After a great afternoon drive in the north-eastern section of the reserve, my guests and I came across a lion and a lioness about 300 metres from the lodge.
They were moving west, and we only had a brief visual as they were crossing the road, but something told me that we would be seeing them again the next morning.
And so it was. During the night, they made a zebra kill right on Marataba’s main road, about 200m from one of the river crossings!
We spent close to two hours observing the happenings around the carcass (with a 30 minute break to go and view elephants close-by), and were rewarded by a variety of sightings.
As we arrived, the male lion and the four cubs (the female was nowhere to be seen) were on the opposite side of the road, chasing off a black-backed jackal that had shown interest in the carcass.
After their mission was accomplished, they returned. Their bellies very full already, all but one cub lay down for a nap.
For a while, we simply observed their increasing state of relaxation, as well as the one of the cubs feeding.
We could hear zebra and impala alarm calls, which made us think that was where the female was, though this was never confirmed. The cubs, one by one, moved to the bank over the crossing, disappearing from our view and making us believe that they may in fact be joining the female there. This question remained unanswered.
After a while, only the male lion and the cub remained. Suddenly a zebra foal appeared behind us and started to approach the lions. The wind was in the lions’ favour, and the zebra just kept coming.
As it inched closer, Ryan and I (in the sighting at the time) prepared our guests for what may come. It walked right past our vehicles towards the lions, seemingly oblivious to their presence.
Both lions had stopped what they were doing, and had crouched down, hiding, preparing to strike. Despite their very full stomachs and the remaining meat on the carcass, they were ready!
Suddenly, the zebra herd behind us alarm called. The foal turned back in their direction and returned the call. That was the moment the lions pounced.
The male lunged forward, a mere 15 metres from the zebra, who suddenly realised the danger it was in and ran for its life.
Perhaps because of his full belly, his relaxed state, or the presence of the cubs and lack of other adult lions, the lightning fast chase only lasted for about 30 metres and the zebra foal, to our guests’ delight, escaped!
After this, the last cub disappeared behind the ridge as well, as eventually did the male. A black-backed jackal then tried to get to the carcass. Many times he tried, and many times he abandoned his attempts. The lions’ presence seemed to discourage him.
Later, we even saw a mongoose inside the kill, which also disappeared quickly when a lion cub’s head popped up over the ridge.
What a morning!
Words by: Field Guide Helene Mertens
Photo by: Charlotte Arthun (Photo is for illustrative purposes and not representative of the actual sighting)