The lions here seem slightly larger than others; more forceful, aloof, somehow mysterious. As with their kind, their feline arrogance come standard. But these ones seem to exude an unsettling ease. You get the feeling that anything is possible, anytime. And with these Chobe elephant hunters, it certainly is.
Countless documentaries and books have documented the feats and habits of the various lion prides of the Chobe National Park in northern Botswana. With its wide open spaces, herds of game and plains teeming with opportunities, the Chobe is a photographer or film-maker’s heaven. And with the development of commercial wildlife documentaries over the past 25 years, new territories of little-known lion behaviour have been discovered and explored. Fascinating insights which not so long ago, would have been considered ‘unusual’, or ‘once-off’, have been acknowledged, and incorporated into the daily insights of what makes the lions of Botswana tick. Hunting elephant,for example.
While lion prides of some African reserves may observe elephants with curiosity and some interest, there is a community of Chobe lion which takes this business seriously. It’s not to say other lion are incapable, but these big cats seem to do it more often. An elephant hunt seems to energise them like no other, and don’t be mistaken; it’s not only young calves they go for. Some targets are not small elephant. It’s a highly specialised hunt.
For one, isolating an elephant from the protective cocoon of a herd requires a skill and technique honed over generations. The teamwork and precision required to get close enough to inflict damage is admirable. Imagine the noise and the resistance. Then the strength, athleticism and determination to actually close the deal, possibly after some hours, which is mind blowing.
A deeply emotional, fascinating, stirring, and at times, unnerving spectacle. But an immense privilege to have a front row seat at a drama that has been panning out on the African savannah for millennia. To preview the secretive world of attrition between these two iconic animal species of the bush will forever etch into your minds as a unique and exhilarating encounter. Africa in the raw.