Doing the right thing by them, whether they like it or not!
Story and photos by Dom Oldridge, while staying as a guest at Lake Manze camp in the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania.
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By 9:30 am in mid-October in the Selous Game Reserve we’re on a game drive some 15km from Lake Manze Camp. It has not rained for weeks now and temperatures even this early are rising to above 30oC (+86oF) of dry, windless heat. It’s good to be moving!
We’re cruising along a band of sandy beach and dried lake bed; to our left is a small greening pond of still water, ahead of us a long reach of sandy causeway. We spot vultures gathered in tree-tops!
Scattered up the causeway, we see four or five lionesses accompanied by a large mixed bag of adolescents. They’re not young and cute fluffies, but “teenagers”. Leggy, dark spot markings still along their flanks, but very clearly developing more adult forms.
A bunch of rowdy teenage adolescents, still wholly reliant on their weary, resigned and patient Mums, Aunts and Grannies!
Earlier that morning a herd of water buffalo must have passed through, leading down to the dried, depleted left over traces of the lake, looking for water. From the top of the causeway and down towards the beach are clear signs of a violent, evolving ambush. We see three dark mounds that can only be kills.
The three mounds are very exposed and open to any and all other predatory eyes. The vultures that we saw in the trees are a clear give away for any hungry, big male lions.
As we take in the whole scene, beneath a scrawny small palm bush a lioness pants in the rising heat, alongside three youngsters and their kill. The increasingly smaller and smaller patch of shade is becoming a squeeze.
Kicking up dust, the lioness decides it’s time to move. Picking up the carcass, she moves out into the open. She pauses to scan for a suitable hiding spot and the smallest youngster piles into the belly of the kill.
Then it becomes a game for the youngsters. As the adult expends her energy dragging the buffalo, it’s chase-time! With claws dug in, the Mum has to drag both along.
As the second joins the chase and be dragged game, the weight of them all trips her, so she pauses to take some deep breaths.
Just long enough for the third adolescent to come bundling in!
With a final effort of extreme muscular determination, the youngsters literally in tow, it’s back to the haul.
Amongst a rising cacophony of mewls, growls and squeaks of complaints from the unappreciative teenagers, our intrepid heroine at last finds a cool, shady, relatively hidden spot in undergrowth.
Needless to say, without a show of appreciation, two of the youngsters pile headfirst as deep as they can into the belly of the buffalo.
Meanwhile, the beautiful, attentive and very hardworking lioness cools down, all the while keeping a watch out over the young.