Monday, 23 September 2013

Lion Hunt in Hwange

Bored or tired, one of the males that sat under a tree while the five females (plus cub) initiated the attack strategy (all pics, except the vultures, by Natalie)

Witnessing a 'kill' in Africa is one of the things most visitors say they want to experience. But somewhat ironically, once seen, many then say they could have done without the "reality". It can be a messy, brutal and not necessarily fast process. I decided to take the option of spending the afternoon in the one of the two hides at The Hide, a game resort in Hwange Nat Park in Western Zimbabwe. It's an awesome location and a place full of game and elephants! Elephants everywhere. On the day we arrived, the park was conducting a census. They counted 452 elephants at the Hide's waterhole. It was spectacular. Anyway, I got settled in to the hide and Nat went off on a game drive. 

This is probably the more experienced lioness beginning the hunt - adopting that typical cat-like pose when prey has been sighted.

Finally the buffalo is dead and the lions take turns in tearing into the flash. We returned the next day to find upwards of 200 white-backed vultures fighting over the remains of the carcass...

Not many animals were showing themselves. We drove out quite a distance alongside the railway line, glimpsing the odd hornbill and steenbok (fairly common sightings). Nicholas, our guide, had an idea that something might be going down in a sparsely vegetated area some distance off so that's where we headed. Through his binoculars, Nicholas glimpsed movement. "There are lions" he said. There were two male lions sitting under a tree not far off. We approached, cautiously.. We stopped to take snaps, then Nicholas noticed several more lions and a small group of buffalo. "They're hunting" said Nicholas. Sure enough the elder lioness was clearly stalking the buffalo.

The other lionesses, accompanied by a young cub were approaching the buffalo from the other direction. The males showed no interest from their post under the tree. Then it all started. The lioness cut one of the buffalo from the pack. It tried to charge the threat but one of the lionesses jumped on its back and pretty soon six lions joined in the fray. The cub circled at a safe distance. The buffalo fought valiantly but eventually, with the aid of one male lion that pounced on its back, was brought to the ground.
The process was confronting to watch as more than once the buffalo managed to get back on its feet and run even after being savagely bitten and slashed. It was interesting to note that the lions kept well away from its horns and it was the sheer weight of attackers that eventually defeated the buffalo. It took at least 20 minutes to finish the job.

Finally brought to a standstill, the buffalo succumbs to the overwhelming animal firepower of six hungry and determined lions
Shot from a distance in fast fading light with the Canon EF 100-400mm (at full magnification and ISO 4,000), you can still get a good impression of the drama unfolding. Bear in mind these images were shot from a jeep using only a monopod for stability.
Aftermath of the hunt. 200+ vultures eventually move in to clean up what the lions did not finish.

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