Written by: Anja Riise
On a recent trip through Madikwe at Jaci’s Lodges, we noticed that one of the lion coalitions in Madikwe Game Reserve – the Modimo brothers – caught a young buffalo in a small quarry while they were out on their night patrol. However, the female lion that usually accompanies them had been left behind and didn’t show up for the feast, while the boys stayed in the area for a few days to finish their massive meal. As lions normally do, they kept gorging themselves in between napping sessions and barely took notice of our presence.
After a few days in the sun, the odour was becoming more and more pronounced in spite of the relatively cold weather. Jackals and pied crows were also attracted to the kill, but didn’t really stand much of a chance, as the two brothers kept a sharp eye on their prize and weren’t taking any nonsense from the smaller visitors. I always find it fascinating that a 200kg cat will spend time and energy chasing a bird away that might only eat a few grams of their kill!
When the carcass was little more than skin and bones, the Modimo males decided it was time to leave and to perhaps try to meet up with their female companion. As they left, the cleaning squad swiftly moved in. A couple of spotted hyenas started fighting over the biggest pieces, while three jackals made the most of the diverted attention.
However, the larger female hyena easily kept the younger male at bay and even managed to give the jackals the evil eye from time to time. When one of them proudly ran off with a rib into the shade, the young hyena was quick to steal it back, in order to have something to eat without having to take on the older female. When she finally had torn off a large piece of the spine from the rest of the carcass, she made a quick retreat into the bushes.
The younger hyena had then had his fill, all the while scanning the bushes nervously. The jackals, however, seemed more relaxed as their larger competitor was now gone, and even the crows joined in. We could hear a lion roaring in the distance and also saw a couple of brown hyenas lurking about in the bushes nearby. This was probably the reason for the young one’s skittish demeanour. Soon the male hyena also departed, along the same route as the older one had just left.
The more relaxed of the brown hyenas then immediately took over the carcass and seemed to want to make off with all of the leftovers, which was a very unpopular decision with the jackals, who tried to feed while the bones were being dragged away from them.
The hyena puffed her fur up in order to look as intimidating as possible to the smaller predators and the other brown hyena that was still watching from a distance. This had little effect on the jackals though, and the brown hyena, after struggling a bit with the weight and bulkiness, resolved to just feed out in the open, right in front of us.
As the greedy animal tried to bite off more than she could chew, a bone seemed to get stuck in her throat. For a while it looked like a severe problem as she put her whole foot in her mouth to try to get rid of it. A couple of minutes later it was, however, all forgotten and she continued feeding happily alongside the jackals. Eventually the second brown hyena warily made its approach and we decided it was time to leave the feasting party so that the nervous animal could have its fill in peace.
Meanwhile, the Modimo brothers had indeed met up with the female – right in front of our lodge! For a couple of days they were seen and heard mating by our waterhole, while one of the males rested in the sun, giving our guests plenty of opportunities to get some excellent sightings of the carefree lions.