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Ndutu: Lions versus giraffe

Warning - this entry contains images that some people may find disturbing


View The Howards' 40th Anniversary Tour on Grete Howard's travel map.

I have a restless night, more awake and distressed than I am sleep. After around 15 minutes sleep, I wake up and have to sit upright to cough and blow my nose before lying down again trying to get some more rest. This cycle is repeated time and time and time again. By 02:00 I feel absolutely dreadful. So much so that I want to go home. Right now. As soon as it is daylight I shall have to tell Malisa to take us back to Arusha so that we can arrange a flight to the UK at the earliest opportunity. Later, as I am gasping for breath in the middle of a particularly severe coughing fit, a thought strikes me... I wonder if I am actually fit enough to fly? I guess they will have oxygen on the aircraft if I collapse during the flight. The thought continues to worry me as the rest of the night goes by through a haze of nasty dreams, waking up unable to breathe, panicking, sitting bolt upright, then coughing for England. Or is that Tanzania? I feel so ill I am not even sure where I am.

By 05:00 when it is time to get up I feel a little more 'with it' and decide that perhaps I won't go home just yet after all. Perhaps I will see how I feel after another day out here – hopefully by then the antibiotics will have had time to work and I can function a bit better. I am grateful that at least no-one else was staying in this camp last night so that I didn't keep anyone else awake all night. David slept through most of it thankfully.

The day immediately seems better when the sun comes up, painting the sky a beautiful crimson.

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The first animals we spot this morning are a couple of lions, and when they head off into the bush, we follow to see what they are up to. Unlike most other parks in Tanzania, here in the Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area off-road driving is permitted.

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Meanwhile the sun has just made it above the horizon.

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And there are more lions. Five in total.

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They're on the move.

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On the lookout for breakfast no doubt.

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“I'm so hungry I could turn vegetarian!”

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In the distance, behind the trees, we spot a giraffe. So do the lions.

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“Let's go and investigate”

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The giraffe is blissfully unaware as she enjoys her breakfast of acacia leaves.

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Manoeuvring silently through the undergrowth, the lions move nearer their intended prey.

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Continuing to be totally engrossed in her food, the giraffe is still completely oblivious to the dangerously close predators.

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Go! Go! Go! Afraid that the giraffe is going to spot them before their backup arrives, the two lions abruptly launch into a chase, using the element of surprise to gain a second or two advantage.

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Assessing the size of his opponent (it is extremely rare for lions to even attempt to take down a fully grown giraffe for that reason), the hungry lion looks to see which direction his leggy prey is going to be taking and tries to be one step ahead.

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It is not just to see which way the giraffe is heading that the lion keeps a very close eye on the legs – those six feet long limbs have been known to cause some serious damage, with giraffes using high kicks to fight off predators.

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Where they go, we follow, in hot pursuit.

“Hold on, watch out” shouts Malisa as we race underneath a prickly acacia tree. Too late. Unable to hold on and 'watch out' at the same time (I am holding on with one hand, having the camera in the other), the thorns catch my hand and arm. Nothing serious, but I am always concerned about such scratches after an incident in Kenya back in 1993 when a scratch turned into blood poisoning resulting a blister covering most of the top of my hand and down my fingers. After lancing the blister, the medical staff then had to cut my wedding ring off, and put me on antibiotics to stop the poison spreading. I could see it as a black line running up my arm, and it did rather scare me.

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This time the injuries are very mild

Meanwhile, the giraffe is not doing too well.

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Unfortunately, she cannot sustain a lengthy chase, something the lions are acutely aware of, and this becomes her downfall.

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The giraffe has run out of steam and our two lions have caught up with her. A third comes in from the right to help out.

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The lions momentarily let go of their grip and the giraffe makes a desperate attempt at escaping.

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But to no avail. She doesn't get very far before a renewed onslaught has her well and truly fighting for her life.

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The powerful jaws and claws of the big cats are too much for the weakened ungulate, and with an elegance and awkwardness that only a giraffe possesses (even in her death throes), she sinks to the ground.

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We move nearer to get a better look as the lions tuck into fresh giraffe for breakfast. We haven't had ours yet!

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One of them goes for the jugular to ensure the giraffe is dead before they start tearing the animal apart.

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The hardest part is breaking through the skin. Usually the lions go for the soft options first and try to start with the internal organs.

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Trying to turn the carcass over to get to the softer underbelly proves fruitless as the dead giraffe is too heavy and bulky for the lions to be able to manoeuvre.

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Having not had anything to do with the actual kill, the fifth lion strolls in very late and sits down at the dining table. Typical male.

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I do find it somewhat disconcerting when the lions look us straight in the eye, their chins dripping with blood.

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Absurdly, other inquisitive giraffes appear from behind the trees, curious about what is going on. Can they not see from the sad state of their cousin, that this is most definitely not a good idea?

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Thinking she might get an extra breakfast, one of the lionesses decides to check out the audience.

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The giraffes decides that the show isn't worth hanging around for and saunters back into the bush. "Wise move Buster, wise move!"

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Something else off to our left has caught the lions' attention and they all stare attentively in that direction.

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We can't work out what has startled them, but we do spot the Ndutu Lodge behind the trees. Gosh, this kill really was mighty close to the accommodation – no more than around 100 metres! This time last year we were staying there, and I guess this reinforces why you don't venture out on your own.

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Ndutu Lodge Restaurant seen through the trees

You really don't want to meet this young lady on your way to the bar!

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This young male is being a little bit ambitious in thinking that his breakfast is a movable feast. “Give up son, you're fighting a losing battle”

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LOOK AWAY NOW IF YOU ARE PRONE TO FEELING QUEASY

Meanwhile, back at the rear end, the lions have found the intestines. It is not a pretty sight.

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As their sharp teeth break through the membrane, the content squirts out.

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I told you to look away!

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I think I will give my breakfast sausage a miss this morning.

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Once they have had their fill of giraffe-meat, the lions cover any spilt blood with earth to stop the smell attracting scavengers, then leave the carcass to search for a drink and take a much needed siesta. It must be hard work to have to run after your food, then make sure that it doesn't attack you before trying to bite through tough leather to get to it. Make my complaints about Tesco's packaging seem rather feeble.

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We continue on our way too.

If you still haven't had enough of blood and gore, check out David's video on youtube.

Thank you Calabash Adventures for bringing us this incredible experience.

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Posted by Grete Howard 00:12 Archived in Tanzania Tagged wildlife nature travel breakfast wild africa safari tanzania savannah lion lions giraffe kill intestines ndutu calabash_adventures ngorongoro_conservation_area lion_kill cruel_nature life_and_death african_bush

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Comments

Scary to watch... giraffe are such graceful animals... Thanks for sharing. Must have been exciting and sad at the same time.

by Friedrich von Hörsten

Despite feeling sorry for the giraffe I have to admire your excellent photos of the lions. What a sight to have witnessed!

A shame though that you were feeling so rough on this trip. These things are always so much worse in the early hours, aren't they, especially if you are the only one awake?

by ToonSarah

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