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J. Herbert

She needed this food and staggered after them. As they reached the tree and went up into it, she too was close behind and reached up and attempted to pull one out, but her hind-quarters wouldn’t support her weight and she collapsed. She was so angry, she snarled and bit at those painful legs.

They both said they felt no thorns going up the tree. The lioness was right behind them and just missed reaching Adam when she attempted to stand on her hind legs. Adam said she actually touched his veldskoons but fell back due to an apparent wound in her hind-quarters. He said she kept snarling and biting at her rear which was swollen and seeping fluid. Adam figured she had been wounded by some hunter or cattleman. He said it was terrifying to be up in that tree with that huge cat walking around the base looking up, snarling and moaning. She walked around and around the tree, stopping every so often to reach up at the one who kept yelling at her, but her legs wouldn’t hold.

She kept trying to reach them but each time her hind-quarters would collapse and down she would go. Just then Adam felt a warm flow of water falling on his head. What had happened was Tom, being so frightened, had lost control of his bladder and the urine flowed down on the top of Adam’s head.

She smelled the strong smell of urine and wondered where it came from and then saw it dribbling down the tree.

Adam said the urine smell seemed to excite the lioness and she renewed her efforts to reach them. They were now yelling and calling, hoping someone from camp would hear them. However, the distance was just too far. They spent from 9am until 4pm in that tree with the lioness moving and watching them the entire time.

She was so tired. She moved off 30 metres and lay flat in the tall grass and watched. She could hear the jabber of those humans. Maybe they would forget about her and come out of the tree and she would make a meal of one of them.

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Finally, at 6.30pm, the other two young men arrived in the other Jeep. A passing workman from the camp on his way home at the end of the day had heard their distress calls and went back to camp to alert the other people. The lioness appeared to wander off around 6pm but both men, being afraid she was hidden in the grass, stayed in the tree. Adam said he and Tom were unable to crawl down the tree due to the thorns. They instead moved to the small branches near the top. With this move the tree bent over, dropping them into the back of the Jeep. There was much laughter and hilarity from their rescuers, but they soon sobered when they heard the story.

The lioness watched as the vehicle with the other humans arrived at the tree. She could hear their excited chatter as they moved about. By now she had moved to an elevated bit of ground some distance away. Her hunger, and now her thirst, were terrible and she knew she had to return to the waterhole. She started in that direction as the vehicle disappeared over the hill.

Both men were full of thorns, not only in their hands and arms, but on the inside of their legs as well. Upon getting back to camp, they reported the incident to the reserve’s warden, Harry Kirkman, who came the following day with trackers and shot the wounded female.

The night had been long for the lioness. Her hunger was terrible now and she had stiffened as she lay in the reeds by the waterhole. It was early morning and she thought about food. Just then, there was a movement in the reeds to her right. As she turned her head to look, a bullet entered her heart and she died.

Mr Kirkman had been one of the original rangers under Col. Stevenson Hamilton, the warden of Kruger National Park, and was from the “old school”. He was very angry that the wounding of the lioness was not reported to him immediately and the man responsible got a major dressing down. Adam did not recall whether charges were brought against the man or not, but they should have been.

It was fortunate that the lioness could not reach higher as she surely would have pulled at least one of the young men from the tree and in her maddened, starved state, eaten or badly mauled him. Moral of the story: Carry a gun in lion country and know how to use it!

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African Hunter Vol.5 No.6 December 1999
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