witnessed, because of the length of the struggle as well as the cries made by this resilient warthog during its slow and painful death. As brutal as this is, it is a constant reminder of the fragility of life on the African plains. These wars are borne from a will and desire to survive.