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Lion / Croc face off

Lion / Croc face off

The safari season has kicked off this year with superb game viewing and plenty of lion action on the Wafwa (dried up oxbow lagoon) around the camp.

On the night-drive yesterday we spotted four hungry females moving quickly down the Wafwa and obviously hunting. We didn’t have to follow them long before they focused on a large Puku antelope ram out in the open and immediately began to stalk it. Turning off the lights, so as not to interfere, we waited in the pitch-black night, straining our ears for any sound of the hunt. After a short wait there was a sudden rushing of feet, a muffled bleat and a thud. Quickly turning on the spotlight we saw that one of the lions had the ram by the throat and the others were running swiftly toward the action. They soon had the Puku subdued and didn’t waste anytime in beginning to feed. They were obviously very hungry and within minutes had devoured a large part of the animal, tearing off chunks of meat and gulping them down as fast as they could.

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As we sat and watched the lions feeding we noticed that something was moving slowly toward the kill in the darkness to our left. It was a huge crocodile that had come up the steep bank from the nearby lagoon! It had obviously smelt the kill and wanted a share. We watched with fascination as it moved closer and closer wondering what the lions would do once it got there. Our thoughts were interrupted however by a loud splashing in the lagoon and turning the spotlight in that direction we saw a plucky young lioness come dripping out of the water onto the muddy bank. She had been on the other-side and in desperation to get some food, had swum across at least 20 metres of crocodile infested water! She was obviously known to the other females, as they had no problem with her joining them in the feast. We could see another two females on the opposite bank but neither of them were prepared to take the same risk and had to make do with staying put and salivating!

By now the crocodile had moved to within a few feet of the kill but the lions still seemed oblivious to its presence. Within a very short time the Puku was almost completely devoured and one by one the lions tore off a final chunk of meat and moved off into the darkness to savour it in peace. There was just the courageous young lioness left and the crocodile that had silently crept up to within inches of her.

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There was a collective gasp from the car as the crocodile suddenly reared its head, opening its mouth wide and letting out a dreadful rasping hiss. For a second it looked as though it would clamp its toothy jaws onto the head of the lioness.

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The lioness however stood its ground and merely snarled at the crocodile in a condescending manner before continuing to sniff around for any remaining tit bits. She was obviously not in the slightest bit concerned; despite the fact that the crocodile was easily five times her size and hungry. This was certainly one feisty young lioness! Once she had satisfied herself that all the meat was gone she wandered off at leisure into the darkness. The crocodile reluctantly returned to the water with a grumbling belly, leaving us in awe of the spectacular action that occurs so suddenly in the African bush!

Photographically it was a very difficult situation and the resulting images are really just for the record. I bumped the ISO on my D2x up to 500 and used my 70 – 200 f2.8 wide open as the only light source I had was the spotlight.

Content Copyright Patrick Bentley Photography

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