The month of August 2009: saw some spectacular lion sightings on the Shindzela concession in the Timbavati Game Reserve, South Africa. For a period of 4 days in early August, we were able to witness a pride of 12 lions pull down a buffalo. This brought great opportunities to watch the social interactions of the pride, and also to fully experience the process in nature that occurs when a kill is made. This pride of lions is known in the reserve as the “Caroline” pride. This pride varies in size from 12 – 16 members, and they regularly attack buffalo – it’s a large animal that can adequately satisfy the hunger of such a large pride. Late one night, we heard the pride attack the buffalo, and early the next morning, we set out with the Landrover to locate the kill. On finding the kill, we settled in to observe this pride of lions feeding off the buffalo.
The initial feeding on the kill was dominated by a large and very aggressive male lion (featured in photo), whilst some of the braver females fought for a place to feed at the carcass. A while later, a lioness with two small cubs, aged approximately 2 months, tried in vain to be allowed to feed from the carcass, but was chased off each time by the stronger, more dominant lions. She had to wait her turn. This lioness was very careful to keep her cubs far from the rest of the feeding pride, and hidden in the thick bush.
Later that evening, the spotted hyenas in the area began their distinctive, haunting calling, alerting each other each other to the presence of food. The lion pride had gorged themselves on the buffalo meat all day, and had moved away from the kill site, giving Africa’s premier scavengers an opportunity to feast on the left over meat. At one point, over 11 hyena’s visited the carcass, varying in age, and allowing us to truly witness their social behaviour and feeding habits.
The next day, the carcass had been spotted by white backed vultures, who were all over the kill, and were now able to feed in a relatively undisturbed manner. Today, the only evidence of this powerful, natural wildlife drama that lies in the African veld are the bones, and even these will be broken down by small carnivores, ants and bacteria – Dave Falkner, Shindzela safari guide.