A Death on the Savanna: The Unexpurgated Version

WARNING: This blog post contains a description and images of lions killing a buffalo. Some people may find them disturbing. If you would like to read the post without the images, please click HERE.

If you think the written description of a buffalo’s death may disturb you, then please feel free to visit the home page. I have lots of other posts to read. I won’t be offended – I promise.

I expected this moment to be more dramatic. I expected that if I saw the lions make a kill that it would be fast, but it wasn’t. I expected the poor buffalo to be noisy, but she was quiet. It was nothing like I expected.

When we got to the top of the hill, the large, sad eyed buffalo, had already taken a severe blow to her hind quarter and was nursing it in a pool of water. Nearby the lionesses circled, knowing it was only a matter of time.

Her plaintive eyes looked out at the 25 trucks full of observers who watched passively, with nothing to offer, as she climbed out of the puddle. There was no reason to stay there – it would only delay the inevitable. Blood streamed from her rump and she limped.

But she was silent. She didn’t make a noise, not even when the lioness leapt again and took hold of her tail. And she didn’t fight back. It is as if she knew somehow that it would be wasted energy. She knew how this was going to end – she had always known. Buffalo don’t die of old age on the savanna. She had known for her entire life that this moment was coming.

This is the way of her world.

But why did it have to take so long? She would occasionally let out a sad howl.

I can’t imagine the pain she must have been in.

But the lions wouldn’t go in for the kill. Sammy said they usually go for the neck early on, but her neck is large, and her horns are still powerful. Instead they were bleeding her to death.

And eating her alive.

Long after they had downed her, she would still cry out.

Even if it was supposed to end this way, it was terrible.

The lions relished this moment, but such is their role in this world of theirs. They would eat, and this was a time to celebrate.

The cubs were gleeful, occasionally tasting the blood on their mothers’ muzzles and nuzzling them.

And the lionesses would sometimes make a nurturing gesture at licking their kittens clean.

It was gruesome and hard to watch, but it was life – and death – on the savanna.

I saw so much today, long before this happened, but this moment will always stick with me.

I thought I would get to see the cheetahs hunt, but the hyenas spooked their prey.

I thought perhaps the hyenas might hunt, but Sammy knew it wouldn’t happen.

I thought at one point the pinnacle of the day would be spying this king and his queen hidden in the grass. And maybe it was.

But then I saw the kill. Except we never really saw the end of it. We were there for more than two hours, including time spent ignoring the occasional pained bleat from the buffalo, and instead focusing on getting ourselves and others unstuck from the sticky mud.

Several cables broke, and a few trucks got stuck trying to help others out. When we finally left, I think she was still alive, but I couldn’t watch anymore. It was a sacred moment of which I’d already seen too much.

Not long after leaving we suffered a minor breakdown and then at last took our lunch under a tall tree (making sure it wasn’t occupied by bees or leopards).

Soon after that we saw the smallest of tiny elephants flapping his ears in dramatic fashion. He was adorable.

And we visited the border with Tanzania to the south.

That’s where we saw this beautiful hippo nosing around in the mud.

Finally we climbed the tallest hill in the area, from which we were able to view the vast expanse of the Serengeti (in Tanzania) on the left leading to the Mara on the right. When the great migration occurs this is filled with wildebeests.

On the way back to the lodge I was happy to see gobs of giraffes. I needed to see them, to be honest.

Because, at the end of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about that buffalo.

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