By Leigh Kemp
Central to Northern Botswana is the Okavango Delta, a unique wilderness area made up of permanent channels, seasonal floodplains and islands. The seasons of the delta are intriguing in that the water is at its highest in the dry season and at its lowest at the start of the rainy season.
This is due to the fact that the delta receives most its water from the highlands of Angola, 1700 km away. The water can take up to six months to reach the seasonal floodplains - long after the last rains have fallen in the delta.
The Lions of the Okavango Delta destroy the theory that Lions do not like water. When the delta flood is at its peak the dry land area of the home ranges of the Lions is limited to islands and in order to hunt they have to cross water between the islands.
They do this readily. The Lions of the Okavango Delta are generally stronger in the forequarters than other Lions as they spend a great deal of time on the floodplains.
It was in the Savute that the Elephant killing was first recorded. The pride began by taking down young Elephants that they managed to separate from the herd before progressing on to sub-adults. In time they began to hunt and kill adult Elephants.
At the height of their prowess the lions were killing more than thirty Elephants a year but there has been a downturn in the numbers of Elephants killed in recent years due to the pride splitting up.
The Savute area has a fascinating geological history, in that the channel dries up and flows for indeterminate periods of time - and this has an effect on the Elephant- hunting of the Lion pride in the region.
It was during a dry spell that the pride was at its 32 member peak, and killing Elephants regularly, but with the area now wet with the flowing channel the pride has split up and the Elephant killing has all but stopped.While most Lion prides in Botswana will hunt Buffalo, there are two prides in the Duba Plains area of the Okavango that prey solely on the big Buffalo herds of the region. These delta prides have adapted to using the water in their hunting techniques.