Food for a King

Ten o’clock on a Sunday morning, instead of lying in a little later than usual, visitors to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve are already positioned in strategic places within the lion enclosure to get the best view of the animals being fed. The enclosure contains a few smaller camps and one large open field, each area housing a pride of lions.

We were parked in front of one of the smaller camps, watching a family of one alpha male, two juvenile males and about six or seven females playfully waiting their turn. Suddenly, they all sniffed the air and looked off in one direction and moments later the bakkie carrying their meal arrived. I set my camera on video mode and captured the whole spectacle on film, only realising after the fact that I never actually pressed Record. Typical. So we only have a few photos of the actual feeding.

When they said go watch the lions being fed, we all were all thrilled at the idea, not fully realising that the carnivores are actually being fed something. In this case, it turned out to be half a cow. It took three people to lift the carcass off the bakkie and drag it into the fenced off pen, the lionesses watching on the other side of the gate, their tails swishing back and forth and their yellow eyes intent. The workers then locked the gate again and opened the main gate. A lioness darted forward and in one fluid movement picked up the whole carcass by herself and put it down in the main enclosure. I was awestruck. It was such an amazing display of raw animal power and I suddenly gained so much more respect for these wild animals. As the rest of the pride tucked in, the big male came and stood before the gate and roared at the workers, making it clear that even though he was fenced off, he was still king of his domain.

With the smell of dead cow in our nostrils, we watched the lions feast. There were bone-crunching cracks and limbs being torn from the body. It was pretty gruesome, to be honest, but educational nonetheless. They are magnificent animals, and even though we sometimes think they’re warm and fuzzy and beautiful, they’re still predators that should never be underestimated.

Once we’d seen enough, we decided to drive through the rest of the enclosure and not far off we came upon the pride who were currently allowed free reign of the open field. Cars were parked in a circle around the little group and we had a close-up unobscured view as they devoured the other half of the cow.

I have mixed feelings about keeping wild animals in (relatively) small areas, but in the many years that we’ve been visiting the Kruger Park we’ve never seen lions this close-up before. It may not be ideal, but I do believe the animals are well-cared for and safe here, and it allows visitors to experience and learn about them, and perhaps gain more respect for them, and ultimately be more inclined to protect them. What are your thoughts on the matter?

For more posts in the Krugersdorp – Glen Reenen Breakaway series, click here.

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