Coming of age

A young male lion’s first buffalo kill

A week ago, my guests and I witnessed a fantastic hunt and kill by a young male lion that was not only wet behind the ears, but also trying to bring down a sub adult buffalo alone. He had been kicked out of his pride at the age of two by the dominant male, so he never had the opportunity to participate in a hunt.

We were enjoying a wonderful morning coffee stop close to a dam in the middle of the reserve when suddenly a loud bellow came from fairly close by. I confirmed with my tracker, Themba Ngwenya, that the sound was a buffalo distress call and then asked our guests to make their way back to the vehicle so that we could go and investigate. We quickly made our way around the dam and, once the screeching sounds got louder, we sighted the young male lion being dragged around in the dirt by a buffalo.


Lions have dewclaws on the inside of their front paws, which act as hooks, and the youngster was using these to get a grip on the buffalo. We sat and watched in amazement as he tried his best to bring the mammoth herbivore to the ground. When lions move in prides, they usually attack their prey from different sides, killing it as fast and efficiently as possible, but because this male was alone it took him close to forty five minutes to tire out the buffalo. Once it went down, the lion immediately changed his position, grabbing the buffalo by the throat to suffocate it. Not long after he had caught his breath, he dragged the carcass into a thicket to keep it out of the sun and to hide it from vultures.


This sighting was not only a lesson for the lion, but also a fantastic experience for my guests and I. It may have been hard to watch, but that’s nature at its best. At least he’s proved that he’s got what it takes to survive in the African bush.


Written by: Gregory Heasman
Kapama Karula

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