Buffalo King

The crunching of rabbit bones is loud, even from 15 meters away, over the din of my chatty guide. The lion licks the bones, tears the meat and crunches merrily, all the while looked on by a dissatisfied lionesse.

“There’s something not right,” says Julius. “Males don’t stop to eat during copulation.”

It’s the lion equivalent of turning on the footy half-way through the act.

Finally, the lioness gives up and wanders off in disgust. The lion finishes his feast and heads over the river, where he meets another lion. We wait for a clash of the titans but the two merely sniff each other, recognise their brother, then team up to hunt the buffalo we’d passed earlier.

They cruise slowly through the scrub, the wind in their favour. The buffalo don’t even know they’re there. But then they stop their monotonous chewing and look up. The three birds riding on their backs, little oxpeckers, tighten their grip as the largest male lifts his tail and lets loose a stream of poo.

“Look! He’s getting ready! That’s stress defecation!” shrieks Julius, dancing in his seat. The male buffalo then leads his girlfriends into the scrub, directly in the lions’ path.

It’s a rout.

The two lions see the angry buffalos and turn as one to saunter back the way they came. But the buffalo comes at them again, head lowered, and charges the big cats, who give up all pretense of looking cool and, with tails between their legs, break into a run. The primo buffalo shakes his head and snorts, the oxpeckers resume their grooming of their mount.

They know the lion is not king of the plains, and have put their money on the right horse.

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