Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Survival

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry 3 Comments

A week or so ago, while hosting a PVT guided safari at the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve I had the privilege of sharing this incredible sighting with my client, Joni.

This was a truly once in a lifetime sighting and I will share more in a trip report in due course but for now Joni shares some of her images and thoughts after an evening in the bush which left us all in complete awe of nature and the stories that play out whether we are there to watch it or not.  It was… incredible!

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Survival
by Joni Munsterteiger

There are defining moments that happen during your life that changes how you see the world around you. This was one moment for me.  As the saying goes: “There I was, in the deepest darkest Africa,”  stars above, about to witness an eye-opening, humbling experience.  To see nature at its rawest level of survival. The struggle between life and death. Survival between opposing sides, as well as competition within a group. And finally, the bonding of the Mhangeni Pride.

The Mhangeni Pride consists of nine sub adults that 5 years ago did not exist, but are now one of the more popular prides to view in central Sabi Sands.  There are also 12 other prides or coalitions at this time that are vying for territory and food.

One source of food is Cape Buffalo.  They can reach 6.6 to 9.8 feet in height, weighing 1500-2650 pounds.  There horns can reach 5 feet in length and they use them to protect themselves against predators. They can run fast when faced with danger–an average of 30 miles per hour.

Keep this in mind for later.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Young buffaloes are tightly associated with their mothers for the first few years of their lives.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

When I came to Africa I was sure that I did NOT want to witness anything being killed, none the less knowing it occurs for survival.

Now back to the stars above, about to witness an eye opening, humbling experience. The struggle between life and death was about to begin as the Buffalo were drinking around a water hole. The Mhangeni Pride with stealth like precision chose a young baby Buffalo that they pulled into the water.

Survival between the two opposing sides began.

For the lions – food.

For the the Water Buffalo – life.

The mother buffalo fought with everything she had tossing lions into the air!  Now think of the size, weight and horn span previously mentioned and what a force on the lions this would be. The lions countering by some staying on the baby, and others patrolling to distract the mother.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Competition within the group was also occurring as every lion wanted a share.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

However, the mother buffalo was not giving up on the side lines.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

But neither were the lions submerged in the water.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

After struggling 2 hours for a share, it was down to the last 2 lions.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

At last, a “Prize” for the final lion.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

In the light of day we came across the Mhangeni Pride once again.

\The evidence of “Survival” from the previous nights encounter noticeable on the warriors. This all from ONE 2 hour battle.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Bonding between the pride was occurring as the coalition rested for the next battle of survival.

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

Joni Munsterteiger - Wildlife Photography - Private Guided Safari - Wild Eye

To say that this encounter has been humbling and eye-opening does not even begin to cover all the emotions I feel. This one moment in time was a defining moment. A span of 2 hours in a lion’s life. 

Two hours.

To think of all the difficulties to survive that a lion must face – 90% loss of their historic range due to habitat loss, hunting and poaching, retaliatory killings of livestock owners, loss of prey and other factors.  According to Panthera “Just over a century ago, there were more than 200,000 wild lions in Africa.  Today, there are only about 20,000; lions are extinct in 26 African countries.”

We are at risk of another species DISAPPEARING. Big cats are part go a much bigger ecosystem in which we must find solutions to coexist and protect them in order for them to survive.

When you look at the world differently, you may just change it for good.

Joni Munsterteiger

Follow Joni’s photographic journey here:

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Note:  It was an incredible privilege to share this unique African moment with you Joni and I am super proud of the images you created especially considering this was the first time ever you photographed wildlife in the evening and with a spotlight.  Talk about jumping in on the deep end but the experience alone, I am sure you will agree was as good it gets.  I look forward to seeing more of your images as you process and share them!  Until next time.  Gerry.

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Comments 3

    1. Joni Munsterteiger

      What an epic experience–my whole trip was exceptional! I learned so much–including things about myself! Best trip EVER!!

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