There seems to be something new on the menu for a particular pride of lions in South Luangwa National Park – and they really seem to have developed quite a taste for it. Where buffalo was once the food of choice, these nine lion seem to have formed a liking for hippopotamus meat.
While it isn’t unheard of for lions to take down a hippo occasionally, Abraham Banda, a senior guide at Norman Carr Safaris explains that when such an event occurs it is normally opportunistic, with lions targeting young or injured hippos: “Hippos generally lack survival instincts as they aren’t usually preyed upon because they are one of the largest and more aggressive creatures in the animal kingdom and generally stick together in large pods. However, solitary hippos in South Luangwa beware… In the last few months, the hippo-killing pride has taken down six hippo in the area and there have been even more attempts.”
Lions tend to specialise in certain prey and this pride is growing more and more confident with their hippo hunting ability. They are a healthy sized pride of nine individuals with one adult female, two sub-adult males and six sub-adult females making them efficient killers. As hippos are not traditionally killed by lions they lions seemed to have mastered the taking down of juvenile hippos by distracting the mother and then overwhelming the youngster, wearing it down until they can easily attack it, immobilising it rather than the traditional strangulation or asphyxiation.
These photos were taken at Norman Carr Safaris’ Chinzombo Camp recently:
No one is entirely sure why the lions behaviour has changed over the last few months. Johnathan Merkle, from the Zambian Carnivore Programme, who monitors lion in the region, points out that they are still taking down other prey, but with poor rains this year there is more kill opportunities by drying up dams, rivers and lagoons.
So watch this space as the Luangwa heats up and water becomes more and more scarce, we’re pretty sure there will be more reports of these lions snacking on their new dinner time favourites from their riverside restaurant.