The Lion & Gemsbok

May 8, 2010

Nobody had seen our young male lion for several days, which is very unusual for this cat. With this in mind I set out early determined to find the king of the jungle. After an hour or so I had seen neither hind nor hair of this lion, and to be honest I was beginning to give up hope (I know, I´m not the most patient of rangers).

Suddenly I noticed something rather peculiar. A lone male gemsbok was staring intently at a rock, so focused was the gemsbok that he didn´t even seem to notice the approach of my vehicle, something that would normally send these antelope skittering off into the bush. “Very strange indeed”, I thought to myself as I readied my binoculars. Looking closely at this animal I could clearly see it was in terrible condition, skinny as a rake and with a face covered in ticks, I think a stiff wind could have blown him over, but none of this explained his odd behavior.

As I scanned to the left I got my answer, the so called rock was hairy, it was in fact no rock, but our male lion that I had been looking for, and he was a mere five meters or so away from his target.

I was very excited, this had to be a guaranteed kill. What I hadn´t taken into account was a combination of two things, the sheer bravery of this decrepit gemsbok, and the fact that this lion was completely ineffective in catching this easy target, if he were human he would definitely have been a vegetarian.

The gemsbok had clearly seen the lion´s clumsy approach and they were now in the middle of a stand off and for how long this had been going on for I don´t know. The gemsbok seemed to know that if he ran he was dead, and the lion was clearly aware that even in his prey´s weakened state a frontal assault would result in death or serious injury via those huge horns. Stalemate.

The lion would make a halfhearted move, only for it to be met by two razor sharp horns. For hours this went on. At one point the gemsbok seemed to click on that this lion was not the real deal and just started grazing (much needed nutrients). “Now, get him!” I found myself saying, but the lion did nothing. Then the lion appeared to get bored and just started rolling in the grass like a domestic house cat enjoying a sunny spot in the garden. “Run away” I was saying to the Gemsbok, determined to see an end to this epic stand off, but nothing. For three and a half hours I sat there and watched this display of biblical style bravery versus amateurish hunting, but alas, I had to leave.

I was stiff and sore from sitting at a funny angle in the Land Rover, plus I did actually have some work to do that day (I know, it´s a hard life eh?).

I never did get to find out exactly how the scenario played out, but there are two things I do know, eight hours later they were seen, still locked in conflict, and, that to this day that skinny old gemsbok is still alive and kicking, roaming alone in the veld around Fynbos Camp. I take my hat off to him; I don´t think I could have faced off a lion for eight hours or more. Well bloody done!

And Mr. Lion, I have this to say to you, stick around those females, you’re going to need them.