Toast

Hubby and I were on a lazy afternoon game drive in the trusty Landy, taking pics of swallows that were behaving strangely – they would land on the road, stay there for a couple of seconds and then fly off, hovering just above the road.  

Swallow posing on the road – December 2020

We were still fascinatedly observing this strange phenomenon, when one of the lodge vehicles on the estate stopped to swop sighting stories. We’re a friendly bunch on Moditlo and the gregarious guides told us that there had been a lion kill that morning close to the entrance. They were apparently a bit of a way into the Bush, but visible from the road if you looked carefully.

Who can resist a lion kill? We found the Lodge vehicle’s tracks and imagined we could see a trace of mustard yellow, but the lions were well hidden. On the opposite side of the road, within fifty metres of the kill, there was a Wildebeest calf looking forlorn.

Toast the Wildebeest calf – December 2020

He kept crossing the road towards the lions and then galloping back. Later, we were told that it was his mother who had been taken by the lions. I felt desperately sorry for the poor mite and all I could think about was taking him home with me! A neighbour mentioned that one of the female lions had tried to catch him that morning and he had managed to dodge her. I couldn’t picture myself trying to catch a Wildebeest calf (when a fully grown hungry lion couldn’t), while at the same time trying to keep out of reach of three fully grown lions. Not going to happen! Sometimes you have to sit back and let nature run its course.

We headed back to Bateleur to fetch Teens 1 through 3 and Zaza in the hope that the lions would show themselves just before sunset.

There was a good chance that the lions might have a second go at the young wildebeest or that a roving hyaena or jackal might end his misery. When we got back to the site of the kill with the kids on board, the little guy was still hanging around. I got the filthiest looks from them when they found out that I had named him Toast. I thought it was an apt name – after all what chance did the little guy have?

Toast still waiting for his Mommy at sunset – December 2020

Fate, however, had a different ending in mind. I am delighted to report that Toast’s herd came back for him! We could not believe our eyes when we realised what was happening. He was also a little confused and hopeful to find his Mommy, but the herd closed ranks around him and left. We were all very relieved that at least there was a partial silver lining to the story.

The Wildebeest herd returning for Toast – December 2020

And then the lions moved. No matter how many times we have seen them, it is a sight we never tire of. The King of Beasts is captivating and one of the most popular sightings, alongside leopards.

One of the female lions taking a break from the kill – December 2020

Next morning at 5am I dragged myself out of bed. Zaza usually accompanies me on early morning game drives but she had retreated to chalet 2 for the night with Teen 1. (The only place Teen 1 will allow Zaza to sleep with her is at Moditlo, so Zaza makes hay while the sun shines.) Hubby wanted to sleep in, so I headed out by myself, armed with a cup of coffee and my trusty Canon point-and-shoot camera.

I was rewarded for waking up early. The lions ambled across the clearing and posed for me.

Emerging from the bushes after abandoning the rest of the carcass – December 2020

They were done with the Wildebeest carcass and headed out, along the road.

Headed up the road towards the main gate – December 2020

It was just me and three lions and I had the most phenomenal time following them. They split up and the male marked his territory along the road.

The male strolling up the road marking his territory – December 2020

 I had the hugest adrenalin rush when the two females walked past my car.

The females walking towards me – December 2020

Luckily, I am cautious and my windows were up, barring a small crack through which I could take photos – without becoming their next meal. 

The females next to the Landy – December 2020

The male had indulged so much that he could barely move. I was not worried about him even considering me to be his breakfast! His stomach was stretched to capacity and swung from side to side as he tottered along the road.

A picture showing the male’s taut stomach – December 2020

It took all his focus to follow the females who had departed swiftly up the main road and then disappeared onto a game path. He’s getting a little long in the tooth and I think his days of dominance are numbered.

Following the females along the road – December 2020

The vultures and the maribou storks that had been waiting patiently since the previous day descended on the delicious delicacies of death. Jack and Jill, the jackal pair also joined in for their share of the spoils.

The undertakers waiting for their share – December 2020

We wondered how Toast fared after rejoining the herd. He was tiny after all and not yet weaned which reduced his chances of survival. We hope he grows up to be a big strong boy, like the male who kept guard as the herd waited for him to realise that they were there to fetch him. If the dominant male was his sire, I would rate his chances.

The Bush is unpredictable, and my offspring were very smug that I had been proven wrong about Toast!

Published by Ally's Bush Tales

I am a lover of the African Bush, blessed to live for parts of the year on a Wildlife Estate in Limpopo, South Africa.

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