Battle of Musiyara

This encounter in the Musiyara area of Masai Mara, happened six years ago- between a lone buffalo and thirteen lions of the Marsh pride. So why post now? Faced with overwhelming odds, the buffalo won the encounter and I can’t help thinking of the parallels with our current situation faced as we all are, by a serious threat.

To recap what had happened, the lions of the Marsh pride including Siena, Bibi, Charm, and young Red and Tatu, crept up on a lone buffalo who was completely unaware of what was to follow.

The lions set upon their intended prey. Initially the buffalo was overwhelmed and sat down but then decided to fight back. He did so by singling out Siena, the lead lioness who was trying to incapacitate him by snapping his hamstrings.

He ignored the other lions around him, gored Siena, impaling her on a horn, swung her around in the air and ripped open her side, rendering her hors de combat. Bereft of their leader, the lions lost heart and the attack disintegrated. At this stage the buffalo could have walked away but he didn’t.

Instead he crossed a shallow stream nearby and identified a tree that he could use to protect his back. He now came back to the bank and quite literally instigated the lions to cross over and continue the battle. The lions crossed over one by one and resumed the attack. This time with his back protected and being well prepared, the buffalo went on the offensive and started a battle of attrition. After more than an hour, the lions were ground down and ready to call off the attack. This is when the buffalo finally decided to leave, walking rather than running away, only pausing occasionally to grunt and feint at the lions following at a distance. The buffalo left only after having achieved complete moral ascendancy over his antagonists.

The battle was very intense and initially the buffalo lost its head and ran helter skelter threatening to hit our car. So our driver-guide had to keep moving us around and we had to interrupt the filming to hold on for dear life. This is why we don’t have on video, the buffalo being initially overwhelmed by the lions. We also don’t have the very end when the buffalo walked away, almost contemptuously. We were very emotionally drained by then and couldn’t continue filming. However you can see how Siena marshals the stalking and how the young Red & Tatu climb onto the buffalo showing how male lions are genetically programmed to administer the coup de grâce by breaking the neck of their prey. You can also see the turning point of the battle viz. Siena being gored and swung around.

Now, here are some of the lessons I can think of. There might be more.
1. No matter how serious the situation, there’s always a silver lining. In this case the pride males, the Four Musketeers weren’t in the vicinity and the buffalo made full use of that thin sliver of luck- if you can call it that.
2. You can decide to either lose or keep your head, when faced with a crisis. You always have that choice.
3. In a confusing situation, it helps to prioritise the threats and focus on the most serious one first, no matter how distracting the others might be.
4. Having initially quelled the threat you can still lose if you walk away too early. Be prepared for the long haul. You need to completely overcome the menace before declaring victory.
5. And finally, there’s always so much to learn. Even from a buffalo.

Stay well!

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