High Plains Drifters

Issue 1 (May 2007)  Buffalo thunder across the Busanga Plains of northern Kafue National Park. These heavyweight herbivores may gather in herds more than 1,000 strong as they press ever forward in search of fresh grazing.

 

Despite this seemingly homogenous mass of bovine flesh, large herds comprise a number of smaller ‘cow-herds’, each led by a dominant female. 


It is these older matriarchs that chart each day’s course towards grazing and water, or lead them by night into the shelter of the surrounding woodlands. There is safety in such numbers: lions, the buffalo’s only significant predator, find it hard to penetrate the defensive wall of lethal curved horns, and herds will act together to drive the big cats away.

 

Kafue National Park is Zambia’s largest, and its 22,500km2 comprises a rich variety of habitats. Busanga Plains lies in the northern sector, and for much of the year its flat grasslands are inundated by the floodwaters of the Lufupa river, one of the Kafue’s main tributaries. This lush, flat salad bowl, dotted with islands of palms and fig trees, draws huge seasonal densities of game. As well as buffalo, herds of red lechwe, puku, zebra and blue wildebeest gather, drawing a train of predators that includes wild dogs, cheetahs and Kafue’s famous tree-climbing lions.

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