There is no doubt that lions are extremely powerful predators. Sometimes it might be hard to fathom just how strong and efficient these animals might be.
I recently had an encounter of a lifetime with a resident lion pride. The Othawa lions and the Matimba male were resting at a large dam. All of a sudden there were three old male buffalo that arrived for a late afternoon drink. The buffalo had absolutely no idea that there were lions just a couple of meters away. They headed down to the water with their backs turned to the lions.
The lions could not believe their luck. Without wasting any time, the females got up from their slumber. The young Othawa lions also got up and started moving together with the females. This was the first time that I have seen the youngster’s even attempt to hunt or join a hunt.
As the lions crouched down and calculated their next move, a large elephant intervened. The elephant gave one big headshake and this immediately made the buffalo look up. One of the buffalo turned around. He almost stood face to face with lion pride.
Adrenaline kicked in and the buffalo ran straight towards the lions. I am not sure who got a bigger fright, the buffalo or the young lions. They all scattered. The buffalo locked onto its target and ran after one of the Othawa females. The rest of the pride ran after it and tried their best to encircle the large buffalo.
It was only at this point that the Matimba male lion realised that his nap had been interrupted. He got up to see what all the fuss was about. It was a little comical to see him just standing there, taking in the whole spectacle. With clearly no end in sight, the Matimba decided to step in and show who is really boss.
There was an initial scuffle and the Matimba managed to grab hold of the buffalo’s back. The buffalo thrashed around wildly, like a scene out of a rodeo show gone wrong. The buffalo managed to break free and dashed towards the dam wall. The pride of lions followed in hot pursuit. By this time the elephant and the other two buffalo had fled the scene.
The lions were able to catch up to the buffalo quickly. This time around, the entire pride jumped in and every member had a role to play. One of the Othawa females managed to grab the buffalo by the mouth and tried to suffocate it. The Matimba male jumped onto the back, trying to break the spine, while the older of the young Othawa males tried to pin the buffalo down from behind. The youngest of the Othawa lions started to dig into the hind legs.
It seems that they had finally managed to get a good grip on their prey. The buffalo gave all it had and managed to fling off the female in the front. He managed to get the tip of his horn into the female, but not causing any major injury.
This was the first time that I had seen the Matimba make any effort or attempt at using his strength and power as a male lion. I had instantly gained new respect for the old male lion. He was not going to give up his hard earned meal.
After a great deal of struggle, the lions managed to successfully take down the buffalo. They spent the next three days feasting along the water’s edge. This ordeal provided a great learning curve for the young Othawa lions and the Matimba male held onto his legacy as a power not to be trifled with.