Lions have been running wild this year.
And isn’t it sad that we think that’s a bad thing? Lions escaped from Kruger twice this year, one lot was recaptured, one lot shot. Then three lionesses and five cubs ran free in KwaZulu and were captured. Today there’s talk of a lion meandering around Mtonjaneni near Ulundi, munching on cows (which I suppose is the reason we won’t tolerate them running free: Their manners).
I saw a lion on the loose outside Mapungubwe in 2013. I had left the reserve, heading east for Botswana when an old grey-haired codger in short pants hopped out of his bakkie and flagged me down, hopping up and down with excitement. “Oom, Oom!” he shouted. “Hier’s n leeu, ek sweer. ‘n Leeumannetjie, Oom!”
I thought “Who’s Your Fokkin ‘Oom’? you Old Goat? You look Sixty in the Shade and Rather Weather-beaten and Ancient to me”, but I’m polite so I just said “Waar?” and he said “Volg my, sommer hier naby” and he got back into his bakkie to show me. Just then a big male lion sprinted across the road toward the Mapungubwe side. On both sides of the road high ‘game-proof’ fences keep animals in, inside the Oppenheimers’ private reserve on the left (southern) side and Mapungubwe National Park on the right (northern side), so he was trapped in an unfriendly corridor and he was not happy.
The poor lion was a lovely specimen but he looked anxious as hell and panicky and ran as though he was trying to make himself invisible. When he saw us he dived under a little green bush in the dry grass, laughably small but Hey! He disappeared under it! He lay motionless and nothing would entice him out.
This bush (look carefully, he’s in there!):
Then he ran back west along this fence and I left him. A gate to the De Beers Venetia Limpopo reserve had a phone number and I phoned to let them know one of their lions was running free.
Then on a sudden hunch I turned the rearview mirror to look at myself.
OMG! I saw what the old codger had seen and it was quite a shock.
“Oom! Hier’s n leeu, ek sweer. ‘n Leeumannetjie, Oom!” – Uncle! A male lion, I swear!