September 7, 2009

Elephants and Lions in one sighting! Garth Edwards

We had seen lions(3 juveniles, 2 cubs) on the morning activity, so i decided to take the afternoon group down south in search of these lions, as this group had by this time, had only one encounter with big game, compared to the other group's 8 varied encounters. We searched the area on foot, desperate for a glimpse of tawny fur; to no avail. We then moved to a dam in the area and scoured it for tracks, again to no avail. I decided on a circular route around the area that we had seen them in, hoping to find tracks exiting this block of thick bush.

As we drove along the southern leg of this block, we encountered a mixed herd of impala and i deemed it opportune to discuss the merits of this species; fortunately. While discussing impala evolutionary success, we heard the shrill scream of an elephant cow and the snapping of branches approximately 200 metres away. We immediately headed in that direction and as we stopped on the northern leg of the block to listen, we heard the low moan of a lioness calling her cubs. Wow, what luck! I decided to proceed to the elephants as i knew the location of the lions. We rounded a bend and had a glimpse of elephant hurriedly crossing the road before us - females and young! I stopped to give them space. They passed to the north and we drove further east to find room to turn around and stopped abruptly, finding our way blocked by a female and 2 calves. I switched off and we sat in silence. The female's temporal glands were dark with stress induced fluids; more flowed as we watched and i whispered for absolute silence. She motioned the youngsters ahead of her, then angled in towards us, her head high, her tail horizontal. Her head came down and she charged. I shouted, asking her to to back off; to relax. She seemed to hear and comply as she veered off and disappeared. We turned around and drove west, over a small rise and directly in amongst the lions! The adult male, two females, three juvenile males and two cubs surrounded the vehicle. Awesome! Mark Pretorius was on the tracker seat; his camera sounded like a machine gun.

Then the elephants returned. They had heard our voices as we discussed the lions and had come to investigate. Ears wide, heads held high, they approached, rumbling their disapproval. The younger lions reacted and some of them half-heartedly began stalking the elephant. I moved the vehicle further west, in an attempt to avoid the pending confrontation, unfortunately disrupting the lions. The lions soon settled on the southern side of the vehicle and we had an amazing visual feast of lions ensconced on tawny grass with elephants as a backdrop. As the elephants walked past the lions on their way to a dam in the area, it also became apparent why they had been so unsettled. Hidden within their midst's was a hairy little new-born!
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