Adult Cape buffalo bulls weigh in at around 900 kilograms (2,000 lbs) and have a fearsome reputation to boot. Only the hardiest of predators dare take up the challenge of targeting these formidable megaherbivores, and when they do they must often deal with retaliation from the rest of the herd. Such was the case recently when a pride of lions in South Africa’s MalaMala Game Reserve descended on a struggling male buffalo, but were quickly chased off by the bull’s herd-mates.
Ranger Pieter van Wyk captured the action while on a recent game drive in MalaMala – a private conservancy on the fringes of the Kruger National Park. Lions are one of the few predators capable of taking down an adult buffalo and prides will sometimes trail the herd, waiting for an opportune moment to strike. As the buffaloes marched en masse across a mostly dry riverbed, a pride of lions looked to single out a weak herd member in the hopes of securing a meal. The big cats succeeded in surprising and pinning down a young calf, but a “cavalry” of male buffaloes stormed to the rescue and the youngster made a lucky escape.
The cats were given a second chance at a potential kill when one of the older members of the herd became stuck on a steep bank as the buffaloes retreated out of the riverbed. The struggling bull found itself trapped in an awkward position and the lions sensed an opportunity. As they flanked the bull, the rest of the herd rushed to its aid, charging the cats repeatedly until the battling buffalo was able to regain his footing and clamber up the incline.
“It was an extremely captivating and adrenaline-pumping sighting and one of my best,” van Wyk told Latest Sightings.
Buffalo hunting is risky business for lions. A successful hunt can provide a sizeable meal that will satiate the appetites of the entire pride, but tackling buffaloes can be dangerous. If lions are able to avoid getting spiked by the buffalo’s impressive horns during the hunt, distress calls often draw the rest of the herd to the scene.
Battles between lions and buffalos play out quite often in the African wilds, and this isn’t the first time we’ve seen these massive herbivores taking on their feline rivals. Footage from South Africa’s Timbavati Private Nature Reserve captured in 2017 shows a buffalo herd successfully protecting a calf from a pride of lions on the hunt, and the well-known Battle at Kruger clip is a perfect example of a herd working as a cohesive unit to defend their own.