High Noon at Klopperfontein (by Hennie Blignaut)

High Noon at Klopperfontein (by Hennie Blignaut)

On the early morning drive from Punda Maria to Pafuri, expectations were rising with the sun. It was late in December and there had been no rain. The Klopperfontein dam on the S62 remained the one possible refuge for thirsty and hungry wildlife. In the distance we noticed a pride of eight lionesses, all very vigilant, staring intently, and with twitching tails. This could mean only one thing: the hunt would soon be on. Having stayed at Punda Maria for the last couple of days, I knew that wildlife was abundant at the Klopperfontein dam, especially the reliable meal of impala and buffalo. I backtracked to the dam, and swung my Land Rover so that I had a view of the whole dam. The lionesses, I predicted, could only approach from my rear, scout the dam and follow the movements of the potential meal from the hiding place of a bush. At the same time, below the dam wall, part of a herd of buffalo moved up the river, towards the ravine and up towards the section where the dam wall and hilly outcrop joined. This route was an easier walk compared to going around the dam wall.

What the buffalo did not know was that this offered a perfect place for an attack from a predator; they had to move more or less in single file up the hill so the narrow path gave them almost no chance to manoeuvre. The lionesses were watching the movement of the buffalo very carefully; they, too, had done the calculations and knew the best spot to attack was where the river, hill and dam wall met, exactly where the buffalo would be coming.

As it turned out, I was spot-on with my thinking because the lionesses did attack from the rear. But what caught me completely off-guard was the speed with which one lioness reacted. Having jumped onto the dam wall, she was in a perfect position to see the buffalo walking up the side of the river. With the element of surprise on her side, she jumped down from the dam wall. She got her claws embedded into the buffalo’s side and grabbed its throat. This is it, I thought. High Noon at Klopperfontein! But it didn’t work out the way I expected.

Somehow the lioness’s hold on her quarry was not as secure as she thought, and she was thrown off by the startled buffalo. By this time the lioness was in the same confluence of the hill, river and dam, right in the path of several disgruntled buffalo clan members. Then the buffalo promptly turned the tables on the lionesses, and it was an incredible sight. I’d heard stories of this happening, but never seen it myself. For the next hour, the buffalo, clearly angry about this attack, chased the lionesses all over the hill, venturing very close, and determined to show them who was boss of the muddy pool at Klopperfontein.


Buffalo 1 Lion 0

 Story by Hennie Blignaut

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