Wildlife | 23 November 2018
Myth busted - male lions DO hunt!
As a guide, I am often asked if it’s true that male lions do not do any of the hunting and the females ‘bring home the bacon’ so to say. Well, this is not entirely true. The males can, and do, hunt. We witnessed first-hand just such an event recently, although perhaps not in the way some may imagine a lion hunt to take place.
We had found one of the big dominant male lions of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, and he was on the move. Roaring regularly as he went, the male paused frequently to spray on passing bushes to mark his territory. In the late afternoon light, we followed him across a large open plain towards a small valley nearby. It was a spectacular scene and it was here that his behaviour transformed.
He discovered a series of warthog burrows dug into the stony ground, and we could see from the softer sand at the entrances that at least some of them were currently in use. He started sniffing at the entrance of the burrows, checking each in turn, before moving on to the next.
After close to 20 minutes, he found what he was searching for and he began to dig. Using his massive front paws and powerful limbs, he excavated the entrance of the chosen burrow. There was only gradual progress with the hard ground and almost half an hour passed, but he was determined and diligent.
It was abundantly clear at this point that he knew a warthog was hiding within the earth, and he was going after it.
We sat with cameras at the ready with the knowledge that action could take place any second … and we were rewarded for our patience.
Having lost its determination to hide and with the intrusion of its underground home, the warthog tried to make a break for freedom. Loose dirt flying everywhere, it came barrelling out of the burrow entrance, but the male lion had skilfully anticipated this exact moment.
As soon as the warthog was within grasp, the lion latched on with powerful claws snagging into the warthog’s shoulder abruptly stopping its escape attempt. A forceful bite to the side of the neck followed almost instantly, and with it, any chance of shaking free went from slim to none.
In the blink of an eye, absolute chaos had erupted in the setting sun! The warthog writhed around, shaking violently in the unrelenting grip of the lion.
Mouth flung open as it fought for its life, the warthog’s cries were deafening at such close quarters. But, the lion’s resolve was too great and grip was too strong. The male dragged his catch to the side of the burrow.
Another formidable heave, and the lion pulled the warthog clean out of the burrow’s entrance and away from the only, albeit very unlikely, option to escape.
With the tunnel now clear, another warthog made a dash for freedom and came charging out! Fleeing a similar fate was the only objective of this second warthog, leaving behind its less fortunate companion.
The lion had its prize, reward for almost an hour’s effort. He dragged his kill out of sight into the treeline nearby and out of our view. We began the journey back and the fading sunlight drew a natural conclusion to the dramatic scene we had been fortunate enough to witness.
As the adrenalin subsided, we came away with vivid memories, and luckily some epic photographs to share our tale.
IMAGES: Ruan Springorum