It’s always a thrill to see the big cats in action. At a waterhole in the Kruger National Park, two fierce lionesses hunt buffalo. By Gaynor Siljeur
There are few things more exciting than witnessing a predator in action – especially seeing the hunting techniques of the biggest cats in the bush. No-one can attest to that better than Mohammed Jinnah and his family, who were at the right place at the right time to see a lion kill.
On a sunny winter’s morning in 2016, the Jinnahs arrived at Mazithi Dam, about 20km north of Tshokwane Picnic Spot in the central region of the Kruger National Park.
“There was a herd of buffalo drinking on the left side of the dam and we could see a lone male lion at the far end. The buffalo were oblivious to the lion and merrily went about having a drink,” Mohammed recalls.
The Jinnahs waited with bated breath to see what would unfold. “We thought the distance between the lion and the herd was too great, but after about 15 minutes the lion was up and charging the buffalo.”
“As the herd scattered, two lionesses we hadn’t noticed till then emerged from the grass and joined the charge,” Mohammed recounts.
One buffalo panicked and became stranded at the edge of the water, separated from the herd. Considering its options for escape, the solitary buffalo opted for the apparent safety of the dam.
The lionesses waited patiently to see what the buffalo’s next move would be. Unfortunately for the big bovine, the water had some dangers of its own lurking beneath the surface. A crocodile emerged, leaving the poor buffalo between a rock and a hard place.
When the croc started moving towards it, the buffalo decided to get out of the water on the right side of the dam. It crossed the road behind Mohammed’s car with the lionesses in hot pursuit.
The buffalo’s fate was sealed when the lionesses caught up with it, securing a sumptuous repast for the entire family.
Timing it just right, the male arrived with another lioness and cubs in tow, and the whole pride settled down to join in the feast.
“We were really lucky that they ended up right in front of us and the scene got to play out in front of our eyes,” Mohammed concludes.
Celebrating the royals of the bush
Lions are rapidly becoming one of the world’s dwindling species. According to National Geographic, there are now half as many lions as 25 years ago. Even rhino outnumber them. The big cats have seen their habitat and prey shrink dramatically, which brings them into conflict with people. Poaching for skin, teeth, paws and claws puts further pressure on lions.
World Lion Day is commemorated each year to put the focus on the species’ conservation. South Africa is home to about 3,500 wild lions. Wild Parks such as Addo, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, Hlane, Karoo, Kruger and Kgalagadi are prime destinations for viewing lions in their natural environment. You never forget the thrill of seeing a lion in the wild, just ask Mohammed Jinnah.
But the number of captive-bred lions in the country outnumber the wild ones. As a responsible tourist, avoid so-called sanctuaries where visitors can pet cubs or walk with lions. If you are lucky enough to see lions, share your experiences with others to inspire respect for these magnificent creatures.