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CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: ZEBRA KILL DRAWS A WILD CROWD

Zebra kill draws wild crowd

I am constantly reminded of how quickly scenes can change while on safari. One minute you’re roving along, without much action, and your mind’s just begun to wander, when around the bend a leopard appears or a pack of wild dogs dashes across the path in front of you. These chance encounters are what always keep us on our toes out here.

Such was the case with the morning safari of January 13th. After a leisurely drive, Field Guide Kelly Oldaker and her guests were on their way back to the lodge when they noticed a considerable number of vultures descending into an open area. Definitely worth it to investigate…

A few hundred meters off the track, they found a fresh zebra kill engulfed by upwards of 70 vultures feeding alongside two hyenas. It was a frenzy as the hyenas ate with haste, while the boldest vultures pecked at the carcass, only to be chased off by the hyenas. The guttural hissing of the vultures buzzed through the air as they eagerly waited their turn to scavenge the scraps. Amongst the feathered crowd, there were hooded vultures, several white-backed vultures, and even a lappet-faced vulture.

The zebra was most likely taken down by these same two hyenas – contrary to popular belief, hyenas do in fact hunt. When our group arrived with Field Guide JP Marx, much of the carcass had already been devoured. Carnivores must eat quickly in the bush, as there is the ever-looming threat of something bigger and stronger coming along to steal their meal away. This feeding frenzy was entertaining enough, but what was to happen next was the most exciting part…

In a flash, innumerable sets of wings began flapping with such force you could feel the impact as their bodies scattered through the air. While the hyenas were successful in shooing the vultures from the carcass for a good five seconds, this was an entirely different reaction to a much greater threat. Warned by the commotion, the hyenas also bolted from the scene. We looked over and saw a male lion tearing through the landscape, followed by another and another. We identified them as the Tsalala Males – a coalition of three brothers who are establishing Lion Sands as part of their territory.

In an instant, the scene went silent as the hyenas moved completely out of view and the vultures, which had covered the ground only moments earlier, now looked on from nearby trees. No animal was going to try to compete with these lions for food lest they become a side dish. And who could blame them? But patience is an important virtue for survival in the bush, and once the lions had their fill, the hyenas and vultures descended again.

Witness the action here:

When we returned to that same spot the next day, little evidence remained thanks to these bush scavengers of the exciting scene that had unfolded the previous day.

Words, images and video by: Charlotte Arthun

 

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