Earlier this week we were invited to explore a wilderness area close to home: Pridelands Conservancy. With a name to make any Lion King lover proud, this conservancy forms part of the Greater Kruger area, and is located right outside our hometown. When Ale Olivieri was invited to head over with the Painteddog.tv crew, it was impossible to resist reacquainting with the outside natural world.
In a willful twist of events, two of our private guides are currently exploring this particular conservancy on a daily basis. Tayla McCurdy is based at Prideland as an instructor for EcoTraining’s bush school for aspiring field guides, and as Ecotraining’s presenter for the popular WildEarth show. Brent Leo-Smith, along with the other members of PaintedDog.Tv, is currently exploring the area and producing some wonderful content about the natural world.
“Ale, Ale, Ale. What are you doing at 4 o’clock?”
“Wanna go look for lions?”
In true South African fashion, a last minute plan was made. Beanies, scarves, gloves and jackets were packed in the car by 4pm and the search for lions started. The Painteddogs and Ale bumbled towards the area where the lions were last seen and while chatting about nothing and everything in between. The group had come to a stop to look for a water bottle when all of a sudden the chaos of deep whoops and angry hyena calls pierced the air. In the fraction of a second that took to locate where the noises where coming from, a deeper growl was heard.
“Lions fighting hyenas, lions fighting hyenas!”
“There, there, there!”
For some reason, it seems impossible for safari guides to announce or point to things only once when the adrenaline is rushing. The scene was unfolding through the woodland. Hyenas and lionesses were dancing a tango around the trees and shrubs, always careful not to get too close to one another. The tension in the air was palpable. The three hyenas would stand their ground until the aggressive approaches of the lions would push them a few steps back. A false step on the hyenas behalf and the lions would have the upper hand and send them chasing. The world stopped only to pay attention to the growls and calls taking place.
A group of three hyenas, salivating and looking as ferocious as possible were facing a pride of 5 lionesses. The hyenas’ call were matched every time by the deep growls coming from the lions. At first instant, it was believed that the fight had been over a potential kill. Earlier that day Brent had seen the lionesses and they seemed to be interested in hunting and finding their next meal. When the lions and hyenas came into the open, the lack of blood on their coats immediately stood out. Had there been a carcass and fight over the war spoils, some of the animals would be wearing it on their fur.
“I think the hyenas are trying to lead the lioness away from the den. It’s not too far from here”.
Hyenas and lions are indeed eternal enemies. The pressures they exercise on each other is remarkable. Although they do not tolerate each other’s presence as they are in direct competition for food, resources and safe places to raise their young not all encounters are as ferocious as the one witnessed. There was a lot at stake – the future of the hyena clan! – and so devised a plan that would get the lions attention as they sneakily lead them away from the den and protected their young ones.
About a kilometer down from where they first bumped into this unfolding scene, the tension started to dissipate and the spirits started to calm down as the distance between the two predators became greater. The hyenas, heavily salivating due to their adrenaline rush during the encounter (it takes quite something to stand your grown to charging lions), started retreating and the lionesses one by one started giving up on their chase and laying down in the long grass.
By nightfall the chaos sparked again as the hyenas kept offering themselves as bait to lead the lionesses away.