Brave man takes on lion in survival battle
Just as Tachivei Machona Nebiri reached the crest of a steep ascent along the Charara Road in Kariba, he saw four lions, a female and three cubs, steal into a nearby thicket.
Nebiri was taken aback by the sight, but drew solace in the thought that the lions had not seen him and were going about their business.
While contemplating his next move, he saw the figure of another lion on the right side of the road, gazing at him.
It roared, and Nebiri froze.
The lion charged at him with a dishevelled mane and an accentuated chest, accompanied by a spine-chilling roar, which disturbed the serene Sunday morning.
At this stage, tonic immobility, mimicry and deimatic display could have been pulled out of the toolkit of prey faced with such a predator. These are theatrics of survival in the jungle theatre.
Nebiri did the unthinkable!
He dropped his bag, flipped the slippers off his feet, and ran towards the approaching lion, screaming and raising his hands.
It was around 6am on a Sunday as security guards on nightshift made their way home, while others walked to work.
Being a Sunday, the road was teeming with people.
“The first thing that crossed my mind as I saw the lion charging towards me was that should I show it my back, then I am dead,” recounted Nebiri.
“So, I ran towards the lion while screaming and raising my hands. In my mind I was saying, ‘I am dead anyway, so why not go down with a fight?’”
Pound for pound, he stood no chance, but like a titan, he charged anyway.
Could this have been a shock and awe strategy that temporarily disoriented the lion as it moved to the side of the road before engagement?
The adrenaline rush cut the 100-metre distance between them to about 10 metres, with the lion gaining on him.
Was it going for the kill or it was protecting the lioness and her cubs?
Man and beast came face to face, and the latter charged. Each charge was met with Nebiri’s animated return, which seemed to fend off the King of the Jungle.
“It would back pedal and come charging at me again, but I kept on shouting, ‘Iwe, iwe shumba’, while kicking in the air and raising my hands,” said Nebiri.
His animated gestures were synonymous with Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee’s martial arts displays. Asked if he was a trained karateka, Nebiri said he had never undergone any martial arts training.
With Nebiri growling, shouting, charging and mock charging, and the lion discharging sand and stones at him in a bid to obstruct his vision, the tango continued. After a 15-minute stand-off, the King of the Jungle gave in and retreated to his abode, leaving Nebiri nursing chest and rib pains owing to the protracted exertions.
When the lion withdrew into the bush, Nebiri back pedalled while remaining alert to any sudden movement.
Just as he feared, the lion suddenly reappeared from the bush and the battle continued with Nebiri shouting, kicking and raising his hands, again.
“I don’t know how I mustered the courage to confront the lion, and where the theatrics came from. I just found myself doing what in hindsight seem to be karate moves,” he said.
After some time, the lion retreated into the bush once more, but Nebiri did not drop his guard, until he saw and heard the lion roaring in a nearby mountain with the female reciprocating the call.
Evidence of the dance for survival was left conspicuous in the lion’s spoor and trampled grass.
Nebiri walked back towards his workplace and saw a vehicle heading in the direction of his home in Batonga. He waved it down.
The driver of the car, Hardlife Zawani, said Nebiri was panting as someone who had been running for a long time.
“I couldn’t believe it when he told me what had happened,” Zawani said, adding, “I drove him to the scene where we found his bag and slippers.”
Some residents who live near the area said they heard roaring noises, but thought it was an elephant.
“I could hear the noises from indoors. It went on for a long time. I thought it was a lion and an elephant fighting,” said a woman who did not want to be named.
The area between the University of Zimbabwe fisheries research station and Lomagundi Lakeside Association is a known crossing point for lions as they make their way to and from Lake Kariba to drink water.
Kariba residents in Nyamhunga, Batonga, and Garikai suburbs, among others, walk along the Chawara Road which is buffeted by 330kva power lines to work and school.
People work in lodges and houses in the Cutty Sark Harbour area, despite the lurking danger of wild animals, including elephants, buffaloes, hyenas and lions.
When The Herald visited the scene of the skirmish, some people were walking along the route used by the lions to and from the lake. Ironically, Nebiri had passed two boys who asked him if there were no elephants where he was coming from and he did the same.