Client Report: DeAmelia Relentless Enemies

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Travel Beyond game viewing report and stunning photography from client Phil DeAmelia

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Client Report: DeAmelia Relentless Enemies

  1. 1. Relentless Enemies: Lions and Buffalo at Duba PlainsThe interaction between lions and Cape buffalo at Duba Plains in Botswana’s OkavangoDelta is not one of ordinary predator and prey. Blood has been spilled and lives lost onboth sides, and there is an aggression here that transcends simple survival. This is a war.The buffalo herd is huge, numbering over 1,000 animals. They choose to remain con-fined to this one area because of the unique grasses found here. The lions have adaptedto hunt solely from this herd, becoming semi-aquatic in the process due to having to con-tend with the wetlands of the Okavango Delta.The pictures below capture the events during one morning that I spent embedded withthese combatants.It is 7AM, and the buffalo herd is beginning to rouse from their sleep. They spend thenight sleeping grouped closely together to afford better protection from their enemy.28 Dec 2012 Page 1
  2. 2. This particular pride of lions begins its day with a scout surveying the movements of thebuffalo, looking for opportunities. The group is led by a lioness known by locals as “Madi Tau” – Setswana for “Mother of Lions.” She is accompanied by her two young cubs,an adult female cousin, and two sub adult lions.The cubs are insulated from the serious business of feeding the family, and they spendtheir time playing in a nearby tree. Their innocent play is actually training for a time inthe future when they too will need to be the consummate predators to survive.28 Dec 2012 Page 2
  3. 3. The buffalo herd is up and has become mobile.The lions look for an opening, a weakness, an opportunity. They find a large male buf-falo which is lagging behind the rest of the herd. They begin to move towards a flankingassault on him.28 Dec 2012 Page 3
  4. 4. Ma di Tau leaps out of the bushes and begins the attack, and her cousin quickly joins.The sub adults are not yet experienced enough to participate in the kill.The two adult lionesses attack the rear of the buffalo, trying to avoid sharp horns orstrong kicks from its hind legs which could seriously injure the lions. They have a seri-ous weight disadvantage against a full grown bull, but will work together to bring himdown. The bull is frantically letting out a loud distress call.28 Dec 2012 Page 4
  5. 5. The struggle rages on with little progress and one of the lionesses disengages to try a newtactic.The lionesses move around to attack the bull’s hind legs in an attempt to get his knees tobuckle. This is a very dangerous tactic for the lions as one kick could easily crack alion’s skull.28 Dec 2012 Page 5
  6. 6. The lionesses succeed at getting the bull’s hind legs to give way. Down on the ground,he is losing this battle.However, the bull’s distress calls have paid off. 1,000 strong, the herd has doubled backand is charging to his defense.28 Dec 2012 Page 6
  7. 7. One lioness disengages in the face of the superior numbers.But Ma di Tau continues to hold on to the bull’s tail in this now futile battle. She has lostcubs of her own to the buffalo, and does not give up easily.28 Dec 2012 Page 7
  8. 8. Finally, as the reinforcements rush in, Ma di Tau too begins her retreat at the last minute.They run right past me.28 Dec 2012 Page 8
  9. 9. The furious buffalo watch the lions’ retreat. This is a dangerous time for us to be aroundthem as well.We fall back to join the lions as they regroup and regain their strength.28 Dec 2012 Page 9
  10. 10. After a short rest, Ma di Tau moves off to begin circling around to the back of the buffaloherd again.We scout forward to rejoin the buffalo herd, and find something unexpected. The bullthat was attacked by the lions is down, not because of injuries inflicted by the lions butinstead because the several of the other bulls are viciously attacking and goring him.They are enraged by the scent of lions on him.28 Dec 2012 Page 10
  11. 11. After the attacking bulls move off, several other bulls now begin to try and help him tohis feet. They push their heads under his abdomen and use their combined strength tohelp him lift his weight. Several of the buffalo position themselves to defend him fromus as well.In the end, he is back on his feet after a very difficult morning of being attacked by bothhis enemies and his own kind.28 Dec 2012 Page 11
  12. 12. We scout ahead, looking for other opportunities that the lions might seize. A few hun-dred feet off the path that the lions are on, we find this female buffalo, down and in theprocess of giving birth. The nose of her calf is just visible coming out.The lions see the cow, and move in cautiously and silently to investigate.28 Dec 2012 Page 12
  13. 13. The lead lioness sees the calf beginning to come out and immediately understands thesituation.She begins her attack on the cow.28 Dec 2012 Page 13
  14. 14. The cow is unable to get up, and the lions roll her over. I am expecting at this point tosee one of the more gruesome predatory behaviors: that the lions will simply open herabdomen up and begin eating her alive. The cow is screaming its distress call to the herd.But they are too far away, and will not be coming back to defend her.The cubs and sub adults move in and begin eating the partially born calf.28 Dec 2012 Page 14
  15. 15. Ma di Tau moves around to clamp onto the cow’s head to apply the “kiss of death”. Thiswill suffocate the cow as well as silence its distress calls.The kiss of death being applied. Look at the size difference between predator and prey.In about 15 minutes, the cow will be dead.28 Dec 2012 Page 15
  16. 16. One lion begins to open the abdomen. Lions need Beta Carotene, but their digestive sys-tems cannot process it from grasses, so they eat the livers of their herbivore prey wherethe nutrient is stored. “Cute little cubs” are carnivores just like their parents. This one is enjoying his meal ofpartially birthed calf. The cub has pulled out the head and its ear is visible hangingdown.28 Dec 2012 Page 16
  17. 17. One of lionesses works hard to finish the delivery of the calf. At this point, she haspulled it far enough out to the point where one of the legs has popped out. When wecame back later in the day, the lions had finished the delivery.28 Dec 2012 Page 17

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