All’s fair in love and war, says the proverb, but not necessarily in nature – as Shumba guide Isaac Kalio observes in the Busanga Plains…
We are out on a morning game drive when we meet up with the resident remnant Papyrus Pride near Shumba. As we get closer we identify the female Maggie, who is now the confirmed mother of the two cubs. With her is her adopted cub (originally Queen’s), plus the two sub-adult males (Castor and Pollux), the Killing Machine’s boys. We notice she is restless and constantly looking at some antelope in the distance; we all guess she is hungry, though she eventually realises too late they already have a visual of her. We decide to pull out and head back to camp, leaving them to rest as it has started warming up and my guests don’t want to sit and watch sleeping lions.
At quarter past three I get a call to hurry to the main area. When I get there my guests are watching a lioness hunting in the heat of the day. Of course this is not unusual for the Busanga lions. She is fully surrounded by hundreds of lechwe antelope but she does not seem to have any luck. We quickly have high tea and straight away jump on a game drive vehicle. Maggie has now advanced to the western side of the camp towards the Hippo Pools, and from afar we see she has a target.
She explodes into action, following a herd of lechwe jumping through the water until one slows down and she eventually takes advantage and manages to bring it down. Within a minute we arrive on the scene to a breathless Maggie. She looks around but there is no cover. I already know what she is thinking and suggest to my guests that she is looking for a place to hide the kill, to safeguard it from vultures and other potential predators. About five minutes later she gets to eat a bit of rump steak.
We are later joined by two other guides, Sam and Newton, and their guests on their game drive vehicles. I whisper to them that she looks like she wants to go and pick up the cubs. With a lot of excitement the guys decide to follow her while she tasks me to look after her meal. Judging the distance, she seems to be about two-and-half kilometres away. We see her taking a slow walk towards the cubs, and half-an-hour later the guys radio to say she is calling the cubs. Unfortunately the bigger twin boys (Castor and Pollux) know the call very well and decide to join the party, heading towards the kill, though none of them knows what to expect. She slows the twins down, resting a few times on the way, hoping they might turn and go a different way, but they keep following her. My heart is racing at the time, thinking of the sun going down. It’s almost an hour-and-half and she is still seen coming, but very slowly.
Sam and Newton quickly move into position for photos but being ahead of them, I have secured myself the king’s position. At 50 metres from the kill she decides to sit. Just as everyone is settling, in the blink of an eye she explodes to get hold of the kill. The pride sees this and starts the race. In few seconds Castor and Pollux arrive and push her and the cubs out.
A kill she has suffered for in the heat of the day is lost in seconds. Eventually the day ends with high emotion, watching the young cubs sympathising with their mother as the boys enjoy a free meal. Another day passes without food. Nature can be so cruel.
Also viewing this amazing sighting was Carel Loubser, whose Busanga Bush Camp guide Sam rushed him and the rest of his guests to the kill site from where they watched Maggie’s fascinating tactics to bring the rest of the pride to feed. Read Carel’s update here.