We left our camp at MalaMala at 6:30 AM, and soon began tracking a pride of three lionesses,7 cubs, and one big male as they stalked the herd of Cape buffalo we had been in and amongst two evenings earlier. We started tracking at 6:45 AM, and followed them over every imaginable terrain as they patiently stalked their prey. One of the Land Rovers even got high-centered after one particularly frenzied drive into the bush in pursuit of the cats, and had to be towed free.
The cubs followed close behind the lionesses, but the big male lion brought up a distant rear, or so we thought. A number of the small buffalo looked like sitting ducks, but our rangers said the lions were very hungry and would be looking for a larger specimen. Several times, the lions stopped to rest and the cubs would curl up with them. We thought they had given up. But at a silent signal, they would all get up and resume the hunt, slowly dividing the buffalo herd.
At approximately 9:30 am, they made their move. They got a large female buffalo separated from herd and took her down. The buffalo tried to charge and butt with her horns, but the lions were too fast. First one lion, then a second, then a third jumped on her back. The three lionesses worked together to bring her down; then the male lion who we thought was far behind suddenly appeared and leaped for the buffalo’s throat and the kill. The cubs all piled on, the doomed buffalo gave one last anguished bellow and died.
The feast began. I have to remind myself that without this kill and others like it, the cubs would starve. Still, it is hard to watch…violent death, survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle…whatever you want to call it, this morning was a powerful illustration of The Wild Kingdom. We are glad to have witnessed the hunt, the skill, patience, and cunning of the lions, their communication and strategic moves. But I personally hope I never see a kill again.