The tractor driver reported a pride of lions lying down on the western bank of Charleston North at the start of the afternoon drive. We were on the eastern bank of the Sand River when we went to follow up.
We couldn’t see anything in the reeds, but heard the sound of a buffalo in distress interspersed with the aggressive growling of lions. The thrashing sound emanating from the reeds clearly indicated that the battle for life or death was far from over. When we arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, we found the Selati pride with a male buffalo.
By this stage the buffalo had been downed and the lions were already beginning to tear open the skin around its anus and testicles. What took us by surprise however, was the fact that there were no lions at its throat trying to suffocate it.
Around the same time a herd of elephants came down into the area for a drink in the river and heard the commotion. Now it’s a well known fact that in these types of situations elephants are inclined to become highly irate, and will often chase lions off their prey.
Due to the nature of the terrain – thick reeds and heavy loose sand – a quick getaway was not an option for our vehicles. So once the elephants came within ten meters, we all fired up our Land Rovers and proceeded to rev very loudly. This seemed to put the elephant herd in check, as they soon stopped dead in their tracks.
They stood for a moment with their ears held open and trunks raised up in the air.
After taking in the situation for another few moments, the elephants backtracked, and then turned around and walked away.
By now it was now obvious that the downed buffalo was past getting away. But if none of the lions were going to go for his jugular or clamp his muzzle shut, it was going to be a long painful death for him.
Then to everyone’s amazement the air suddenly filled with a sweet stench, as the the buffalo began coughing up his stomach’s contents. His eyelids dilated, and within a short space of time his head sank to the ground and his body went limp.
This big bovine had literally drowned in his own stomach fluid. The pride then set about devouring its remains.
For most of the day the lions fed, only coming up for air sometime after sunset.