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Lion and hippo dine together

Posted on 4 August 2014

Mchenja, Norman Carr Safaris, Zambia

I'd like you to imagine you are sitting in a land rover in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. You’re out on a safari drive in an open vehicle many kilometers from your ‘home base’, Norman Carr Safaris’ Mchenja Bushcamp ( You've just watched a spectacular sunset whilst sipping your Gin & Tonic and snacking on some home-made bush snacks. You've had a wonderful day of sightings, from a hyaena in labour to lions lazing in the shade with their nine cubs. Not to mention countless elephant, giraffe, zebra and warthog!

As you clamber back onto the Landy, darkness is falling and the excitement of the night drive begins.....and tonight our guests witnessed one of the most extraordinary sightings the South Lunagwa has seen for a while.

Keen to see the difference in lion behaviour once night falls, the small group headed back to area the pride had been spotted earlier in the day. This time, instead of sleeping (as lions mostly are) the animals were up and stalking - slowly creeping towards some impala happily eating the grass and blissfully unaware of the dangers. An adult lioness pounces.... but too early, and the lucky impala bounces safely off.

Innocent, one of Norman Carr Safaris finest guides, aware of a herd of puku further up the plain, drives over in their direction in anticipation of a second attempt by the lions. He switches off the engine, turns off the lights…..and waits. It's an exhilarating moment full of anticipation, sitting in the darkness, listening to the sounds of the Zambian bush at night, smelling the smells of the South Luangwa. Occasionally a muted light goes on, and our guests can see the lions getting closer and closer. Again, the puku blissfully unaware of the deadly predators closing in on them.

And then... the primal guttural noise and growling from the lion in unison with the puku's alarm call as one sustained and deafening noise. The lion have got their kill. Even the cubs muscle in on the struggling animal, biting their mothers legs to get some supper themselves.

No unusual sighting. This is, of course, every day life in the South Luangwa.

What makes this extraordinary is what happens next. A hippo appears out of nowhere, walking toward the site of the lion kill... Innocent explains that he may well be there to charge the pride; hippos have been known to do this to save other animals - particularly if there are little ones around.

But this time, he wasn't there to charge. Instead, the lions picked up the carcass, moving a few metres away from the hippo, leaving a gory trail behind. The hippo, a herbivore who lives off grass, starts to eat the Puku's stomach and the stomach lining itself. Innocent’s theory is that the contents of the puku’s stomach would be mostly grass, but still, watching a full lion pride and a hippo ‘sharing a meal’ only a few meters away from each other was something we don’t see every season.



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