Outside editorial: A miracle on the African plains

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2007

It was just another day on the savanna at South Africa's Kruger National Park when some humans on safari witnessed a mesmerizing struggle. This being the 21st century, the humans had cameras, and what one of them shot is captivating viewers on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?vLU8DDYz68kM). Watch it and see the power of the many to save one of their own. Call it Survivor: The Family.

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The scene: Peaceful savanna, water flowing in the foreground. The players: a herd of Cape buffalo, a pride of lions, a pair of crocodiles.

The buffalo approach single-file, stage left. They don't see the lions lying in wait. The lions creep forward. Finally sensing danger, the buffalo bolt. The lions pounce. They overpower the most vulnerable buffalo, a calf, which tumbles into the water. The lions move in for the kill.

They're dragging the calf from the water when a lion pulls back, surprised by the presence of other predators. Two large crocs latch onto the baby buffalo too. The lions have one end, the crocs the other, in a tug of war. Finally, the crocs give up and retreat; the lions settle in for lunch.

But wait. The buffalo didn't scatter to the winds. En masse, they approach the lions. One buffalo swats a lion. Another bulldozes a lion, sending it airborne. The lions are reluctant to give up their catch. Then the calf, miraculously, wobbles to its hooves, and the buffalo herd shepherds it away from the lions. Now, prey becomes predator and the chase is on, buffalo after lions.

Lions usually win these contests. But Cape buffalo are social, unpredictable, powerful - and willing to defend their own. As they did, thrillingly, that day on the savanna.



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