A misty morning mystery…
By Monde Galelalimali

Mist is a funny old thing on safari. It certainly adds a layer of mystery and intrigue; what could be in store under the blanket of cotton wool? It can, however, also mean that you can’t actually see anything! Stopping to listen frequently can be the best way to find animals: lions or leopards roaring, alarm calls, and even the sound of branches breaking can indicate the presence of wildlife, and animals also often stick together until the mist lifts, so if you are in the right place at the right time, it can make for excellent sightings. But sometimes, things happen that you just can’t quite piece together, as Monde found out on his early morning game drive…

“On this particular morning, we set off for our morning game drive despite the blanket of mist carpeting the reserve. We couldn’t see very far but suddenly, a young male lion came into view a short distance from the road. He was alone and standing very still, staring in a specific direction and watching and listening to something that we couldn’t see. We stopped the vehicle and looked and listened carefully in the same direction he was. We could hear the sound of hooves clattering over loose stones and lots of branches breaking. It turned out to be a herd of waterbuck who were in a bit of a state, probably after smelling the lion but not being able to see him. We watched the chaos for a little while alongside our young male and, after enjoying some time with them, we moved on.

By this point, the mist was starting to lift nicely and a short distance from where we left the young male lion, we found one of the North Pride lionesses. She was lying down and had chosen the perfect spot to do so, in the midst of a rhino midden. The spot was both warm and provided a welcome cushion for her. It was also behind a small bush, which blocked the breeze that had picked up as the mist lifted

Looking closely at her face, we spotted fresh scratch marks just below her nose and a wound between her eyes. We had recently seen her with her daughter and a young male and she certainly didn’t have the injuries then… clearly it wasn’t a peaceful night! When we thought back, there had definitely been something not quite right with the young lions’ behaviour, and they had also been in the territory of the Boschgift Pride. Had there perhaps had been a fight?

A few weeks ago, we found the Boschgift lioness with a new litter of cubs, and an encounter with the North Pride would have had terrible consequences. The young males from her previous litter would have been in serious trouble if that had happened. But this North Pride lioness, and the young male we saw, were not full and had no blood stains on them. Perhaps there wasn’t a fight, and the wounds were simply over a hunt that went wrong. Could the scratches have been caused by the horns or hooves of a desperate animal as it made an escape?

We do suspect that something more than a simple hunt went on, but at this stage the real reason remains a mystery. We will wait and see what happens in the coming days and if we come across our answer, we’ll certainly let you know.”

All photos by Doc Ndyawe