Behavior Sequence: Lion and Cape Buffalo Predation

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Madikwe (pronounced Ma-dek-we) Game Reserve is in South Africa on its northern border with Botswana. It was cattle grazing land that has been converted to a game reserve to provide income for the people who live around it. Tourists cannot do self-drives in the reserve, they must stay in one of the lodges and can only go out on game drives with trained safari guides.

Madikwe is in a transition zone between the Kalahari Desert to the west and the relatively wetter Kruger NP area to the east.

One of the lion prides in Madikwe is composed of 4 lionesses, 2 males who are half-brothers and two several month-old cubs. The reserve has several large herds of cape buffalo. An average male cape buffalo weighs well over a ton. Early one morning the lions went hunting. One of the brothers and two of the lionesses brought down a large male cape buffalo. They did enough damage that the buffalo couldn’t get up but they didn’t kill it. Killing a big cape buffalo in the traditional way of grabbing its throat is dangerous. They had another plan.

Only male lions have a large enough mouth to suffocate an adult male cape buffalo. The suffocation took 15 minutes. Several pride members started eating while the male lion was suffocating the buffalo. while buffalo was still alive a lioness opened the buffalos’ abdominal cavity by tearing out his penis, like a zipper. (Sorry if you are a male and reading this.) Once the buffalo died a lioness thanked the male. Also, a cub paid tribute to its uncle. We didn’t realize at first that the darker maned brother was the one in charge. He had the privilege of eating first. One of the lionesses began removing hair from the buffalo’s back.

Later that day the lions had eaten a lot, but continued to eat even when they were super full. One of the males had other things on his mind, sex. They rest of the pride ate until they couldn’t eat any more. By the next morning the lions were full and a brown hyena and three jackals had taken over the remains. Only one black-backed jackal came in. The others appeared to be intimidated by the relatively large brown hyena. The interaction between the hyena, who looked like he had just come from the beauty shop, and the one nervy jackal was fun to watch.

In about 24 hours a pride of lions, one brown hyena, and a couple of jackals had eaten an approximately 1,600 pound (770 kg) male cape buffalo.

We later found the lion pride. They were all in a meat coma.

The African veld, a continuum of life and death, inanimate to animate.

Cinematography by Judy Lehmberg



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