The lions working as a pack can take down a very large animal like a buffalo. The prey needs to be an animal big enough to feed the pack of as much as twenty members. Each of the members may weigh as much as 400 pounds. The lions depend on coordination, speed and strength. The lions communication among each other with roars, cries, yelps, bellows, and groans along with body expressions and pheromones to express a wide variety of thoughts. You may be aware of the difficulty in “herding cats” so you can imagine a herd of 18 cats organizing and executing a Cape buffalo hunt. Each bull may weigh up to 2 tons, running at 40 miles per hour on the open savanna. These images tell the story of the hunt. They were captured in low light and foggy conditions at considerable distance while the animals were in full running motion. It was impossible to make a video of this with the limitation of the photo equipment at hand.
The featured image is a male lion, “King of the beasts”. See our previous post on African Predators.
There were 18 lions strategically placed on the plane. There was a small herd of 9 adult male Cape buffalos grazing at the shore of the river.
The lions included about 8 female, three male and the remainder adolescent and young. All would feed or go hungry depending on the result of this hunt. Three females were in the lead for the hunt with one singled out to do the take down. The pride of lions was spread across the plane between the river and the hills.
In the theater of the hunt the lead three females were closest to the buffalos while the young are farthest. The middle space has the slow-moving remainder of the male and female adult group. The herd of eight Cape buffalos were all male, moving eastward, parallel to the river, grazing in the grass and already angry. There were no surprises as they are always alert and always angry. Easily visible were their heads with their massive horns slashing like a sickles, side to side, as they foraged. This was a bachelor group, boys only, who could no longer keep up with a full herd; no longer able to compete with the younger males for dominance and mating. The cattle egrets had already flown off their backs.
It was morning twilight. The sun was just about to rise and there was a low fog caressing the grass on the plane. We had been waiting for about an hour. The bulls were slowly moving east and the lions were moving west camouflaged in the back light of the sunrise, the tall grass and the low fog.
The cats began to spread out making pincer formation. It appeared that they would have a lead group on the attack from the south driving the buffalo along the river into the pack. Just as the fog was ready to evaporate and as the sun sparked a finger of light over the horizon the approach begins. The prime huntress crept rapidly toward the rear of the prey.
The lead buffalo bolted to a gallop, the others immediately followed suit in a straight line. The lioness was immediately running at full speed charging into the middle of the group. The buffalos all seemed to be in good condition; fast and powerful. In a second, the lioness, now at the end of the line, reached out to grasp the hind quarter of the slowest animal.
She missed! Now she was then out of pace with the line of the departing dinner. They outran her and she has no backup! All that work was without reward. The opportunity was lost.
The pride, depending on this effort for this meal, watched it evaporate with the fog. I guess that this was not unusual. The buffalos were gone, and the pride began to regather as the harsh sun rose fist high above the horizon of trees miles in the distance. The long shadows of the highlands and the light fog still obscure the details of the undulating plane.
The adolescent lions who were watching and learning the skill of the hunt began to rough play as they ran in from the eastern fields. They knew that in the evening twilight of the day there would be another show and hopefully dinner.
We did not see the next take down but you can see the result. The dominant male ate first until it could eat no more. The others then dove in to feast. The other members of the pride then devoured the carcass until it was bare bones. When they were finished they slept which may be for days.
Any remaining scraps were the choice of jackals, hyaenas and buzzards. The only remaining signs after the kill was blood-stained grass, teeth, horns, bones and the smell of death.
Life and death on the African savanna is fearsome and pragmatic. This show of cooperative group behavior and sheer power demonstrates the reason for the title. “King of the Beasts”.
#Africa #lions #Cape buffalo #buffalo #hunt #king
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4 responses to “Lions in Africa – Sunrise Hunt for Cape Buffalo”
It was amazing to see how fast they ran away
Your prose is as engrossing and entertaining as the pictures. Well done! Cindy
I’m so happy that it pleases you.
I’m really enjoying all of your posts. The African articles are really interesting. Your photography is always “top-shelf”.
Must admit you are a grand storyteller as well. The li