sabi sabi ranger stories
a frightening experience
I had just finished my basic ranger training and was still very nervous in the bush especially when it came to tracking lions, but I was lucky enough to be guiding with a tracker named Richard Ndubane and it was his mission to teach me the ‘ways of the wild’. It was a spring morning and the sun had just risen when Richard stopped me and said that there were some lion tracks on the road, but going in the direction that we had just come from. We climbed out of the Land Rover and true enough in the sand was the footprint of a lioness. Richard said that we should follow up as the tracks were relatively fresh and they could be nearby. Little did we know how nearby. We followed the tracks for around 250m and they suddenly disappeared from the road. Looking up, we saw that the grass was pressed flat, as if a heavy body had just been lying just off the road. We decided to walk down the road a little more to make sure she hadn't just stepped into the bush to visit the 'little girls room'. We had walked a feet when a herd of zebra came running down the road towards us. It surprised us a little that they didn’t even seem to notice that there were two people standing in front of them in the road. They were passing us when a noise caught my attention and looking up I saw a lioness jump out of the grass, literally under the now running zebra and seize the zebra by the throat bringing it crashing down. All I remember of the next few moments was Richard telling me to fetch the Land Rover, another 3 lionesses running through the bush to come and help in the killing of the zebra and my heart wanting to stop beating. All of this was happening not more than 15m from where I was standing. As you can imagine, when I finally got to my Land Rover, my legs were shaking, I could hardly talk and my guests wanted to know what all the noise was about. When I had turned my vehicle around and had entered the sighting, the lionesses had not quite finished killing the zebra. While one had the throat of the zebra in a crushing grip the other 3 were starting to feed, it was a fantastic sighting, reminding us just how savage and wildly unpredictable the African bush can be. It is a memory that will be with me for a very long time.
Upon analysing the sequence of events, the lionesses must have already surrounded the zebra when we came past in the Land Rover. We missed the place where one of the lionesses had been lying in ambush next to the road. When Richard and I came walking down the road concentrating on the tracks, the lioness moved from where she was lying but did not move far, as she could obviously see the approaching zebra that the other lionesses were herding toward her. When she saw the zebra approaching, it was too late to move away from us and she decided to carry on with the hunt, thus giving Richard and I a very unique insight into how lionesses social behaviour lets them utilize large herbivores as a food source.