Puff adder battle-Kgalagadi-heodor Poettinger-LARGE

Driving solo through the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, one Wild traveller had double the luck with two same-species encounters. One made love, the other war – but at first sight it wasn’t clear which was which.

Make love not war, some say… But in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park both play an integral part in the everyday circle of life. A few kilometres north of Nossob proved a hotspot for Wild traveller Theodor Poettinger, who witnessed two very different rituals.

Theodor quickly hit the record button when two puff adders got tangled in a spellbinding ‘dance’, and a lion couple decided love is in the air.

Theodor shared both his gripping videos with Wild:

“I was alone in my 4×4 and lucky to be at the right place at the right time, I guess. It was my third visit to the Kgalagadi. This time I stayed for two weeks, spending time at Twee Rivieren, Urikaruus, Kieliekrankie, Nossob, Gharagab and Bitterpan,” he says.

Since 2006 Theodor has been visiting Southern Africa at least once a year. “I’ve had a lot of impressive sightings in the Kruger such as lions mating, but puff adders ‘dancing’? Certainly not!”

Dirty dancing?

At first we thought these puff adders were performing some kind of mating dance. Very far from the truth, it turned out, when snake expert and author Johan Marais had a look.

“Great video! This is not a mating dance, but two males in combat. It’s a wrestling match with the stronger male trying to push the weaker male to the ground. The winner gets to mate with the female. More than half a dozen males sometimes follow the pheromones of a single female and then the fight starts,” Johan explains.

Love me or leave me

Did you know?

  • During the course of one to two days, lions mate four times an hour.
  • In the lion kingdom, either the male or female can initiate mating.
  • Mating lasts less than a minute each round.

Additional source: Wild Ways. Peter Apps. Struik Nature. 2014.

*Pictures and video by Theodor Poettinger