Ranger Jessica Tyrer had an exhilarating experience on a game drive recently. A male lion tested the boundaries with a herd of buffalo! Read her blog to read about this thrilling experience with two members of the Big Five and to find out who came out on top.
As a ranger we encounter so many memorable moments out in the field. This particular drive had to be a highlight in my career. We had approached a small herd of buffalo that I had managed to spot from a distance, we drove up to them and chatted about the animals. I had discussed the behaviour of these animals and tenacity that they show towards predators to the guests. We chatted about signs of behaviour when in tough situations with predators. I left the buffalo and not even 100m down the road, a young male lion had come out from his hiding spot. He had his eyes glued on a herd of Red Hartebeest that was 50m ahead of the buffalo. The guests all asked if he was going to stalk the Red Hartebeest. My realistic opinion kicked in and said, have a look at the vegetation, he doesn’t have any cover to hide and get closer to those animals. So the likelihood of him achieving success is highly unlikely. The Red Hartebeest spotted him on his first movement towards them.
This particular young male lion was amusing as I had watched him in the past, he likes to, let’s say…
“bite off more than he can chew”. With his inexperience he strolled directly towards the Red Hartebeest who were giving off snorting alarm calls. They quickly retreated to a safe distance turning to stare him down as they continued to snort loudly. The young male lion continued to stroll past the Red Hartebeest, irritated that he wasn’t experienced enough to outsmart them or find an easy option for a meal.
This young male lion continued past and to my horror he got sight of the buffalo. Knowing a little bit about his character I could just tell what was coming. I didn’t place my bets on the lion. He began stalking the buffalo, not using much camouflage with his approach. The buffalo weren’t aware of his presence.
He snuck in closer and closer, and then suddenly, a female spotted him and gave off a snort to the others in the herd. Unfortunately, our view was obstructed for his half-hearted attempt to go for them. He stopped in his tracks and the buffalo took off. Like I had explained to the guests, buffalo have the tenacity, and a tendency, to come back and challenge predators to move them out of their comfort zones. The buffalo regrouped and the chase began with a herd of buffalo now charging at this young male lion. He didn’t think it was serious but you could see his face change in the process. Where I had positioned the vehicle was lucky, right place, right time and the action came in our direction. The lion high-tailed it past us with buffalo in toe. It was a super action-packed sighting!
The male lion tried in vain to stand his ground, but the buffalo continued in their pursuit, until he had eventually learnt from his experience that he may be a male lion, but he will have to learn from mistakes to be a successful, dominant male lion in future. No harm came from the experience which is indeed lucky. Over the years he will learn from this lesson and become more knowledgeable and experienced. As a ranger I loved that sighting, the guests were ecstatic! It’s not often we find ourselves speechless and humble to have watched all that unfold right in front of us.