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Our driver slows the SUV, he sees something off in the distance to the right. Soon we are aware that it’s a lioness and we see that she is followed, in single file, by eight more girls, each spaced about ten feet apart. They cross the road before us and continue into a field dotted with hillocks and termite mounds. As they gather into three or four tawny furred groups, they gaze around like chiseled periscopes in their sea of grass. The alpha female remains alone at the front of the pride. Off again to the right we see two adult female warthogs with a baby. Many of her siblings have perished. One of the adults perches atop the road tailings for a better view across the road. “See the lions!” we scream silently, “Run!”

They cross the road, again one adult perching atop the tailing. She seems to notice the alpha lioness, but what about the others? To our horror, she leads the other female and the baby directly into a path through the lions, tails held high, unknowingly headed into danger. In a flash, the lions are in motion. They trap the adults and isolate the baby. She is grabbed instantly, feet wiggling, screaming in the jaws of the great cat. They let the adult warthogs run off. “She’s gone” says the driver. But she is not gone. The lioness holds her clenched firmly in her mouth for minutes as the baby squeals and tries to struggle free. We want it to be over.

Soon she is pulling the baby apart, relishing each rip into the soft sweet flesh. I’ve nicknamed the warthogs ‘lion poptarts’ since they are relatively easy to catch for a snack and reportedly (by humans) quite delicious. As she eats the others keep watch but a younger female creeps on her stomach slowly toward the killer, hungry for food and needing to share. Cubs, when they learn to kill on their own, are not accorded any clemency or courtesy by their mothers or other adults. They will kill over possession of food. As the young lioness approaches the dining one, she is greeted by a bloody paw slap, claws extended, across the face as her left leg is pierced by the older lioness’ teeth. Her mouth and paws already covered in the piglet’s blood, it is a sight that brings us back to reality: each moment in this idyllic place is continually pierced with life and death. There is no sentimentality, no emotion. Life moves quickly and death strikes twice as fast.

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