One lioness versus a group of happy-go-lucky ostrich chicks… Although the odds were never in the chicks’ favour, no one expected a full-on killing spree.

What Wild Card traveller Kees van den Dungen thought was a quick quarrel between three adult ostriches soon turned into something far more dramatic. The 13th Borehole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park became the killing ground for a fierce, and clearly famished, lioness.

“As we arrived at the 13th Borehole on 30 March 2017 at about 08:00, many animals were present – blue wildebeest, springbok and an ostrich family with a bunch of chicks. At first a slight altercation grabbed our attention – the waterhole was not big enough for three adult ostriches. A little fight between the birds, we thought,” says Kees.

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Pictures by Mirjam and Kees van den Dungen

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But all was not as it seemed. The Kgalagadi is home to deadly carnivores, always on the prowl for their next meal. And one of them had the waterhole in its sights.

“All of a sudden, a lioness stormed in. She was determined, fixated on one thing – those ostrich chicks. She grabbed one, but just as quickly dropped it again and with deadly intent went after the next, and the next, and the next. I believe she snatched at least eight of the 10 chicks that had just moments earlier frolicked in the short grass. To make matters even worse, six other lionesses were also looking for food.”

Easy targets

“In front of our car lay the first victim – not dead as yet, but unable to move or flee. The chase was all over the place, with the lioness even trying her luck with the adult ostrich, but with no success. With springbok and wildebeest aplenty, I suppose the chicks were a much easier, and certainly more vulnerable target.”

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“The spectacle lasted about an hour and a half. For quite some time after making sure all the chicks were down and out, the lioness still searched the plains for forgotten prey. One wonders whether eight ostrich chicks would still the big cat’s hunger.”

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