I was not there for the opening show but joined a few episodes later, so the introduction and setting of the scene comes from what others witnessed and have kindly passed on. It all started last Saturday afternoon, when a fully grown female giraffe was brought down by the two female White Lions alongside the road, if this was not a feat in itself, it again goes to show how powerful and strong these two females are. As is usual with lions and other cats they begin feeding from the anus where the meat is soft and easier to open up the carcass, it is usually followed by them disemboweling their victim and burying the intestines. On this occasion when they came to disemboweling they found a giraffe fetus that was fully developed and must have been a week, if not days, from delivery! This could have been one of the factors that enabled them to bring down such a large quarry being only two lionesses, but being ever the opportunist they began feeding on the baby giraffe as well. By this stage the scene was starting to collect a lot of attention from the many vultures that were drawn in by the prospect of a large meal and bringing with them the ever watchful hyena and observant fellow lion. I was to start driving on the Tuesday afternoon and hoping the White Lions would still be busy on the carcass. That day Elliot returned from morning drive with the news that they were still feeding but there was a twist. Shingalana, the last remaining Sohobele female had approached the carcass and tried to feed alongside one of the cubs, on spotting this the two female White Lions gave chase and caught up with her approximately 250 meters from the carcass, where they proceeded to maul her. This comes barley a couple of weeks after one of the Machaton Females died from injuries sustained from an encounter with these same two females. They left Shingalana in a very bad state and Elliot told me that she was lying out in the open unable to move out of the sun with severe injuries to her hind leg/ groin area and puncture marks around the neck and shoulder area.
The time finally came to leave them and a choice that I’d been wrestling with since the news of Shingalana’s attack should or shouldn’t we visit the site of her attack. Fearing what we might find and feeling somewhat queasy in the stomach but wanting to see exactly the situation, I decided to go take a look myself. To say I was overjoyed to find her alive would be the understatement of the year, but this was quickly replaced by a feeling of utter sadness and complete helplessness at the sight that lay before us. To take any positive from the sighting one could possibly consider that she moved from an open area three meters into the shade under a tree.
In a somber mood we headed back to camp, and like myself I’m sure my guests had many thoughts running through their head and even more wishes through their heart! What they could not hear was a message that came through that the three Timbavati Males and two Machaton Females were seen in the far south highly mobile to the North. After chatting with Arende, a fellow guide, and who actually got to see the giraffe being brought down, money was on that they would be found in the morning at the giraffe kill. If there was ever a chance, no matter how small, of Shingalana surviving it ended with that news. Not only must she now contend with the many hyenas in the area but also the impending arrival of the Timbavati Males and Machaton Females.
Starting out earlier the next morning we headed straight back to the giraffe kill, as we were driving news came through that the Timbavati Males and Machaton Females had indeed found their way to the carcass and had chased off the White Lions.
The good news was that tracks for the White Lions were found leaving the scene and they appear to all have made it out safely, this still needs to be confirmed as we have not seen them since the giraffe kill. It was also reported that tracks for the Sohobele Males were found in the vicinity. It appears this giraffe carcass drew in all the lions in our traversing area. On arriving we found one male dominating the feeding with the rest being kept at bay. This is the furthest north that I have seen the Timbavati Males and Machaton Females and a long way from their normal traversing area.
As if addicted to the outcome, we headed back that afternoon to follow up on the day’s events. On our way there we bumped into one of the Sohobele Males and another was seen not that far away, I’m a strong believer that these lions will survive their hardships and one day become impressive males, they have all the right genes!
I guess I always went to the giraffe kill first to emotionally prepare myself for what was to follow, would Shingalana still be lying there immobile, would the hyenas have found her or had other lions finished what they had started. Again the over powering need to know the outcome drew us into the sight, things seemed far quieter than normal and there was this unnerving stillness about the bush. As we rounded the weeping wattle that had come to be her shelter the past couple days you anticipated the flurry of vulture feathers as they took to the air leaving behind the carcass they were feeding on, but instead, we found nothing. A great sense of relief sighed from the vehicle and as we drove around the surrounding area looking for her and the time passed by without finding her, hope was reborn, along with a multitude of questions and theories. We can only surmise as to what happened but it looks like she built up enough strength during her days of rest to move away. Maybe it is her overwhelming sense to survive and she moved herself out of a particularly dangerous situation or perhaps the need for water became too great and that forced her to move. I don’t think the hyenas got to her, as she was there late morning and there was no signs of a struggle or any other indications that they were in that area. So she is mobile which is a great sign but she will have some very tough days ahead of her if she is to survive and she faces the ever-present danger of infection setting in, not to mention that she must also feed and be able to defend herself. The fighter that she is and her ability to survive has planted a seed of hope for all of us and we wait on time to play out the finale of this story.
Yet again, I’ve dedicated an entire blog to one story but so much else also occurred on drive that is worth writing about but I’ll let the photos below paint the picture for you.