Early on a chilly Spring morning, the Styx Pride was lying huddled together for warmth.
Even though we didn’t expect much activity, we sat with them for half an hour – and who could blame us for staying? We were enjoying the breeze and had blankets and coffee waiting in thermos flasks in the back.
We had started to discuss where to have our drinks break and possibly leaving the site, when we noticed a rather clueless nyala fawn, nibbling away merrily at foliage anywhere it pleased.
It was so nondescript that we didn’t notice its approach behind us. Nor had the slumbering lions. This nyala obviously thought there was no such thing as danger on a cold morning.
Unfortunately this error in judgement was to be paid for in full. When it eventually picked up the scent of 11 lions, it seemed like too little too late.
The nyala tried to think of a safe way out without giving its presence away but it was clearly struggling with nerves, and its feeble retreat was noticed by lions that were no longer too sleepy or too cold to move.
At first the cubs just stared while one lioness began stalking the back-tracking nyala lamb, but it was not long before the whole pride was fanning out and cutting off escape routes, while a second lioness looped around to block off any exits up ahead.
Eventually it was this lioness who chased the prey back in and across to the original lioness who had no trouble knocking down the small morsel.
The lions scrummaged over the nyala, pulling it apart in different directions so that the older half of the pride ended up with either a leg, a skull, a rib cage or an internal organ while the younger half were left sniffing around for scraps.
It was quick and classic lion hunting using opportunistic team work, but was over as quickly as it had begun, and was definitely overkill considering the nyala’s pitiful size.
The pride’s tactics could easily have been successful on more mature, larger, and more difficult prey.
Oh well, perhaps the cold makes one hungry, and practise makes perfect!
Words and photo by: Ranger Jamie Sangster