The Eyrefield Pride take down a buffalo – and a great leopard sighting…

Newington male leopard - Matt Nolden

Newington male leopard - Matt Nolden

Princess Alice Pans Male - Matt Nolden

Princess Alice Pans Male - Matt Nolden

Sunday was a fantastic day for game viewing. The cold fresh air had us all wide awake as we set out in search of some action. Before the sun came up, a ranger spotted the Newington male leopard stalking some impala at the Airstrip, which seems to be a habit of his. As the sun came up, the light glistened off his shiny coat and his spinal rosettes reflected a dark orange colour.  It wasn’t long before another male leopard was discovered – the large Princess Alice Pans male, the Newington male’s father.

The lionesses slowly creep up on the buffalo herd - Matt Nolden

The Eyrefield lionesses slowly creep up on the buffalo herd - Matt Nolden

Early morning luck saw a brilliant start to the day, but it was the whereabouts of the Eyrefield pride that had our curiosity. The radio became busy when fresh lions track were called in after being spotted at the Matshipiri river. Since the tracks had come from the direction of their kudu kill, it must have been the Eyrefield Pride and the one Manyelethi male. Further searching led to the discovery of a herd of buffalo not far from the lion tracks. It appeared likely that the lions were once again trailing the tail end of another herd of buffalo. As expected, the pride was soon found – thirty metres from the herd. With looks to kill, the lioness’s seemed intent on isolating a small portion of the herd.

One of the lionesses eye out a potential victim -

One of the lionesses eye out a potential victim -Daniel Fincham

Their awareness of the buffalo’s strength made them hesitant to act on impulse, and we all had to wait patiently for their next move. Thirty minutes went by as the lions crept closer and closer, sending the animals at the rear of the herd into disarray. The situation seemed perfect – about six buffalo had been separated from the bulk of the herd, with enough distance for the three lionesses to launch their attack.

A lioness pounces on the buffalo cow's back -

A lioness pounces on the buffalo cow's back -Daniel Fincham

The sounds of the bellowing stampede broke the hesitation of the lionesses, spurring them into action. A full chase through the open area down towards the Kapen river saw the lionesses and older cubs hurtling after the distressed buffalo, making several attempts to grab hold of one. An intense follow up revealed a buffalo cow surrounded by a few of the lions. Amazingly one of the elder cubs tried to take down the cow on his own, guns blazing he leaped on to her back but was quickly shaken off. The angry, but now helpless cow, lacked the support of the herd, and when her bellowing calls were unanswered the three lionesses bought her down to where she was held by all members of the pride. The Manyelthi Male with the scar on his hip was absent during the hunt but was quick on the scene and grabbed firmly round her neck to asphyxiate her.

The lioness sinks her claws into the buffalo's hide -

The lioness sinks her claws into the buffalo's hide -Matt Nolden

The lioness strains for a better grip -

The lioness strains for a better grip -Daniel Fincham

The buffalo calls to the herd - Daniel Fincham

The buffalo calls to the herd - Daniel Fincham

The buffalo's bellowing calls are unanswered by the herd - Daniel Fincham

The buffalo's bellowing calls are unanswered by the herd - Daniel Fincham

Hip Scar Manyelethi male quick on the scene -

'Hip Scar' Manyelethi male is quick on the scene -Daniel Fincham

Manyelethi male with the scar on his hip warning a lioness to back off -

Manyelethi male with the scar on his hip, warning a lioness to back off -Matt Nolden

A snarling lioness -

A snarling lioness -Matt Nolden

A young male cub begins to feed -

A young male cub begins to feed - Matt Nolden

The Eyrefield pride and the Hip Scar Manyelethi male feasted on their buffalo kill. What a sighting!

Matt Nolden

Ranger – MalaMala Game Reserve

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