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Game Warden

Nature in the raw...

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Game Warden

Inspired by the following series of images from @@mtow48's latest Lower Zambezi/South Luangwa/Livingstone trip report, please share your photos which have perhaps made you think on Safari - made you feel a bit uncomfortable but, which show, Nature in the Raw...

 

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mtow48

Hi all,

 

I was in Lower Zambezi last month with my girlfriend when we were out on an all-day game drive and came across a pair of honeymooning lions that had just killed a young elephant calf.

 

It was definitely a bittersweet experience. It was both shocking and pretty incredible at the same time. On the one hand, it's always exciting and on the wishlist to see an animal kill, but on the other hand it was also pretty surreal and quite sad, especially with such a young elephant. I love elephants and find them so interesting to watch, so that definitely made it a more somber experience for me; it's funny how the emotional impact isn't quite the same when it's a grumpy buffalo that's been killed, or an elusive leopard with an impala up a tree.

 

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Game Warden

Certainly a sighting at which you, as a safari goer might feel uncomfortable. Has anyone else photos or experiences of a sighting which might have been difficult to experience? How did it make you feel? Were you in a PV or sharing with other guests?

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Safari Cal

Definitely nature in the raw and very hard to watch I'm sure, but a well captured set of shots documenting the reality of life on the plains @@mtow48

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Whyone?

October 2005 was a very difficult time to be a browser or grazer in Mana Pools.

 

Two successive years of poor rains had left very little for the herbivores to eat. During our 8 days I lost count of the number of dead elephants, kudu and buffalo we saw. There were so many corpses littering the park, most just rotted, totally overwhelming the scavengers.

 

My memories of this poor female elephant are especially strong. We came upon her lying on her side, a small twig still in her mouth (you can still see it lying on the ground by her month in the photo below). She was barely breathing and clearly not long for this world. We kept a significant distance away from her, observing through bino's , not wanting to add further to her (di)stress.

 

I returned later in the day and she had died. This is the only occasion on safari that I have been reduced to tears.

 

For those that know Mana, she died on the open area a few hundred yards upstream of Mucheni 1. Her bones still litter this area, and we still make a point of visiting to pay our respects each year.

 

I took this photo the following day as passed whilst following one of the wild dog packs.

9764264011_5c30d365d9_o.jpg

Edited by Whyone?

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Game Warden

@@Whyone? Thanks for posting and relating your experiences with this sighting. Matt

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africapurohit

At the request of GW, I'm copying the text and images from a previous thread that I started - it is nature in the raw but of a different kind:

 

This is the sad story of a tsessebe cow who was trying to give birth to a stillborn calf - but as movement from a newborn calf is required to complete the process, it was not possible. These images were taken during an afternoon drive in Kwando (Botswana, 2006).

 

A guest in one of the other Kwando vehicles was a vet and offered to intervene to save the mother, but was told he was not allowed to. The mother's distress was evident and the guides felt she would not survive the night, most likely fall victim to hyenas.

 

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bushmaniac's reply in the original thread sums it up eloquently: "So sad that what should be the start of one new life, becomes the end of another"

Edited by africapurohit

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Soukous

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Peter Connan

On the 15th of December my dad and I were driving from Rooiputs in the Kgalagadi north along the Nossob road. Near Melkvlei we came across a very sad sight. A very emaciated lioness was drinking from a puddle left in the road by recent rain.

 

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We then noticed that there were two other lion in attendence. The first to emerge was a youngster

 

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At first it appeared fine, but when it jogged, it consistently lifted one rear paw.

 

Shortly thereafter, a young male appeared. it had something wrong with one eye and a wound on it's back, above the haunches

 

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Some scavengers were gathering, two jackal were in constant attendence, a couple of vultures adorned nearby trees and a hyena made a cameo appearance

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But seemed to be put off by the presence of the two younger lions.

 

The next morning, we found the lioness lying under a tree about 20-30m from where we had found her the day before.

 

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The other two lions had decamped south a couple of km. At this stage (06h36), she was still breathing, but a couple of hours later when we came by again, she had passed away, but was still lying in exactly the same position (even still had the eye open).

 

Any guesses as to what could have been the cause? One ranger we spoke to thought it might have been feline AIDS?

Edited by Peter Connan

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Big_Dog

Stunningly graphic images in this thread.
@@Peter Connan - The Kalahari is a sparse area and large predators live at low densities. It may simply be a lack of prey that caused her starvation. Illness is still highly likely though and is a big killer of lions (Serengeti Lion, Schaller).
Male lions often bite each other in the spine in fights and that is what may have happened to youngster.

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egilio

At the request of GW, I'm copying the text and images from a previous thread that I started - it is nature in the raw but of a different kind:

 

This is the sad story of a tsessebe cow who was trying to give birth to a stillborn calf - but as movement from a newborn calf is required to complete the process, it was not possible. These images were taken during an afternoon drive in Kwando (Botswana, 2006).

 

A guest in one of the other Kwando vehicles was a vet and offered to intervene to save the mother, but was told he was not allowed to. The mother's distress was evident and the guides felt she would not survive the night, most likely fall victim to hyenas.

 

bushmaniac's reply in the original thread sums it up eloquently: "So sad that what should be the start of one new life, becomes the end of another"

 

Bushmaniac did sum it up eloquently indeed!

 

The offer of the vet sounds nice, but apart from legal issues about him working in a country where he's not registered, there were a lot of practical issues too which would have made it impossible for him to actually intervene. I guess he didn't have a tranquilizer gun and drugs with him for example?

 

I've had an experience too where I found a paralyzed impala which was still alive, vultures were gathering in the tree around. The scout I was with asked if he should shoot it. I told him to not shoot it as the cause was natural, so it should take a natural course. An argument I used to convince him was the following: He could kill the impala and the vultures would come and eat. If he would leave it alive it might life to nightfall and the vultures would go hungry, but there might be a leopard with starving cubs nearby, who could find the kill and feed her cubs and thus, by not killing the impala, he would save some other animals.

 

On the 15th of December my dad and I were driving from Rooiputs in the Kgalagadi north along the Nossob road. Near Melkvlei we came across a very sad sight. A very emaciated lioness was drinking from a puddle left in the road by recent rain.

 

attachicon.gifNeartheendODP.jpg

 

We then noticed that there were two other lion in attendence. The first to emerge was a youngster

 

attachicon.gifYoungsterODP.jpg

 

At first it appeared fine, but when it jogged, it consistently lifted one rear paw.

 

Shortly thereafter, a young male appeared. it had something wrong with one eye and a wound on it's back, above the haunches

 

attachicon.gifGammeyODP.jpg

 

Some scavengers were gathering, two jackal were in constant attendence, a couple of vultures adorned nearby trees and a hyena made a cameo appearance

attachicon.gifScavengersODP.jpg

 

But seemed to be put off by the presence of the two younger lions.

 

The next morning, we found the lioness lying under a tree about 20-30m from where we had found her the day before.

 

attachicon.gifTheEndODP.jpg

The other two lions had decamped south a couple of km. At this stage (06h36), she was still breathing, but a couple of hours later when we came by again, she had passed away, but was still lying in exactly the same position (even still had the eye open).

 

Any guesses as to what could have been the cause? One ranger we spoke to thought it might have been feline AIDS?

 

Sad to see. I believe Kgalakgadi had Canine Distemper Virus running through it's lion population a few years back.

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Peter Connan

Stunningly graphic images in this thread.

@@Peter Connan - The Kalahari is a sparse area and large predators live at low densities. It may simply be a lack of prey that caused her starvation. Illness is still highly likely though and is a big killer of lions (Serengeti Lion, Schaller).

Male lions often bite each other in the spine in fights and that is what may have happened to youngster.

 

Big Dog, you could be right. A lot of the lions we saw (and we saw an incredible amount) looked fairly lean. On the other hand, I would have thought the conditions at the time would have been virtually ideal for lion. There had only been a little bit of rain, so all the animals were still effectively dependent on the normal watering holes, but some new grass was sprouting in the riverbeds, so that all the animals were congregating there. On the downside, cover was scarce though.

 

Another thing that interested me. I have spent most of my bushveld time in the Transvaal Lowveld, and in that area I virtually never saw an old carcass. Even a dead elephant dissapeared entirely within a couple of years.

 

But in the Kgalagadi, there were a lot of old dried carcasses lying around. At one waterhole, I counted seven complete or nearly-complete carcasses. Most of these even still have a fair amount of the skin left. Why are the scavengers so ineffective here? In the same vein, I do not think this lioness would have reached this stage in the lowveld, the other predators would have caught her long ago?

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egilio

Could be to do with the carcasses drying out so quickly that the scavengers don't get to it. Also, most animals dry from starvation/dehydration in a short period, so there are a lot of fresh carcasses around in a short time. This could make the carnivores 'picky' and they ignore quite a few carcasses.

 

Here a few of my pictures of the harshness of nature. The last two are a very old lioness. First photo her alive in 2008, the last photo of her just after her death (most likely killed by buffalo) in 2010. Already in 2008 she was walking with a stiff walk and clearly a very old cat. Check her canines, they had been like that for a long time!

 

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africapurohit

Great photos @@egilio - I'm sure you have many more hidden somewhere ;)

 

What's the story behind the male lion killing the hyena?

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Big_Dog

@@Peter Connan - In the Transvaal a lot of predators have the visual aid of vultures to guide them to a carcass, and the higher predator densities mean when one is found it can be finished in a day. The Kalahari has neither.
The Brown Hyaenas is the chief scavenger and I'm suprised that there are so many carcasses, but they are territorial and I guess could only eat about 15 - 20 lbs of meat themselves from a carcass and possibly lop off chunks to store later, so perhaps it take them a while to get through them? Still quite suprised though!
And I'd agree, other lions or hyaenas likely would have attacked the unfortunate lioness in her poor condition.

@@egilio - Good to see you on safaritalk! I saw your blog some time ago and have been a reader. I remember the male lion mauling the hyaena photos, incredible that it survived. Very tough animal!

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Csaba

Taken in the Serengeti earlier this year. Not sure what happened to him or where his head is

 

IMG_0891_zps084a7e32.jpg

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Soukous

This happened close to the Ol Kiombo airstrip in Maasai Mara.

An alliance of 4 male lions had found a hippo out in the open and killed it.

They fed on it for a day or so then moved off. When they did so the carcass was taken over by females and cubs.

very bizarre to see a hippo lying on its back in the middle of the plains.

 

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Csaba

How common is an alliance of four males?

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ice

@@Peter Connan

 

not sure what period of time you visited the KTP and what carcasses you are referring to but, for example, in winter 2012 an unexceptionally high number of eland migrated down from Botswana - now these eland hardly knew lions which meant it became a feast for the cats...at one waterhole close to Twee Rivieren a small pride of lions killed no less than seven eland within one night...obviously the antelopes were not killed because the cats were hungry but merely out of instict...in the end they left most of the carcasses intact, we could still see them in this state eight months later

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Peter Connan

Ice, this was last week. Most of the carcasses appeared to be Gemsbok and Wildebeest.

 

Big Dog, I very much doubt the area in the Transvaal I knew (to be specific, the south/central section of the Klaserie PNR) had nearly the same predator or vulture densities as the Kgalagadi currently has. Although we obviously saw more of the available lions than in the lowveld due to the open conditions, I still think there are more lions in the riverbeds of the Kgalagadi than in a similar stretch of relatively un-watered bushveld.

 

In the Kgalagadi, there is currently a pride of 4-6 lions at virtually every water hole, while in the Klaserie, there was one admittedly much larger (18-23), it roamed over a much larger area comprising several thousand hectare?

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Big_Dog

Ah I see, my mistake then! I know predator densities are low in the Kalahari (with some exception) so I assumed that less arid areas like the transvaal would be holding higher densities by default! But I would still suggest that the overall Kruger area - the park and all it's private areas have a greater lion density per km than Kgalagadi. I haven't seen any data on it so admittedly it just my assumption from enviroment and prey numbers. :)

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ice

yes, the density of the big cats is in Kruger much higher than in KTP

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Peter Connan

I believe all the research points to that being the case, but to be honest find it hard to believe when considering the specific case of the Nossob and Aub river-bed areas.

Edited by Peter Connan

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ice

nevertheless, it's simple mathematics:

 

KTP is appr. 36.000 km², Kruger appr. 20.000 km²; so to make it easier let's say KTP is double the size of Kruger

 

according to SANParks homepage, they estimate that 450 lions live in KTP (most of them in Botswana, tough), compared 1.600 - 2.000 in Kruger, depending on which source you believe, so the lion ratio is roughly 1:8

 

with leopards, the KTP leopards project has identified roughly 50 different animals, compared to an estimated 900 - 1.000 in Kruger, so the leopard ratio appr. 1:35

 

with cheetahs, I could not find numbers for KTP on the spot but for Kruger they estimate a population of 200 individuals and since I don't believe there are more cheetahs in KTP than leopards, we get another 1:8 ratio

 

 

a few more facts:

 

average size of a lion territory in KTP: 450 km², in Kruger: 150 m²; in KTP one pride seems to hold a territory as big as 1.500 km²

 

in Kruger, the territories of female leopards can be as small as 10 km²

 

 

I have visitied both parks on an almost yearly basis for seven years now and my personal (and therefore of course, subjective) experiences are congruent with the statistics: in Kruger I spot (on average) one leopard a day and perhaps seven different lions; in KTP on average it takes me a week to find a leopard, with an average of 1 - 2 lions per day

 

 

last nut not least: Kruger has many super prides (spotted on myself, with appr. 30 individuals), KTP prides are much much smaller and always way more spread out (again, based on personal experiences)

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Soukous

Inspired by the following series of images from @@mtow48's latest Lower Zambezi/South Luangwa/Livingstone trip report, please share your photos which have perhaps made you think on Safari - made you feel a bit uncomfortable but, which show, Nature in the Raw...

 

 

Shouldn't this discussion about animal population densities continue somewhere else?

Edited by Soukous

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