Everyday somewhere out there, there is a wild cat that chases its prey from total stealth to full throttle acceleration in seconds and there is a prey that is alert and prepared to outrun its predator. This is exactly what we encountered earlier this week.
As we arrived into the area where nine of the Southern Pride members had been seeking cover from the blistering summer sun, they looked like statues placed in the most spectacular French palaces. Slowly but surely they started to wake, yawning and grooming one another, this was our key that they were going to get mobile and hopefully hunt. The excitement grew continually within our vehicle with smiles reaching no ends.
The lions got up with intent and marched towards the railway line, stopping, listening and interpreting the African night sounds and antics. Suddenly they froze, shoulders slunk and started to sneak through this huge open area. Heaviness, my tracker, quickly scanned the area to see for any potential prey. No luck. We turned all our lights off not to intervene. The lions stayed fixated on one area situated along the tree line. They began to move, slowly surrounding the vehicle, even the slight movement of the lions through the grass could be heard sending shivers down my body. A Chinese proverb describes this extremely well, “To the one who waits, a moment seems a year”.
Hunting is a common occurrence in the wild. Skillful tracking and capture of the moving target hold the reward within the act. It needs qualities like patience, stealth, endurance, planning and decisiveness. Through generations, the lions have fine-tuned that suppression of fear into courage and slowly became incredible at it.
We slowly crept forward with the lions feeling like we were now part of this pride as they hunted around us. Suddenly Heaviness tells me he can see a small herd of impala 30 meters away from the lions. The full moon allowed us to see everything. Thirty meters became 20 meters, which became 15 meters. Suddenly the lions were off, full strides, galloping and running straight at this herd of impala. Snorting, bushes crumbling and a distress calls followed. We raced into this area, now lights on, and in full search of what had happened. We turn off this open area and there lay 9 lions fighting, growling and fiercely competing over an impala lamb they had just caught. The carcass was ripped in pieces with the over-powering smell of death lingering. Each and every lion was fighting over the scraps of this carcass, paws hitting each other’s faces, chasing and tackling much like a rugby game. It was complete and utter chaos and an explosion of action.
What now seemed to be an eternity of turmoil and excitement came to an end after about 5 minutes with the only refection there had been a kill being specks of blood lying in the grass next to our vehicle. The individuals began to regroup, clean and resettle any difference they just aired for one another. Yet another incredible day in the bush. This sighting clearly showed that until lions have their historians, tales of hunting will always glorify the hunter.