Battle at Thanda

If you ever have seen the YouTube video “Battle at Kruger” here are images of a similar scenario at Thanda Private Game Reserve.

The actors in the drama were a herd of Buffalo, a Buffalo calf, a male Lion and an Elephant bull.



It all started with the herd of Buffalo drinking at a waterhole. A young Buffalo calf had an injury above its left front leg which seem to have resulted in an infection. The calf could no longer follow the herd when they were ready to leave the waterhole.

Its cries for help attracted a male Lion who came to investigate. When he attacked the calf the Buffalo herd returned to the waterhole to defend the calf. The lion ran off.

The herd tried to leave again, but the calf – now also injured from the lion attack – could not follow. The Lion moved in again without actually making contact with the calf. This is my first picture as I arrived on the scene at this stage – the Assistant Wildlife Manager – Mariana – was already on the scene.

The herd drove the Lion off again.

And now an bull Elephant arrived at the waterhole to have a drink. He first ignored the calf now lying on the ground. At this stage I had to leave, so the following pictures are thanks to Mariana, who continued operating my camera in my absence (Excellent job – thanks!)

The lion tried to move in again, but the Elephant now drove him off. The Buffalo returned and guarded the calf for a while with the Elephant watching.

Only after all Buffalos and the Elephant had left the scene did the Lion return. He then carried away the carcass into thick bush.

The most amazing thing for me was that the small calf faced the lion and did not try to run away – a true Buffalo!

Below is a picture of the calf with its mother, which I took four days ago. At that stage the wound was visible, but the calf was still fully mobile.

A bit sad, but this is nature at work!

3 Replies to “Battle at Thanda”

  1. What a brave little one. It is sad,though I know it’s all apart of the cycle of life in the wild. Maybe the lion prevented it from a otherwise slow agonizing end. Interesting that the elephant also tried to help.

  2. A few people have asked why the calf is not being rescued.

    Here is the explanation:

    On all public and private game reserve, which I know, the natural environment is left to be wild. Which means that no animal interaction is interfered with. Only in cases where humans have interfered with nature the reserve management will try to correct the problem (e.g. issues resulting from poacher’s snares, genetic issues due to wildlife area fragmentation).

    In drought situation water will be supplemented for the animals on many reserves as the fences prevent them from looking for water sources past the boundaries of the reserves.

    I agree with this principal: If the situation is man-made then we need to correct the resulting problems. Otherwise we should not interfere with nature.

    Game reserves are very different from zoo environments, where the animals are in captivity and therefore in the care of humans. The animals in game reserves are truly wild animals living in huge natural areas.

    Mariana and I were only there by chance. We observed the situation but we did not interfere in any way. In 99% of something like this happening no humans are ever present. I photographically documented the situation to show – to those interested – how wildlife interacts.

    This is why I put the warning in my message “not to read/view this in case some readers may not want to see wild animal interaction”.

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