NATURE

NATURE's INTIMATE ENEMIES: LIONS AND BUFFALO explores the drama of two ancient antagonists in their battle for survival.

Life on the savannah of southern Tanzania is a study in contrast between rainy and dry seasons. When water is abundant, the wildebeest at the rivers provide food for the lion population, while the buffalo graze contentedly on the succulent grasses in the hills. The two great adversaries -- lion and buffalo -- can keep their distance.

But in the dry months, when the rivers of Ruaha National Park become little more than ropes of sand dotted with small water holes, the wildebeest vanish to the north and the grasses wither, setting the stage once again for their age-old battle for survival.

The contraction of the river into isolated water holes is a boon for the lions. The lions know the buffalo must eventually make their way to the water holes. And so, they have plenty of time to exercise one of their strongest qualities: patience. Lions can wait for hours for a buffalo herd to amble over, and can linger even longer for a window of opportunity. A buffalo, however, not only can ward off attack, but also inflict severe damage in the process. Occasionally, however, a bull wanders away from the protection of its herd, offering the lion pride a fighting chance. Even then, it's a risky proposition.

Meanwhile, when the rains return at last, the period of confrontation is over. One thing is certain, however: these timeless enemies will face each other once again.


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