Sunday, December 20, 2009

December 12, 2009 - Kruger

80% of lion kills happen at night, so the chances of seeing a kill are quite small, unless one happens across a hunting pride of lions on a park-sponsored night drive. Throughout the park we have seen evidence of past kills, in the form of skeletal remains (with various amounts of rotting flesh attached); but, we had no expectation of seeing an actual lion kill. However, early this morning we were lucky enough to come across the next best thing - 3 male lions finishing off a buffalo that they had taken down before dawn.

Male lions, like the ones pictured below, will often scavenge their food from the kills made by their harem of lionesses. However, outside of the mating season, a group of bachelor males like these will band together to hunt.

Buffalo is not a mainstay of the lion's diet. They are more likely to go after smaller prey such as zebra, waterbuck, wildebeest, and impala. However, a large group of females or a small group of males, which are 25% heavier than lionesses, will occasionally supplement their diet of antelope with a big buffalo.

Buffalo is riskier game for the lions than antelope. The buffalo's horns are a brutal defensive weapon. Female buffalo will mass together to protect their young, using their broad bodies and sharp horns to shield them. Male buffalo, outside of mating season, tend to wander away from the herds in search of food, making them a more likely target for lions than female buffalo.

Gnawing on the spine

We are not sure what part of the buffalo this is, but it looks like a giant lobster claw to this pair of New Englanders

Buffalo are one of the most feared animals in Africa. They are responsible for goring and killing approximately 200 people a year. Other than humans and lions, the only other predator capable of taking down an adult buffalo is the spotted hyena. If attacked or cornered, a herd of buffalo will not hesitate to fight back as shown in the sensational amateur wildlife video Battle at Kruger.

Was that tasty? Apparently.

After the lions had eaten their fill, they wandered off one by one to find a shady spot to digest. Then a jackal that had been lurking nearby, waiting for his opportunity, scurried in to work over the scraps. As the jackal ate, the raptors and vultures and that had been circling overhead landed nearby to wait their turn at the buffalo buffet.

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