Week 24 … #24 Wild Card … Taking Flight

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Vultures in Serengeti Sunrise, Tanzania.

When on safari, one doesn’t consider African vultures worthy of photographing when there are more beautiful creatures to capture.  But one early morning at our mobile campsite on the Serengeti, there were a number sitting up in the trees, resting before the day began.  They were a beautiful sight against the sunrise.  I learned to appreciate these barbaric looking birds for their importance on the plains of Africa.  Their ability to fly over 60 miles a day patrolling the plains plays a vital role in keeping the wild areas free of disease and rotting carcasses.  They are incredibly efficient scavengers, leaving just bones, providing yet another meal for their competitors – the jackals, hyenas and feral dogs who will remove any remaining evidence of death.

 

Week 23 … #46 Fear … Circle of Life

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Cape Buffalo and lionesses battle over calf, Masai Mara, Kenya.

Cape Buffalo are fiercely protective of their young — and of each other — despite the fact that they have few predators.  Also known as Black Death, the Cape Buffalo can be extremely dangerous, and have a tendency to attack humans.  They are to be feared!!  It is said Cape Buffalos have killed more big game hunters than any other animal in Africa.  But then, I have little sympathy for big game hunters!

We came upon this scene of a young buffalo mother trying to protect her several day old injured calf.  She was alone which probably meant she had been there for a while as the herd had moved on without her.  Buffalo herds are very protective of each other and stick close together, even engaging in mobbing behavior when fighting off predators.  In this case, it would appear that the herd was aware of the futility of saving this baby calf and moved on without her.

The scene was filled with a dozen or so hyenas, two lionesses and a jackal, all surrounding the mother and the calf, waiting for her to walk away.  Each time that she attempted to leave the calf, the lions or the hyenas would approach the calf, biting at it or trying to drag it off.  The calf would cry out, she would run back and chase off the predators.  At one point, the lions attacked the hyenas, pushing them back, but overtime, they inched their way closer.  We must have watched this scene for over an hour with the mother torn between staying with her calf or leaving.

We decided to pull out of the area and find a spot for our mid-morning coffee and breakfast, a nice perk to early morning game drives.

IMG_0898When we returned to the site an hour later, the mother’s struggle to stay or leave still continued as the predators attempted to take the calf.  After another forty minutes watching this scene, the mother ultimately, but hesitantly, continued walking away from the calf as he no longer cried out when the lions were upon him.  She had made her decision to leave.

And so did we.

It’s a sad scene for any animal being attacked or killed but in this wild African kingdom, I came to accept the fact that one animal’s death may mean the survival of another.  Birth, survival and death … in its most raw form in Africa.