Buffalo Carcass, Timbavati Game Reserve
On a lovely July morning, while on a game drive in the Timbavati Game Reserve, my guests and I picked up on a rather displeasing smell. Now, as all guides know, the smell of rotting flesh usually means that there is a kill close by. This particular smell caught my attention as just yesterday, in the same spot, I had seen a handsome male lion.
I called Peter on the radio and he shortly appeared at the smelly area. His Tracker got off the game viewer and disappeared for a few seconds, moving in the direction of the smell, but came back empty handed. We did notice plenty of hyena tracks and started to assume that the hyenas must have cleaned everything up and the smell was just dragged into the grass; we carried on with the game drive.
During the whole game drive, the smell nagged at the back of our minds. On the way back to camp, Peter stopped again in the area, to try once again to locate the cause of the awful smell. This time when he parked on the same spot, he found that the odour was coming from another direction on the opposite side of the track.
He told Sam to stay with his guests, took a rifle and followed the smell…. as he started to smell this rot more intensely, suddenly, he spotted the source; about 50metres from the road in a trench there lay a dead, little eaten Buffalo. Peter approached it a little closer to try and see exactly what could have happened. Suddenly, before he could investigate thoroughly, he suddenly heard a low growl. Looking to the left, he saw a fairly young male lion, watching his every move.
Peter automatically stopped in his tracks, and started moving very slowly backwards till heMale lion, Timbavati Reserve reached the safety of his game viewer. He told his tracker where it was and they slowly went off road and drove in to see it with the guests. The only problem was that this particular lion wasn’t from the area and therefore he was very weary of the vehicle. As soon as you moved within 15 meters he would move from the kill and hide in a thicket. Peter sat with the carcass for a while but the lion had stage fright, so they decided to go back to camp for breakfast. After breakfast I took my guests to have a look at the lion as well, but he was shy, and we only caught a glimpse of his tail.
By that evening, the lion seemed to have grown a bit braver, and we were able to view him. The next day, the sightings of predators at the buffalo kill were phenomenal.
That evening, we watched the male lion tugging at the carcass and could hear him gnawing on bone and cartilage after each feeding session, we would hear him panting with exhaustion.
Over the course of the next few days, the male was joined by 2 female lions and a cub. They were later joined by two sub adult males, and of course the hyenas also became interested in the buffalo carcass. One evening, there was a massive battle for the last remaining meat. A new group of 6 lions (2 cubs) moved in to feed, when suddenly a massive adult male lion came charging in to the kill.
At first he looked set to kill the 2 cubs, but brave moms came to the rescue standing their ground against this male, until the cubs ran to safety. The male then moved in to the carcass and ate all the remaining meat. He stayed with the carcass for a good 3 and half days. During this time, he was harassed by Spotted Hyena’s who were desperate for some of the scraps – they finally succeeded in chasing him away and feasted on left over bones and skin.