Ultimate Contenders: Lions and Buffaloes of the Delta

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One predator, and one prey, yet almost evenly matched; lions and buffaloes have become renowned enemies in the wetland of the Okavango Delta. The brute force of the heavy-horned bovids, their notorious temperaments, and the fight for survival make these herbivores a dangerous target, even for lions.

Highly documented by wildlife filming power couple, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, the pride of lions on Duba Island adapted to hunting and killing buffalo in the water and the marshes on the island. Initially an unheard of concept for cats – who famously don’t like water – this adaptation has taken trend and now lions of the Okavago Delta are known to predate on buffalo and have perfected the hunt in the water.

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Herds of buffalo mill around in the hundreds and thousands in the Delta, browsing the impressive variety of vegetation and sticking close to the water for their daily dose. At Mapula Lodge in a private concession in the northern Delta, game drives take guests to both these spectacular species on numerous occasions. Each of them members of the Big 5, lions and buffaloes are two heavyweight contenders, and watching a fight go down is something quite earth-shuddering.

Lions have learned over time that their best chance of landing such a formiddable meal is to take the buffaloes down in the water where they are most vulnerable, and the chances of having the rest of the vengeful herd turn on them is slim. On land, once the lions have started attacking a buffalo, the fight-back comes with the force of the whole herd. Loyally coming back for the victim, buffaloes present a snorting and stamping wall of horns, kicking up dust, and flinging their dangerous weapons with deadly speed.

Lions, always seeking the most energy-efficient meal, benefit hugely from the substantial feast of a buffalo. A fierce glint in their eyes, these cats of the Okavango Delta take on every challenge in order to eat well and survive as Africa’s most dominant predators.

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