The guy behind the lens

Saturday, October 12, 2013

On Safari - Wounded Pride

As you may recall from earlier posts, during my African Safari I had the opportunity to follow a small lion pride over the course of several days. On the Ngala property there are three different prides of lions that crisscross much of the territory. It seems that this property was on the edge of their territories and thus none of the three prides staked it out as core territory. The largest of the prides, the Birmingham pride numbers over 20 different lions. Unfortunately, they were spending most of their time in the Kruger National Park during my visit so I did not get a chance to see them. The smallest of the three groups with several new, young males were looking to take over an existing pride. These young rogue males also didn't make an appearance during my visit. The lions I did get a chance to see were a pride of four lions: One adult lioness and her three sub adult children. We encountered them at three separate times during my visit. The first encounter (documented in my post "On Safari - Part One") involved them stalking a herd of impala.

The second encounter involved us following them through some very heavy brush. Despite the thickness of the brush, I was able to get some nice views but you can definitely tell they were not too keen on us being that close!

The third and final encounter with this pride was at the far side of the property as they came down to drink at a water hole in the early morning.

We had heard reports that they had been involved with a carcass in the overnight hours. No one was able to tell if they had made a kill and this was their carcass or if they were trying to steal it from some other predator. The result was that there had clearly been a battle over this carcass. When we caught up with this pride, we observed that the mother lioness had certainly taken the brunt of a very significant fight. As you can see from these images, she had some significant wounds to her flank and her head. What the still images don't show is that she was walking remarkably easily given the nature of her wounds. Those of us with less experience were concerned that these wounds might indeed prove fatal to her. However, our ranger assured us that such wounds while certainly running the risk of infection usually would not be fatal. Another concern brought up by these wounds is if the matriarch of this pride was wounded, would it impact her ability to make sure that her sub adult children could survive to adulthood with the hunting skills they needed. Only time will truly tell.

 One thing this encounter clearly demonstrates is that life in the African bush is never easy. Those of us who do not encounter the drama of the African bush on a daily basis easily forget that hunting for your food each day is not without great peril. Aside from the dangers inherent in killing prey that does not want to be killed, there's also the risk of dealing with confrontation from other predators who want what you may have. The story of this lion pride and my visits with them clearly shows the grittier side of Mother Nature. As much as we may want it to seem like it's a Disney movie, survival often has a rather R-rated script to it.


Anonymous said...

Your wonderful photos illustrate the harsh side of nature.

Unknown said...

Amazing photos of the lions.

Anonymous said...

Incredible photography of nature's beauties ~ what a gift photograph them ~ Hope all survive well ~ carol

Unknown said...

Hi John..Perusing your African blogs.. reminding me of my time at a private preserve outside Kruger..Magical..and yet, so cognizant of what we have lost..these preserves are really vast zoos & we stalk the animals in brush-busting jeeps..and with blazing night lights.. I wonder if this sadness affected you too.. Stunning photography of course..Thanks for sharing..

Toad Hollow Photography said...

Holy smokes there, John, this is quite the series of photographs!! It's funny how we live life here in our communities and how far out of touch we are with the wilds. This post really highlights the dangers and raw beauty of life as a ferocious predator in deep Africa. Mesmerizing to say the least, my friend, absolutely terrific.

A Colorful World said...

The wounds do indeed look very serious! I hope she does well. What an amazing opportunity this must have been for you! Great photos! I would love to do this some time. I know it was an experience of a lifetime!