Following a request from cerinthe, I have posted a short story of one of my experiences while working in the bush :
Being a guide, I encountered lions whilst on foot on several occasions, however usually I was in their turf and as such carried a rifle as a safety precaution and for the peace of mind of the guests I happened to be walking with and my own.
One night, however, was different. I was in the camp and was walking between my house and the lodge as I had to wake guests up at 3am for a very early departure. It was relatively dark and the only decent light there was, was from the flashlight I carried.
Ahead of me, in the darkness, I heard the pounding of feet against the ground and it was coming straight towards me. Suddenly a hyena appeared in the beam of my flashlight, it swerved slightly to avoid me but didnât slow down and continued to run off into the darkness behind me. My immediate thought was that it was strange behaviour as usually a hyena is scared of humans and would turn tail and run away.
It didnât take long for me to realise the reason for the hyenaâs flight was that it was being chased, as out of the darkness two large male lions appeared running straight towards me. I froze, there wasnât much else I could do (one is not meant to run from lions, but to be honest, my feet were fixed to the ground so I wasnât going to go anywhere even if I wanted to).
Like the hyena, they ignored my presence and passed about ten yards on either side of me. With my heart thumping, I turned and shone my flashlight in the general direction they had headed. On the edge of the light beam, I saw movement and saw a third lion trotting along behind the other two, he however seemed less interested in the hyena and more in me as he stopped and gave me a long stare before heading off into the darkness again, the sound of his brothersâ growling and the hyenas panic squeals fortunately sounding more attractive than the sight of the gibbering human.
I was too shaken to bother to get a vehicle and follow the lions but from the sounds coming out of the darkness, it was clear that the lions had caught and killed or seriously injured the hyena.
The next morning after sunrise (and with rifle close at hand) we found the badly mauled body of the hyena right behind my house. On following the tracks back we managed to reconstruct the events from the night before. It seemed that the lions had come through camp (which is not fenced) while hunting buffalo (a few old bulls chose the camp as a supposed safe haven). They met the hyena, which had managed to break into the kitchen and was scavenging around the camp (we found a frying pan which it had carried from the kitchen and had dropped while fleeing the lions). The lions had clearly decided to eliminate a competitor.
At the time I was obviously terrified by the encounter as the lions could easily have turned on me. When one works in the bush for long periods, one does become rather complacent particularly around the camp, the experience taught me that you must always expect the unexpected and never loose respect for the wild animals that live around you.
Footnote: The lions were part of a coalition of four (assumed to be brothers) known as the Machaton males who dominated a large territory in the northern Timbavati Game Reserve. Shortly before this incident one of them disappeared after an encounter with a buffalo bull in the camp (we assumed that he had been killed during the hunt). A second of these males was shot recently in the Umbabaat Private Game Reserve and reported here on the boma. I havenât been back to the area for several years, however I understand that the surviving two males are still around but are losing territory to younger, stronger male coalitions who have moved into the area.