Sun Tzu in his famous treatise The Art of War, summed up an important strategic element of conflict by saying – “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Well, three brave Maasai men had aptly demonstrated this tactical virtue, by sneaking up on a pride of hungry lions, and then taking their food. Quite incredibly, they did so without any element of fighting. As a matter of fact, these men were only armed with bows and a machete – rudimentary arms that wouldn’t have helped much if the famished lions had pounced upon them. However, in a rare feat that combined fearlessness, tactfulness and patience, the Maasai men (led by a 65-year old elder) successfully snatched away part of lions’ meal, and then safely returned to their homes without incurring any physical harm. This heroic real-life episode was captured by BBC in a video footage.
Interestingly, this type of behavior is akin to what is known as kleptoparasitism (literally, parasitism by theft). In fact, in the animal kingdom, spotted hyenas are known for their ‘expertise’ in kleptoparasitism, with their targets often involving cheetahs. Other animals like bears, coyotes and even wolves are known to engage in similar kinds of prey-snatching behavior. And, while it may sound easy in theory, the act itself is pretty dangerous, especially since the actual hunters (in most cases being lions and leopards) often ferociously defend their killed preys – thus in turn killing or gravely injuring the kleptoparasitic intruder.
Now, in this case, the human obviously had the advantage of greater intelligence when compared to the lions. But even beyond the ambit of individual smartness, it is the progressive mental conditioning of the humans as a species that has helped them to survive and even emerge at the top of the animal realm.
To that end, the Maasai men here formulated a collective tactical approach that entail various factors that led to the mission’s success. For example, they moved forward as a singular team, while showing no signs of fear. This closely-formed body then swiftly made its way to the killed prey, which in turn flummoxed their lion opponents (thus scattering them). Finally and most crucially, they only took a part of the killed prey – which left a considerable portion of the game for the lions to consume. This act potentially prevented the lions from following the Maasai men back their safe house.