The sun was breaking over the far hills as the dawn chorus was interrupted by the whoop of excited Naboisho hyenas summoning the full ballast of their clan. Following the relentless loping gait of an individual one, we came across a scene that made the final battle in Lord of the Rings seem light on extras.
Battle over breakfast, the movie at Kicheche Valley, NaboishoConservancy
Centre stage was the fresh carcass of a veteran wildebeest in the possession of an eight-strong pride of lions. Their demeanour, however, was not the casual confidence of the privileged class but rather an insecure nervousness of new money. The reason for the leonine discomfort became clear as several buffalo bulls led their herd on a mission to reclaim the body of their fellow grazer. Protected by a solid wall of bovine armour were several calves that were the reason for the dagger boys’ intolerance..
In this high stakes game of poker the lions blinked first: the two young adolescent males unable to support the mature lionesses in a hand of buffalo bluff.
The cats were driven off and the hyenas advanced like Russian ‘Ultras’: ripping into the carcass with uncontrolled glee. However the lions did not flee far, confused whether to remain or exit, but their stomachs and pride said remain. The hyenas were cunning in retreat, isolating individual lions to turn the tables. Ever the opportunists, a dozen or so jackals arrived to join the drama. Lions return again; buffalos charge; hyenas skirmish; lions attack; jackals nip in – the battle ebbed and flowed with no animal in possession for more than a matter of minutes.
Out of the cast of characters the protagonists emerged like the fight scene from Gangs of New York. The eldest female lioness with a fresh wound on her thigh was not giving up a spare rib for anyone; the buffalo bull was channelling twenty years of hate and vengeance against his mortal foe and refused to allow the pride a moment’s piece with their prize; the hyena matriarch knew it was a numbers game, corralling her troops in a series of hit and run attacks. For the jackals there was no obvious hierarchy with every individual for themselves.
After an hour of open warfare and wanton destruction, the arms race swung in favour of the lions with the arrival of an older pride male. The fighting lost its conviction. The buffalos shuffled away with the odd baleful glance over the shoulder; the hyenas and jackals dispersed to the edge of the battle zone. And the lions finally had their meal, albeit not as full a breakfast as had earlier been promised.
repeat guest of Kicheche Bush and Valley camp