Lions vs. buffaloes or is it buffaloes vs. lions?

By Pierre Van der Merwe

It all started on the evening when we heard the roaring of two male lions whilst having drinks on the viewing deck at Clifftop. 10 to 15 minutes later they roared gain, but this time further away towards Site 20 (Kudu lodge).

Two days later, when departing for the morning we found they tracks of the two young males heading down the Clifftop access road towards Site 33 (Nalana lodge), but could unfortunately not find them. Leon from Mohondoro reported hearing a lion roaring in the direction of Site 39 before he left for drive and Rudi from Site 20 reported lions vocalizing close to their lodge at about 03H30 am.

The lions that Leon heard could only be one the two big males from the Western pride and the ones Rudi heard either the other one or the two young males. Either way, nobody had any luck that morning in locating any lions.

The following morning as we started off on game drive, we found the two big Western Pride males at the first low water bridge at Site 33; they were walking from the direction of Mini Ha-ha se pad into the Sterkstroom valley. It was strange finding theses two male in this area as they very seldom venture into the Sterkstroom Valley and further south. I can only presume they chased the two young males from site 20 area further south. This is the second time in the last 2 months that the the two big guys were found in our area as well as the two young males in the same vicinity.

The two walked westwards down the valley, roaring and scent marking all the way as they went. Strangely enough they kept stopping, looking and listening towards the direction of East Gate. Several times they lay down side by side and the one showed and interesting behavior what I can only think to be part of a dominance display, he kept mounting the other male as if he was a female and they were trying to mate. We followed the two for about an hour at a snails pace, observing their territorial behavior and relishing in the fact that we were the only vehicle in the sighting.

What happened next was probably the high-light of any already special morning. At the low water bridge on the eastern side of Site 32, we found 5 buffalo bulls. As the lions came into the buffalo’s sight, the one bull grunted and started trotting over the bridge in the direction of the two lions with the other four buffalos short on his heals. At seeing this, lions as one did an about turn and started running away from the approaching buffalos and fled into the hills. Undaunted the buffalos followed and chased the lions back into the open.

We followed this interaction for another hour! Each time the buffalo came looking for the lions, and the lions would run away. Also interesting was that the buffalo would track the lions by scent each time they lost sight of them.

Finally we decided to call it a morning after spending close on two and a half hours with the lions, including the amazing interaction with the buffalos. In the afternoon we again found the buffalos at the water point in front of Site 32 barely a 100 meters away from the lions. As the lions became active and started moving west, the buffalo caught sight of them and the mornings procedures repeated themselves.

We finally left the lions as they managed the get rid of the constant pursuit of the buffalos and carried on their way down the valley. The next morning their track were followed all the way down the Sterkstroom valley, up Jackal Buzzard road and were finally lost heading in the direction of Matriek Straat.