This morning’s game drive was certainly one of the most emotional drives I have had since I started doing this. It all started well with a few buffalo and a lovely sighting of five lionesses sleeping next to a dam. Not long after I joined the lion sighting one of the other rangers called in some leopards just to the west of us. Full of excitement I put myself in the line up. Leopard was the only animal my guest hadn’t seen and seeing that it was the female with the three cubs, I just had to go.
By the time I left the lions the three leopard cubs decided to wonder away from the mom and straight towards the five lionesses. We all knew what would happen if the lions saw the three cubs. Lions see leopard as competition and would not hesitate to kill them.
At that moment a million questions rushed through my mind. Do you interfere or not? A question that’s haunted many guides for years. Must we interfere and save the cubs we’ve grown so fond of over the last few weeks or do you let nature take its course? Isn’t it survival of the fittest out here? So many questions, so little answers.
At that point I decided to move out of the sighting. Maybe because I didn’t want to see what was going to happen or maybe I just didn’t want to make that choice of interfering or not. Unfortunately as I started driving away the one cub ran towards the road. I saw the three lionesses behind it. Before we knew it the inevitable happened and they got hold of the little one. I immediately stopped, realizing that nothing I would do could save the leopard cub.
I drove off shaking in my seat and as I informed the other rangers of what happened the tears started rolling down my face. There I was, maybe not so big and strong but still a ranger in the African bush weeping like a child in front of my guests. Are rangers allowed to cry? More questions….. Did I do the right thing? I guess I’ll never figure it out. It’s a personal battle that a lot of us will have to face one time or another. Well I cried and I will probably cry again. My heart goes out to each and every ranger that’s ever faced with these questions.
This morning we had one of those drives where we were treated to a spectacular scene at Klein Kariba dam. We came across a herd of about 50 Buffalo and a “crash” of 7 Rhino cooling themselves in the water and mud around the dam. White Rhino and Buffal0 have similar requirements and are often seen together at waterholes or clearings, grazing side by side.
Interaction between Buffalo and Rhino can mostly be described as being “comical” with either the Rhino playfully chasing after the Buffalo or were the Buffalo “spook” the Rhino into a backing run. Aggressive encounters between these two species is quite rare but can occur under stressful conditions i.e a severe drought where the competition for water or mud could lead to a fight between them.
Luckily such instances are rare, and normally they go their separate ways quite peacefully and allow us quite close to them to have a look.
Ranger – Kapama Main Lodge
We had one of the most amazing game drives today. On the way out, the general game was great. My fellow rangers got three different leopard sightings by the time we stopped for sundowner drinks. After drinks we went and looked for the lions and got them at a watering whole. While we sat there two buffalo bulls started chasing them around, an elephant bull walked up to us while this was happening and started showing interest in the lions. Now we have buffalo and elephant after the five lionesses. We followed them for fifty meters and there in the middle of the plain three rhino were, it just got better and better as we sat there. The buffalo feeling a bit intimidated walked off into the distance and the elephant started chasing the rhino…….this went on for the next twenty minutes to half an hour. The lionesses started stalking the elephant and the rhino when the elephant turned around and chased them off. For the first time in my life we saw four of the big five interacting with one another in less than an hour all in a hundred meter radius, making this game drive the most amazing game drive so far.
It is always wonderful to write and comment on all the great and exciting things we see and experience on the reserve, and more so during this time of the year when there are plenty of babies from all species to report on. Unfortunately, even during these times, things can go horribly wrong and nature shows you exactly how tough it is for anything to survive out there or how quickly it could turn deadly.
I thought at first that an “event” like this should maybe not be included on the blog, purely because it is so sad and may be disturbing to our readers, but it would be wrong since this is nature, and except for all the wonderful things we experience, sometimes nature throws a curve ball which makes the most experienced guides’ eyes well up with tears, and even though it is not as exciting and intriguing as some of the posts here it is an equally big and important part of nature and our lives.
This morning we had one of those very emotional experiences as we discovered that our eastern sector lion cubs (about 8 weeks old) had been killed by Buffalo! We only found two, but most likely the third one had the same fate.
The Buffalo had left by the time we found the dead cubs trampled into the mud, but the tracks and signs of the buffalo herd all over the show indicated clearly that they were the ones responsible for goring and trampling these cubs to death.
Strangely enough wile we were trying to get over the shock of the dead cubs around us, some elephants walked passed and shown none of the fascination they normally display with dead animals and or carcasses, and I couldn’t help but think about an experience also reported on previously on this blog about the Elephants trying to get to and kill the lions.
Incidents like this are natural, although alarming, especially to our guests. The fact is that predators, although on top of the food chain, has enemies too and often sustain serious injuries and even get killed wile hunting prey. Buffalo especially are notorious for their bad temper, and would not let a chance go by to get back at the predators that normally persecute them. Unfortunately these cubs were in the wrong place at the wrong time and it cost them their lives. The mother may have been there to try and defend her cubs, but one lioness up against probably 60 buffalo would be suicide, and she will before long go into oestrus and have cubs again, hopefully with better luck next time.
It was a fascinating drive… very eventful, but one me and my guests would rather try and forget as soon as possible.
Ranger – Kapama Main Lodge
This morning we set off on game drive with our ponchos on, ready to go out and find some animals. After some driving around we found elephants, doing their daily routine, feeding and bonding with the young pink elephant. As we were watching the elephants we saw a young bull trying to push a tree over after a few failed attempts, he pushed the tree over with a huge bang and crash, he got what he wanted, the leaves at the top of the fallen tree. The leaves at the top must be better tasting than the ones on the bottom. We left them as we carried on to come across four lionesses lying on the road relaxing, then my tracker said to me, ‘Rhino’, I looked at my side mirror and saw three rhino behind us walking towards the lions. So with lions in front and rhinos behind, I could not move, so all we did was sit still and let them walk past, as they did, the lions saw them, but not interested. The rhinos carried on and then chased the lions, all the lions went in different directions quickly getting out of the rhinos way. Happy to say that no animals were hurt during this encounter.