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Lion digs up burrow to catch warthog

lion captures warthog while other one escapes

© Ruan Springorum

Written, and photographs, by Ruan Springorum

As a guide, I often get asked if it’s true that male lions don’t do any of the hunting, that the females do it all. That is not entirely true. The males can and do hunt, and we witnessed just such an event firsthand recently, although perhaps not in the way some might imagine a lion hunt taking place.

We had found one of the big dominant male lions on Kwandwe, and he was on the move. He was roaring regularly as he went and paused frequently to spray urine on some of the bushes he was passing to mark his territory. In the late afternoon light, it was a spectacular scene as we followed him across a large open plain towards a small valley nearby, and it was here that his behaviour changed.

He discovered a series of warthog burrows, dug into the stony ground, and we could see from the softer sand at the entrances that at least some of them were currently in use. He started sniffing at the entrance of the burrows, checking each in turn before moving on to the next.

Lion grabbing warthog as it leaves burrow

© Ruan Springorum

After about 20 minutes, he clearly found what he was looking for, and he began to dig. Using his massive front paws, he dug at the entrance of the burrow. It was slow going on the hard ground and almost half an hour had passed but he continued digging. It was abundantly clear at this point that he knew that a warthog was in there and he was going to get it.

We sat with cameras at the ready, we knew that action could take place any second… and it did!

A warthog, having lost its nerve at the intrusion to its underground home, tried to make a break. It came barrelling out of the burrow entrance, loose dirt flying everywhere, but the lion was waiting for exactly that moment.

lion catching warthog

© Ruan Springorum

The moment the warthog was within reach, the lion latched on with powerful claws snagging into the warthogs’ shoulder, abruptly stopping its escape. A bite to the side of the neck followed almost instantly, and any chance of shaking free went from slim to none.

In the blink of an eye, absolute chaos had erupted! The warthog writhed around, shaking violently in the unrelenting grip of the lion.

The warthogs mouth was open as it squealed, a deafening sound at such close quarters, as it fought for its life.

The lions grip was just too strong, and he dragged his catch to the side of the burrow.

lion performing the death grip on a warthog

© Ruan Springorum

Another heave and he pulled the warthog out of the burrow entirely and away from the only, albeit very unlikely, possibility of escape.

With the tunnel now clear, another warthog could now make its escape, and came charging out!

Fleeing such a horrific scene was the only objective of the second warthog and it immediately made good its escape, leaving its unfortunate companion to its fate.

warthog in the jaws of a lion

© Ruan Springorum

Slowly the squeals of the captured warthog became fewer and weaker as the inevitable took place. The lion had his prize, a reward of almost an hour’s effort to get it. He dragged his kill out of sight into the treeline nearby, where we could hear him begin to feed.

The sun had set, and the fading light drew a natural conclusion to the drama we had been fortunate enough to witness as we moved away with the most vivid of memories and some photographs to keep them fresh.

lion with captured warthog while another warthog escapes

© Ruan Springorum



Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Within South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province lies Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. This world-class Big 5 safari destination in 22,000 hectares of pristine, private wilderness offers exceptional wildlife diversity, experienced professional guides and intimate, luxurious accommodation for the discerning traveller.

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