I am not sure why humans are like this, but there is certainly a peculiar and morbid, almost bloodthirsty desire to want to see a kill when they come on safari. At DumaTau I saw my first ever lion kill – and I have been travelling to the bush since I was a little girl – which is a very long time ago. I have certainly seen lions on a kill (and leopards and cheetah, and wild dog in fact), but I have never actually witnessed the take-down.
On our morning game drive, we witnessed three kills. The first was a goliath heron that had killed a catfish. Actually, when we arrived, the catfish was already dead and the heron was swinging it around, then dropping in it the water, then picking it up again. This went on for some time until eventually it went headfirst into the beak, the heron straightened its long tapered neck and down it slid.
The second kill was up in a tree. An osprey had a bream and it was busy eating from the head region of the fish while the tail still flapped a few times indicating that it was not yet dead! However, it was already feasting on its prey. An osprey is a very rare sighting so it was truly spectacular to see one on a kill.
My favourite animal is the giraffe. We were just dawdling along when we saw yet another magnificent herd of giraffe and I was oohing over a little baby that looked particularly cute with its thick baby neck looking a bit concertinaed. But we were now looking for lions as the tracks had been found that morning and were fresh. Not much further along we saw two lionesses and my immediate thought was that they looked thin and hungry. And then I realized they were hunting.
For a moment we lost visual of the lionesses, but then they popped out into the open and they were fixated on the giraffe. I lost sight of the one female, but the second one was single-mindedly focused on her target. Across her vision ran an adult giraffe, then the baby, then another adult giraffe. With lightening speed and utter precision the lioness ran and leapt in the air to grab the baby’s throat.
Giraffe scattered in all directions as the first lioness chased them off at the point where the baby had been taken down. She then joined her sister at the kill. The lioness was panting as she held her grip tightly around the throat of the giraffe. The giraffe continued to breathe, slowly and deeply with its belly rising and falling trying to drink in air through the restricted vice grip. And then the lioness dropped the neck and it thudded down onto the grass. But the struggle to survive overcame won over and the baby tried to sit up by lifting its neck, wavering, legs kicking out to find purchase to stand. The first lioness attacked its throat with such force a loud crack of crushing bone was heard. The lioness did not let go. It seemed to take forever, but thankfully they did not feed off the giraffe yet. Almost respectfully they waited for their prey to die. We sat vigil until the last breath escaped the tortured giraffe and it finally gave up.
The lionesses fed themselves and their three-month old cubs on the carcass, while not too far away a mother giraffe towered over the trees and looked mournfully in their direction. It is an emotional experience and you have to resign yourself to the toughness and cycle of life that is Nature.