Leaving You Breathless

 

To watch predators hunt is always a magical sight, but hardly ever do you get the chance to see the actual kill. Some of us can’t always stomach to see a poor defenseless impala getting dragged down by a ferocious lion, but it happens.

The morning started off very quite with a few birds displaying their colors and aerial agility and a few impala rams running around getting ready for the mating season. As I came around a dam wall Magnum my tracker could hear a troop of baboons high up in a tree alarming at something they have spotted. We quickly raced around to the opposite side of the block to find three lions walking down the road, a mother and two sub adults

While following them back the way we came, we realized that there was a group of Impala grazing not to far from where they are now and started to explain what could happen if the lions caught scent of the Impala. I was still talking when suddenly the lions stopped and stared into the bush about 40m in front of them. One by one the lions moved off the road and into cover. I continued forward until we had visual of both the lions and Impala. The mother was leading the hunt with the rest reforming on either side of her.

Very slowly, as if everything was put into slow motion, the lions crept forward.
With her cold piercing eyes focusing on the herd of Impala the leading female froze. She is only 15m meters from a young Impala calf unaware of its impending fate lurking behind cover. It was like the volume was turned right down at this moment, the tension was thick and everyone was on the edge of their seats waiting. The lioness was set like a sprinter waiting for the gun to go, muscles bulging, body flinching with excitement…..

One last calculation and she’s off, two steps and she was around her cover. Each footstep was perfectly placed, each turn was calculated, she’s gaining ground on the Impala that has by now seen the danger and was trying to flee. She swipes at the rump with an outstretched claw and hits the Impala off balance, within seconds she was at the throat and……silence.

By: Rob Brouard – River Lodge Ranger

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Stay out of the long grass

As guides we are always asked “How often do you see The Kill”. This is a tricky question to answer because the vegetation, time of day, species and mainly luck all play a role. Many times we are able to watch hunts, but to actually see one of Africa’s Big Cats grab hold of something is very rare. Usually we watch them stalk, allowing the animals plenty of room, and keep the noise and lights to a minimum. Fortunately the prey animals at Kapama are just as used to us as the cats are and don’t associate us with danger, so our impact on the success or failure of a hunt is minimal. Once they are in range or are in the perfect ambush spot it is just a question of patience. This can mean sitting for 2 minutes or half an hour until a sudden explosive rush and then a mad scramble through the bush by predator and prey at speeds that have to be seen to be believed. By the time we catch up with the action it is usually all over, one way or the other.

All that said, sometimes it just all comes together. So on a bright, clear summer afternoon we were able to watch a lioness stalk and kill a warthog in the open. The hapless warthog had no idea that its time was up and that the lioness had positioned herself perfectly ahead of its path. The grass was just so long after our summer rain that the Warthog simply did not see the lion until she walked within a meter of it. The lesson learned was that if you can’t see where you’re going, don’t go there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures are stills taken off a video, and though not clear, tell the story better.

Mike Kirkman-Senior Ranger,Kapama Karula

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Rhino vs Lion

Today I was lucky enough to see two of our sub adult lions playing around and irritating a mother rhino and her calf.  The whole thing started when we were following the two youngsters and their mom. The lioness walked straight past our vehicle and laid down for a rest. Quite a distance into the bush we noticed two rhinos standing, starting to settle down for the night. This off course got the attention of the 2 sub adults and brother and sister started stalking the rhinos side by side. Seeing that it was already dark and rhinos in general don’t have good eye sight the lions got to right next to them.   The next moment the two jumped on the backs of the rhinos, holding on for dear life. (They did not make 8 seconds).  The rhinos quickly got rid of the two inexperienced lions on their backs and stood back to back facing the lions. This game carried on for a few minutes before the rhinos decided that enough was enough and they chased the youngsters away.

I was sitting there still trying to take it all in when I suddenly realized: We’re the only real danger here. Although careful of the lions, the rhinos were never really scared or in danger at any stage. The only danger to them is the humans. They walk past us every day and don’t even realize that they are staring their biggest enemy in the face.

The number of rhinos poached in 2010 was 333. In March 2011 we’re already standing on 62. Where is this going? Will there be any rhinos left in a few years from now? I don’t think we realize how big this problem is and that it needs to stop.  Where I used to just drive past a rhino and think that I’ll still see many, I now stop, look and appreciate.

By: Marilize Minaar – River Lodge Ranger

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Lion Lunch

Earlier this week me and my guests were very lucky indeed. As we found our dominant male lion and a lioness we noticed they were hunting. A quick scan around told that they were eying some warthog not even 15 meters away. It all went down very quickly after that with as an end result a warthog piglet firmly grasped by the lioness. Very quickly she silenced her prey, so it will not attract the unwanted attention of other predators, including the male.

The male in the mean time went after his own prey but missed. As we stayed with the female she became very quiet and took her kill into a thicket and kept looking around quite anxiously, she was looking out for the male. Eventually he came back and started looking for her as he did hear her make a kill. In the end he found her and even though she tried he managed to steal her kill from her leaving her with nothing. In lion society the biggest and strongest one get the best and most food, so the lioness had to go on and try again. A very interesting sighing with plenty of action.

By: Roel van Muiden – River Lodge Ranger

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Male Lion

Male Lion

It was the coolest surprise ever! I went on game drive two hours earlier than normal… just to go and find the elephants.Driving around the corner close to the Klaserie River, I almost drove over the male lion. It was really such an awesome experience… and being the only car out at that time of the day we could spend about 40min with him. You can see the wild look in his eyes. He had a giraffe kill close by so he was paranoid about the vultures seeing his supper.

By: Veruschka – River Lodge Ranger

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Karula Midday Madness

Because of the rain during the morning safari some of my guests decided to sleep late.  After breakfast we set out again to make up for lost time.  I wasn’t expecting much activity as it was quite hot by this stage… But were we in for a surprise!

We had found a huge male leopard a few hours before but struggled to follow him because of the rain.  We now went in search of him again and were rewarded with a much clearer view as he climbed a few termite mounds and peered into the burrows, obviously in search of a warthog breakfast.

We were slowly heading back to towards the lodge, easing past a lone buffalo bull along the way, when one of the other rangers gave us a call on the radio.  He informed me that there was some suspicious behaviour up in the skies and so we rushed off to investigate.  Upon arriving at the scene we were astonished to see literally hundreds of vultures in hurricane formation directly above us.  We watched as they came hurtling through the air at breakneck speed towards a dark object lying in the grass.  It was difficult to see exactly what animal they were squabbling over through the writhing mass of feathers.  Our first clue eventually came bounding up to us in the form of a baby wildebeest, clearly confused.  It immediately became apparent to us that his mother had been killed sometime that morning.  He ran up to the vultures, bleating as he went, searching for his mother.  This caused the vultures to scatter and a yellow-billed kite that was “waiting in the wings” took this opportunity to make a half-hearted attack on the youngster.

We were amazed that the calf’s bleating had not attracted any predators as the sound is like someone ringing a dinner bell.  Not long after a black-backed jackal arrived but was clearly more interested in the carcass than the live bait.

A little further down the track we stumbled upon a pride of three lions, one adult female, and two sub-adults (male and female).  They were the obvious culprits of the murder as they all had full bellies and were now sleeping it off in the shade of a river bushwillow thicket, completely ignoring the cries of the young orphan.

This is one story which does not have a happy ending, however, as later that afternoon during the evening safari the lions began to stir again.  They made a beeline straight for the wildebeest calf, made short work of him as if he were a rag doll and dragged him down into the riverbed to be eaten at their leisure.

All photo’s by Rob Overy

Cameron Pearce – Head Ranger, Kapama Karula

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