Travel & conservation company, since 1991
See how we earn 5 starsTrustpilot - 5 stars
Africa Geographic Travel

Although adult lions have no natural predators, it is clear that many die a violent death. Sadly, humans are often to blame, but more often than not lions are the main culprits for lion deaths. Written by: Ian Salisbury & Verna Poorbaugh

Lions can inflict fatal injuries on each other: either in territorial disputes between prides, or through food aggression at a kill between hungry pride members. Male lions are very defensive of their pride’s territory and will aggressively repel nomadic interlopers – even stray females. These fights often result in serious battle wounds and even death.

It is quite rare to witness one of these conflicts, but safari-goers staying at a South Luangwa camp  recently came upon the rather gruesome aftermath of one such duel.


Guest, Verna Poorbaugh from the USA, takes up the story: “We were on a game drive when I happened to catch some movement in the bushes. Our guide, Peter Milanzi, stopped, backed up and waited so that we could see what it was. Out of the bushes came a hyena, and to our surprise, it was carrying a lion’s head, and was headed directly towards us.


Since it was a young lion, our guide, Peter, thinks that it was probably killed by two older male lions that wanted to take over a pride and were eliminating any possible competition. He also suggested that maybe the reason the hyena was coming so close to our vehicle was that he saw it as security from the other lions.”


Although no one actually witnessed the battle, as an experienced and highly qualified guide, Peter is probably quite correct in his interpretation of the situation. It is highly likely that the younger lion was killed by older, stronger antagonists, who would then leave the remains for the hyenas and vultures to dispose of.  No other evidence was found, and the true story of what befell the poor lion will no doubt remain a mystery… Yet another one of those bush secrets that perplex and amaze us every day.

Further information

Spotted hyena

African lion

To comment on this story: Download our app here - it's a troll-free safe place 🙂.


  • Travel with us. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Browse our famous packages for experience-based safaris, search for our current special offers and check out our camps & lodges for the best prices.

    Enquire now

  • Subscribe to our FREE newsletter / download our FREE app to enjoy the following benefits.

AG Logo

In the Guest Blogger profile, you'll see fresh and exciting content from a range of contributors who have submitted their content to us on a once-off or temporary basis, including press releases, campaigns and exciting adventure and travel tales!

Africa Geographic Travel
[wpforms id="152903"]
<div class="wpforms-container wpforms-container-full" id="wpforms-152903"><form id="wpforms-form-152903" class="wpforms-validate wpforms-form wpforms-ajax-form" data-formid="152903" method="post" enctype="multipart/form-data" action="/stories/hyena-lions-head/" data-token="e86c3ea4afde4c03141ace07eedd1433"><noscript class="wpforms-error-noscript">Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.</noscript><div class="wpforms-field-container"><div id="wpforms-152903-field_1-container" class="wpforms-field wpforms-field-email" data-field-id="1"><label class="wpforms-field-label wpforms-label-hide" for="wpforms-152903-field_1">Email Address <span class="wpforms-required-label">*</span></label><input type="email" id="wpforms-152903-field_1" class="wpforms-field-medium wpforms-field-required" name="wpforms[fields][1]" placeholder="Email " required></div></div><div class="wpforms-submit-container"><input type="hidden" name="wpforms[id]" value="152903"><input type="hidden" name="wpforms[author]" value="3"><input type="hidden" name="wpforms[post_id]" value="49418"><button type="submit" name="wpforms[submit]" id="wpforms-submit-152903" class="wpforms-submit" data-alt-text="Sending..." data-submit-text="Subscribe" aria-live="assertive" value="wpforms-submit">Subscribe</button><img src="" class="wpforms-submit-spinner" style="display: none;" width="26" height="26" alt="Loading"></div></form></div> <!-- .wpforms-container -->