Written by Graham Dyer
One day in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve I came across some members of the Sunday Pan lion pride at their namesake, the Sunday Pan. There were two lionesses, one with three young cubs, and a single male present. Some of the pride drank rain water around the waterhole and others moved slowly southwards away from the pan.
We waited with the lioness and cubs and then followed them from a distance past the waterhole. Just as we were getting some photos we heard urgent alarm calls up ahead. When we got there the lead lioness had caught a bat-eared fox and had evidently injured its pelvis/spine as it was dragging its hindquarters when it tried to stand. The lioness had received a bite to her nose for the trouble.
The male arrived hoping to get some food but wasn’t keen to tackle the fox.
The plucky fox was alarm calling and chattering at the lions for the first 5-6 minutes, then later only when any lion approached. The male lay off to one side for a while but the mother lioness was intrigued, as were the cubs.
The cubs and their mother approached, curious and cautious.
The lioness didn’t really know what to do with the fox but was defensive of it even striking out at the male when he approached too closely.
Roaring ensued, sparked by the lionesses’ violent reaction.
The cubs were very curious but never went too close. The male suddenly approached his cubs with interest.
Their mother came over quickly to distract him. It seemed then there was a bit of a stalemate.
Suddenly all the lions heard what sounded like other lions fighting over food in the distance. They paused for a second and then all quickly ran off in that direction. The lioness with cubs lagging behind being held up by her playful, gambolling youngsters.
We followed the lions but they were unfortunately soon out of sight.
The bewildered fox was left alone on the track. Although at first it appeared to have a broken back or pelvis, it eventually was able to stand up unsteadily on its back legs so it may have just been badly bruised. Two jackals approached it when we checked up later but it was aggressive so they left it alone. The fox was last seen lying head up in the grass, hopefully recovering.
Two different, well-fed, bloody-faced lionesses were sleeping at the waterhole that afternoon.