In a remote corner of Africa, so remote that there is often no access to it by road, a tiny, sandy island is home to a fascinating group of lions who live on a diet restricted to Cape Buffalo.
Survival of the fittest
Years ago, when the course of the river changed, the lions and buffaloes found themselves in a unique situation after being left stranded on a 200-square meter island. The lions had to learn to adapt in order to survive. And so they did. These Duba Plains lions stalk swamps, swim in deep water and hunt by day, attaching themselves to their prey and following their every movement.
With time, the lions adapted their hunting techniques to their new situation. In response, the buffaloes learnt how to cope. Again, the lions honed their hunting skills.
At first, the lions would lie in wait along the river at spots where the herd would eventually stop for water. So, deciding on safety in numbers, the buffaloes grouped together and formed a massive herd numbering 1, 200.
There were three different lion prides at first – Skimmer, Tsaro and Pantry. Now it is only the Skimmer and Tsaro prides that still exist.
These lion packs hunt their prey in different ways. While the Skimmer pride ‘poaches’ their prey by encroaching on territory that isn’t theirs, the strong Tsaro pride interact with their victims. They live alongside the buffalo herd, following them as they move through flood waters and ambushing the younger and weaker members of the herd. They keep a close eye on the herd, looking out for signs of weakness and opportunities to attack.
Once again, the buffaloes found a way to deal with their predators. When ready for sleep, the buffaloes gather together and collectively drop to the ground with their horns facing outwards, protecting themselves when at their most vulnerable and presenting the lions with an intimidating defence line. How do the lions react? They follow suit and catch some z’s too. When the buffaloes venture off again, the lions are spurred into action and once again commence stalking their prey.
Due to their strict diet, the Duba lions not only hunt differently, but they look different too. They dwarf other lions with their huge muscles and the lionesses are almost the same size as males on the Botswana mainland.
The scenes in Duba Plains are fit for the big screen
Lions are preying on buffaloes, they are swimming in crocodile-infested water, they are even attacking their own kind.
The Duba lions are so unique, someone should make a movie about them. And that’s exactly what Dereck and Beverly Joubert of Great Plains did. Their award-winning documentary, “Relentless Enemies: Lion and Buffalo” documents the unique and exciting lion-buffalo interaction that occurs in Duba Plains.
The documentary can offer safari lovers a fantastic show. But being out in the wild, surrounded by pristine nature and coming face to face with this amazing interaction between two of Africa’s deadly beasts, is an experience that cannot be compared to any other.