Brothers in Harm’s Way – Lion/Croc fight at Kings Pool Camp – Linyanti
Guests at Wilderness Safaris Kings Pool Camp recently witnessed incredible scenes from the banks of the Linyanti River – a sighting that showed that context is everything; that a king outside his kingdom can soon get out of his depth; and that fraternal bonds run deep.
Their guide, ND, had only seen the two male lions for the first time during the previous week. He believed that they had crossed the river from Namibia, and now it seemed that they were intent on returning. After pausing to drink, the younger of the two brothers in the coalition began to wade into the river.
Swollen after the late summer rains, the Linyanti represented quite an obstacle – but lions in this region have long since shelved cats’ well-known dislike of getting wet. The older male, however, was hesitant to enter the water – he had already spotted a large crocodile cruising towards them. Doubtless the croc was looking for one last substantial meal before entering its winter torpor.
The younger lion forged ahead, seemingly oblivious both to the onrushing reptile and his brother’s low warning growl. Within metres of the far bank, the crocodile struck and the surprised, angry snarling of the ambushed lion could be clearly heard through the splashing as these two alpha predators churned the water into foam.
On land, few creatures will challenge a male lion – much less two of them. In water, however, their antediluvian aggressor had the upper hand, and seemed to be succeeding in dragging the lion to a watery grave.
His older brother had other ideas, however – this was one big cat that was not happy to be the underdog, even if the guests may have been rooting for him. Slashing paws tore watchstraps out of the croc’s scaly skin as the younger lion, released from the jaws of death, popped back to the surface.
He wasted no time in swimming back to the Botswana bank – his tail between his legs – while confusion still reigned on the far side of the river. Eventually the older male also hauled himself onto dry land – only he was now in Namibia, with a cheated crocodile between him and his brother.
The younger lion bounded out of the water, and shook himself dry with as much dignity as he could muster, while the chastised crocodile – having bitten off more than he could chew (quite literally, given that a crocodile’s dentition is designed only to catch and hold prey, not chop it up) – went in search of an easier meal.
Snap, after all, is a game that’s much more fun when you’re winning. No studies have ever been conducted into crocodiles’ taste for chili, but this one at least didn’t enjoy food that had real bite.
It seemed that this is where this remarkable story would end, but as it turned out, the older brother came back for his reward. Within a week, he was back in Botswana, and tracked down his brother in the company of a rather winsome lioness who was in heat.
Big brother pulled rank on the one who almost sank, and his sibling accepted this without demur – you don’t begrudge a love rival when you owe him your survival.
Written by Nick Galpine
Photographs by Lauren Russell and Kings Pool Camp