20th August 2019
I spent a long night with the girls. The same 2 lionesses from last night. They crossed the track in front of me. The 2nd lioness didn’t follow her friend, she came straight towards me. As if that wasn’t enough, she came round to my door a hands reach away staring up at me. I watched her in the light of the moon. We stared at each other. I puzzled as to her motive but was confident she wasn’t about to leap into Joanie. Then as if having approved that I looked just fine and was just another male, she headed off to join her friend. I caught up with them just as they entered the donga where the leopard and her cub had the kill a week ago. Now there were 3 lionesses. Strangely for the rest of the night I never saw 3 lionesses again until about 4am. Having crossed the donga the girls continued south into dense Croton. Usually I’d turn away at this point but tonight I decided to bite the bullet and put Joanie through her paces. The Croton didn’t last and soon we were on a small floodplain. It was sandy and fairly open. We dropped into the river and crossed. That was easy. On the southern bank I took the only gap and came out in some open big tree country. I’d lost a lioness, but the one I was with rested up. I was parked under a Raintree. It was busy shedding its leaves, the ground below carpeted and crunchy to walk on. As usual it was a quiet night. So quiet I could here the odd leaf fall from its perch, tumble over others on its way down and then float to the floor where dry leaf falling on dry leaf might the slightest sound. We were soon on the move again as the 2nd lioness joined us. Eyes ahead. The girls tried a tactical manoeuvre, both of them moving to opposite flanks. But it was of little use as they went charging after the impala at a 100m. We changed direction now circling west. The riverine was dense. I was in the thick of it now, no turning back. The lions were taking the only gaps there were and I had to get Joanie to squeeze through them too. Which wasn’t took bad, except when there’s a huge log across the opening. The girls of course jump over but I haven’t managed to get Joanie jumping yet. I ended up going the long way round and then having to find the lions again. Not easy in this country where the leaf litter is so dense it’s hard to follow any tracks. Each time I had to rely on either baboons alarming, impala alarms, jackal shouting and trying to maintain the direction I last had them going. We turned back north and crossed the river again. We had now done a complete circle from where I’d found them. There was no sign of the males from last night. The girls must have sent them off to do something constructive, like patrol the territory. We were still travelling north, now in open Acacia savannah country. Impala were everywhere and out of the blue the third lioness had reappeared. Where she’d been all this time I can’t work out. The team again approached the impala with what seemed like another tactical manoeuvre. One on each flank and one down the middle. It didn’t last and the lioness on the west charged in long before any of them were in position. There was chaos, impala running everywhere. A male turned back on himself straight towards the lioness. The moon was casting lots of light and seeing the lioness the impala went into overdrive and jumped high over the lioness, but not high enough. She jumped high her front paw outstretched she ankle tapped the impala. He tumbled to the ground and I was sure he’d get away, but she had gathered herself faster than I could see and was onto him. His death cries brought the others charging in and the bunfight began. 3 lionesses who only minutes ago were all loving and playing with each other were now literally at war with each other, all that mattered being getting their slice of the pie. The aggression was intense and so different to the caring manner of other predators, especially wild dogs. When wild dogs kill, the adults stand back and let the puppies feed first. If there were lion cubs here they too would have been caught in the middle of the rumble with no preference. It was only a few minutes and the carcass was ripped into 3 as the girls went to feed alone. Dawn was just creeping in when one of the male lions arrived, but too late my boy. Jackals were already finishing off the last scraps as the lionesses retreated north into the mopane…

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