The hunt

Mar 07, 2019

It was supposed to be a morning like every other while out on the reserve, heading out and seeing what predators were still active after the rainy evening before. Senior Ranger Dean Pieters and I, headed out in the direction of where the lionesses, named Nicka and Angel, were the night before.

These two lionesses were orphaned cubs that were rescued in the Addo Elephant National Park and brought to Kuzuko, where they were raised, released and are now self-sustaining predators. Not being able to locate them, we decided to try and find the two cheetah males, as we headed into an open part of the reserve, driving through a beautiful valley covered in lush spekboom.

Just out of the valley we heard baboons calling as they were waking up wet and cold from their slumber. After spending some time just taking in the morning sounds, we proceeded to an open plain area with typical Karoo shrubs and thorn bushes.

A subtle movement caught Dean’s eye… Lions! Cornered in a tree was a young baboon that made a racket that would’ve made most vuvuzela wielding soccer supporters proud. Underneath the intertwined trees, the lionesses tiptoed around, licking their chops, in anticipation for this snack that had nowhere to run. All the while, from a safe distance, the baboon troop told the world how unhappy they were with the way things were playing out with their comrade.

In the past these two females hunted monkeys by chasing them up a tree, one covering the base and one jumping in and bringing the primate down. This is highly unusual behaviour for a lion, as they prefer bigger prey that can give them more energy in return. This happened to be the first time, to our knowledge, where our ladies attempted to make a meal out of a baboon.

Back in the action Angel jumped into the tree, terrorised the baboon, which in turn filled the morning air with his anxious shrieks. After countless approaches Angel eventually made a breakthrough by popping out above the tree canopy, with one terrified baboon taking a leap of faith which turned out to be ill-fated as he met Nicka on the ground. A short chase followed around the tree with Nicka catching up in less than 30 metres to end yet another life with one slap of her oversized paw.

Almost like a close sports game with multiple supporters, the baboon troop ensured that enough background noise was added to the movie scene in front of us while cheering for their relative trying to evade the teeth behind him. Then in the next moment there was a cold silence. The troop realised they are one down in numbers and followed it with a mourning ceremony comprised of a cacophony of sounds.

Back at the breakfast table, Nicka played with her hard-earned meal, but refused to share with her sister. Angel tried her best at getting her mouth on some meat as she was the one who did most of the work but to no avail. Bone crushing sounds filled the air as Nicka started chomping away leaving only one question: who said a queen can’t cater for herself for breakfast?

Written by CF Truter from Kuzuko Lodge Follow more of Angel and Nicka’s adventures here:

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