South Luangwa lions developing a taste for hippo

There seems to be something new on the menu for a particular pride of Lion in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia – and they’ve really got the taste for it. Where once the buffalo was the food of choice, these 9 lion (a splinter group from our Big Pride) seem to have taken a liking for hippopotamus.

While it isn’t unheard of for lions to take down a hippo, Abraham Banda, Senior Guide at Norman Carr Safaris explains that it has normally been opportunistic – juveniles or injured hippos. Hippos generally lack survival instincts as they aren’t normally preyed upon.

However, being solitary out of water, the pride seems to making the most of this. In the last few months, the pride has killed 6 hippo in the area…and there have been many more attempts.

Lions tend to learn to specialize in certain prey and this pride is growing more and more confident with their hippo hunting skills. They are a good size pride – nine individuals with one adult female, two sub-adult males and six sub-adult females.

As hippo is not a traditional kill and when hunting a juvenile we are seeing them distract the mother and then overwhelm the juvenile, wearing it down until they can easily attack it, immobilizing it rather than the traditional strangulation or asphyxiation. These photos were taken at Norman Carr Safaris’ Chinzombo camp recently.

No one is entirely sure why their behavior has changed over the last few months. Johnathan Merkle from the Zambian Carnivore Programme who monitors lion in the region, points out that they are still taking down other prey, but with poor rains this year there is more and more opportunity as water pools, rivers and lagoons dry up.

So watch this space as the Luangwa heats up and water becomes more and more scarce, we’re pretty sure there will be more reports of these lions and their new dinner time favourites.