In: Tambling, C.J., Druce, D.J., Hayward, M., Castley, J.G., Adendorff, J. & Kerley, G.I.H. 2012.

Spatial and temporal changes in group dynamics and range use enable anti-predator

responses in African buffalo. Ecology 93(6): 1297-1304

Online paper


For further information please contact

Dr. Craig J Tambling

Centre for African Conservation Ecology

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University


Tel: 041 504 4279



Following lion reintroductions into the Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa, in 2003, it was worrying that buffalo were being consumed regularly, and few calves were seen in the herds. This concern was because buffalo in Addo are disease-free, and therefore valuable for stocking other conservation areas, in addition to being important components of the ecosystem and for tourism within the park.

Therefore, from a management perspective, it is important to understand how buffalo and lions co-occur in the same area. This prompted an investigation into the lion-buffalo relationship in Addo between 2003 and 2010. This work is ongoing.

What we found

       Before lion reintroductions, buffalo spent most of their time in small groups and did not move out of the thick bush, that covers most of the park, that often.

       Following the lion reintroductions in 2003, buffalo were one of the main food item for lions.

       As a result of lions attacking buffalo herds, buffalo congregated in larger herds and spent more time in areas that were expected to be safer from lion attack. These safer areas generally had shorter grass and fewer bushes, creating a more open environment and allowing the buffalo to see the lions sooner.

       When buffalo occur in larger herds, fewer are killed by lions. We saw that male buffalo defended the herds when lions tried to attack, and as a result more buffalo calves survived.

Management advice

       Our study found that in order for buffalo to survive in the presence of lions, herds need to be large so that buffalo can defend themselves, a strategy which is more effective than trying to run away from hunting lions.

       Therefore, when considering lion reintroductions into areas in which buffalo already occur, it will be wise to ensure that buffalo numbers are high enough to ensure that these large herds can develop for the future protection against lions.

       An additional benefit for tourists of the presence of lions is that buffalo moved out of the thick bush and enabled more tourist sightings of this member of the “big five”.