We had an amazing spectacle on a drive the other morning where we witnessed the Lionesses of the Beho Beho Pride hunt and take down not one, but two adult Wildebeest.
The morning started as normal with the Impala greeting us at the airstrip and the anticipation of what we might find. Thomas and Laura had been on safari for a few days already so I was going to focus more on the other things that The Selous has to offer, like beautiful and interesting birds, special plant life and the General Game that make up the bulk of sightings but often gets ignored. But then, about 20 odd minutes into the drive, Laura spots Lions, I glance over and can see immediately that they are interested in something. All we had to do is look in the same direction to see a herd of Niassa Wildebeest hanging around casually.
So I stopped the vehicle at a distance, this was all happening in a large open area so we could follow it all from a distance, and settled down to watch the scene unfold. I was wondering how these Lionesses were going to cross all the open ground in front of them, but they had that covered, (There is a reason this Pride is in very good condition and that is because there are some very experienced Lionesses that have been working together for years now.) the next moment a flurry of tawny ran at the Gnu from an unexpected angle and this drove the herbivores in a panic, straight at the rest of the Pride. Circling around prey to chase them into the willing paws of other pride members is a known strategy for Lions.
As the action started we moved forward to keep an eye on it all, and in the distance we saw two of the Lionesses grab and latch onto an adult Wildebeest cow, so we sped up a bit and went in closer to see who would win the day. A Wildebeest being grabbed does not always equate to breakfast for the Lions, although at two against one the Wildebeests chances were not very good. On the way there I noticed that the rest of the Pride had gotten hold of a second Gnu in the confusion and had pulled this one down already, the other three Lionesses were there and thus had more help.
In the end the Gnu did not manage to get away and the, I would imagine, happy Lions had two adult Wildebeest to choose from. As the Pride is quite successful at hunting the need to feed is not too high and we witnessed at both kills the youngsters copying the killing grip around the windpipe, just like they saw the adults do a couple of minutes ago, play and copying behavior is an important tool for young Lions learning the ropes.
Quite soon though the adult Lionesses starting to hear and see some disturbing sights, the commotion of the hunt had attracted some Spotted Hyena to the scene. The Lionesses did not like this as firstly they do not want to share any of the spoils of the hunt and secondly, the Hyenas would attack and kill the cubs if they got the chance. So with Chongo (the Lioness with one blind eye) in the front the Lionesses charged at and chased the Hyena around until they had gotten the message that they had to wait for the Lions to finish before they could get their share.
A little while later the Lioness we call Half Tail decided that it would be wise to move one of the kills into a more covered location, in order to hide it from the ever attentive Vultures. But her attempts were thwarted by the cubs who, although absolutely stuffed by that time, thought she was trying to steal the kill for herself and they fought and hung onto the carcass until she gave up, left the carcass out in the open and moved herself into some nice shade. Not long after the first Vultures did arrive proving that she was right. The activity from Vultures can attract unwanted attention from other carnivores that would like a free meal.
What a morning.