GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING!
As soon as the coffee started to flow through our veins, our eyes were beginning to open and our internal generators were started. We immediately set off into the area where Warthog Wallow had killed and hoisted a big impala ewe into a tree the previous night. We were all excited wondering whether the Tortilis male and hyena would be at the carcass. Almost immediately the right hand of Jack (my tracker) went up, we jumped out of the vehicle to look at the tracks and what we found were that of the three Sand River males heading directly into the area where Warthog Wallow and her carcass were.
We turned off the road and followed the tracks to the base of a huge Marula tree where she had stashed the carcass. What we found was no impala, no Tortilis male but just Warthog Wallow contact calling, looking for her son. The Marula tree was heavily scared from what we can assume the Sand River males, who had climbed up and stolen her hard fought kill. She sat there in complete disbelief and despair. “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield.
Charles (Bush Lodge ranger) had told me that he wanted to follow up on the male lions. He quickly picked up their tracks and they headed directly into the area where a huge herd of buffalo had settled down for the night. I mentioned this to my guests and they eagerly said ‘well what are we waiting for, let’s go find these lions’. We decided to leave Warthog Wallow to herself and hoped that she would find her lost son and regain her pride.
Charles, Kyle and myself continued to zig zag through the reserve, doing loops and trying to work out where these lions had moved to, trying to anticipate their next move. After about 25 minutes of tracking a call came over the radio from Andre (Safari General Manager), ‘there is audio of lions killing a buffalo directly in front of my house’. I was about 5 minutes out from Andre’s house when Jack quickly told me he now had tracks of 5 lionesses going up, down and around an area next to Andre’s house. We looped down and drove onto the firebreak.
There stood five of the Southern Pride lionesses, they looked timid and slightly hesitant staring due South into the drainage line. The excitement was overflowing from the everyone on the vehicle that we had now found these lionesses, but where were the three Sand River males?
Jack slowly lifted himself, peering over the grass and looked straight into the drainage line to see why these lionesses were so nervous, what happened next I could only have dreamt of seeing and experiencing.
He turned to me and said there are the males, go now quickly. We drove through the grass, over a small rise and found the three Sand River males and three lionesses feeding and gorging themselves on an extremely fresh buffalo kill. The blood lined the lioness’s faces, whilst the males were on edge.
The males starting to creep up and stalk the 5 lionesses waiting patiently through the grass, then chaos exploded in front of our eyes. The males ran full sprint after the lionesses trying to catch them and chase them away from the carcass. The morning was still so fresh that the males turned and walked straight back to the carcass roaring, heating the air with excitement and filling it with steam from their breathes. This continued for over 45 minutes. Eventually things calmed down and a full on feeding frenzy started. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end.” The lionesses settled down in the grass and watched patiently as the others all fed. “Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley.
I can only think and try to recreate what had happened. Jack and I both think that the 5 lionesses had successfully killed the large buffalo bull. The distress calls from the buffalo had then alerted the Sand River males, they had then raced into the area chasing the 5 lionesses off the carcass.
The 5 Southern Pride lionesses have not successfully integrated and appreciated that the Sand River males are now our dominate coalition here at Sabi Sabi and in doing so we can only assume that the males did not want to share the carcass with these lionesses and that they had feared the large males. It is extremely exciting to see the development of this new collation and only time what will happen to the Southern Pride – will it split and form a breakaway pride or over time will the pride regroup?
I think that this Chinese proverb perfectly describes the scenario of what must happen here at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve between the lions and lionesses. ‘To attract good fortune, spend a new coin on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.’