We had a pretty incredible night a couple of days ago. We had gone down to the southern part of the Save Valley Conservancy (to Arda Ranch) to try and collar a pack of wild dogs. Whilst at the den, the manager of the property informed us that they had just found a buffalo bull freshly killed by lions.
Having failed (again!) to dart the dogs, we went off to have a look at the kill site and were fortunate enough to see two lions on the kill when we arrived. They were both scruffy, cheeky young males, and we watched them for a while before they moved off into the bush.
Coincidentally, we had with us all the lion call up and darting equipment as I had been planning to try and collar a lion further north, on my way back home that evening. So we decided instead to loiter in the south (generously hosted for lunch by Clive Stockil and renowned painter Lin Barrie) and return to the carcass later that evening.
We hadn’t been at the carcass for more than half an hour when we saw the lions approaching. It was not yet fully dark and we could easily see enough to count them. Having expected 4, possibly 5 lions (which had been seen earlier) we were a bit surprised when we had counted 5 and they kept coming! It turned out to be a group of 5 young males and 2 adult females. At least to start with….
It was almost a full moon, so we didn’t need to shine a light much and spend a while just enjoying the activities of the young males on the bait, as the adult females (the only ones we wanted to collar) were staying away from the carcass. A short while later, a lound rustling in the bush behind us heralded the arrival of a group of elephants on their way to water. They started to move past us about 60m away but were very nervous – of us or of the lions we were unsure. However, a sudden and decisive mock charge by the whole group of eles towards the lions, soon clarified that one!
Just prior to the charge, the elephants had all been standing together in a line, with the matriarch bringing up the rear. They were standing silently, when I heard the sound of another ‘large animal’ approaching from behind them. Assuming it to be another elephant, I was very surprised to see it was in fact a white rhino bull!!!
He slowly meandered on past and a while later the elephants moved on too. Peace resumed at the bait with the 5 young male lions stuffing themselves even fuller and the two adult females lying off to one side. We were waiting quietly for the adults to come to the bait, when there was suddenly a big disturbance at the bait, with a lot of growling and general chaos. We put the spotlight on, and what did we see but one of our collared lionesses who had arrived to shift the boys off the bait!
We think she had come in with an adult male (from the roaring going on behind us!), him being greeted with excitement by the two adult females we were trying to dart!
Eventually we left them to it, and started the 1.5hour drive home. All we needed to see was a leopard to make it a ‘Big Five’ day (we had actually seen some live buffalo earlier too) but we got a civet instead :). Nonetheless, an incredible night.