How many lions does it take to bring down a fully grown female giraffe? Recently I had seen a pride of 27 individuals effectively complete this daunting task.
To put the stats into perspective, a female giraffe can stand 4.3 m tall and weigh up to 800kg. While a lion only stands 1.2m at the shoulder and is usually around 190kg…if these two were boxers, they would not be in the same division!
However, on this particular afternoon in a different reserve, it seems like the single male that we encountered had not received the email stating that you needed backup to help complete a kill.
“There is a dam close by that I want to check out before heading back,” said our guide as the first drops of rain started to make themselves felt. The storm was still a way off and we were all hoping that it would bypass us, so it was off to the dam at a slightly increased pace.
Unlike most stories that start with “Once upon a time”, in this instance that was not the case as we were trying to get back to our lodge before an incoming storm bumped large amounts of rain on us. But never let a lightning storm get in the way of a possible sighting…The dam, as it turned out was filled with Egyptian Geese and more Knob-billed ducks than I have ever seen before. Interesting but not exciting.
Until the tracker quietly said “There is a fallen giraffe on the far side of the dam”…and that got our adrenalin pumping.
Fallen giraffe, sleeping lion…
We headed off for the far side of the dam expecting to find an entire pride greedily feeding on the carcass, however, we found one lone male lying and panting close by as the sky darkened and the rain became more insistent.
Usually, lions will drag their prey under a bush or into a thicket to protect it from scavengers, but trying to drag a giraffe is NOT n easy task and it turned out to be an advantage for us as this particular kill was in the open and easily accessible by our vehicle.
How could a single animal do this? Well from the signs on one of the sandy banks it looks like the giraffe had slipped and fallen and once down, giraffe are easy prey as they cannot get back up again.
It turned out that she was pregnant which could have been part of the reason for her falling while being chased. Either way, this was an enormous amount of meat for one animal to consume. This was the prize for this particular male and the foot of the foetus can clearly be seen on the right.
Lions, once they have killed will not move far from a kill and with the thrumming of the rain on the bonnet, we donned ponchos and headed back to the lodge hoping for two things… 1] The lion and the carcass would still be there in the morning and 2] we would be able to outrun the storm.
We were correct on the first and wrong on the second, arriving back at the lodge soaked to the skin but unphased by the experience. In an urban setting, being rained on is NOT fun, but in the bush, it has become part of the memories from our visit to KwaMbili. A tale to be shared with those who escaped the rain and were already back at the lodge enjoying a pre-dinner drink.
Being alone, the lone male was under threat from the other lions in the area, so it was with excitement that we found that he had been joined by another male and that these two could be the beginning of a new coalition.
We returned later that evening to find the male at the dam, drinking copious amounts of water. He moved from the edge of the dam to a pool of water right next to our vehicle and as we sat in the darkness, in silence, we could clearly hear the sound of his breathing and the lapping of his tongue. A truly memorable experience.
Before we left the reserve, we stopped at the carcass one last time. By now the vultures had arrived. This Hooded Vulture was returning from having a drink to continue to feast on the large amount of meat still on the carcass.
This was one of the early arrivals. This young hyena had tried to get near the giraffe and was promptly chased away by the lion, who at that stage, was not sharing any of his spoils with anyone.
This is the unending cycle of predator and prey, for the former to survive, the latter has to die.
When your fellow guests surreptitiously take a picture of me explaining SOMETHING to my wife. Thanks to Ian and Jane for this…
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