Written by: Kelly Landen
While flying a Botswana survey, part of the Great Elephant Census, the Elephants Without Borders team recently spent a week at Savuti, in Chobe National Park, Botswana. Savuti is spectacular in the dry season, with herds of buffalo up to 2 000 individuals, large numbers of elephants, and infamous prides of lions.
After a hot and dusty morning flight counting animals and enjoying the beauty of Savuti from the air, the Elephants Without Borders team experienced another side of Savuti from the ground.
They spotted a male lion in his prime, part of a pride of twelve, which amongst other prides in the area are famous for their unique hunting habits.
Most animals struggle as the dry season drags on, but this pride appeared to be very healthy and did not seem to be affected by the heat. Even throughout the dry season, the Savuti channel is full of water and the marsh provides a welcome chance to cool down.
The large elephant bulls that frequent the Savuti Marsh are aware but seemingly unafraid of the lions, but younger elephants have more reason to be concerned. This was evident by the elephant bones and skulls that littered the marsh.
Early that morning, a young elephant bull was attacked by the lions and succumbed to the expert, skilled hunters. This was the first elephant victim of the season on the marsh. The team arrived at midday… lunchtime.
As two large bulls wandered past, a very cautious black-backed jackal paced with eager interest at the carcass. The lions were not quite finished and certainly not about to share.
Maribou storks watched on, waiting for their turn on the carcass. A large herd of buffalo grazed on the marsh floodplain grasses in the background.
Seemingly unaware of the elephants behind them, the lions relaxed with full stomachs, next to an old elephant skull; a victim from last year’s dry season.
With plenty of food, the whole pride was able to feed for quite some time. This young elephant provided enough food for the pride for a couple of days before they moved off. This phenomenon is unique to the prides of Chobe’s Savuti area, occurring late in the dry season.