With a top speed between 48 – 59 kph, which they can rarely sustain for more than a 100 m, lions have to rely on their patience, stalking skills and judgment when it comes to hunting fleet footed antelope and zebra.
On our last natural history filming trip in Kruger, we were fortunate enough to witness an attempted stalking by two male lions. It came shortly after we filmed a mixed herd of zebra and wildebeest grazing the long winter grasses of the Satara section. After leaving the herd, we came across the lions heading purposefully in their direction. With the wind in the lion’s favour and the herds attention focused on grazing, the situation felt perfect for catching a hunt and perhaps even a kill on camera.
Initially the lions moved with purpose and a degree of stealth, weaving between bushes, changing pace and constantly swapping the lead. When they came within 600 m of the herd, their tact changed. They paused for some time, before splitting up slightly almost as if they wanted to come at the herd from both sides.
It was only when the lions advanced another 100 m that the herd stopped eating and started to stare intently in the direction of the oncoming lions. As the lions continued to move towards them the herd started to cluster together, before slowly advancing towards the lions position. While it was impossible to tell whether the herd knew exactly where the lions were, it was clear that they sensed their presence.
When the herd started advancing, it was clear the lions felt that the opportunity had been lost. Their walking stance changed resulting in them becoming far more conspicuous, their pace dropped and eventually the bigger of the two males with the mane gave up completely and lay down.
While the stalk didn’t end with a dramatic take down, there was still plenty of drama and anxious moments. In total it took about an hour and the lions must have covered just over a kilometre. With a success rate of around 30%, the odds were against us and in favour of the zebra and wildebeest this time.
© This video belongs to the Southern African Natural History Unit.