Because of the rain during the morning safari some of my guests decided to sleep late. After breakfast we set out again to make up for lost time. I wasn’t expecting much activity as it was quite hot by this stage… But were we in for a surprise!
We had found a huge male leopard a few hours before but struggled to follow him because of the rain. We now went in search of him again and were rewarded with a much clearer view as he climbed a few termite mounds and peered into the burrows, obviously in search of a warthog breakfast.
We were slowly heading back to towards the lodge, easing past a lone buffalo bull along the way, when one of the other rangers gave us a call on the radio. He informed me that there was some suspicious behaviour up in the skies and so we rushed off to investigate. Upon arriving at the scene we were astonished to see literally hundreds of vultures in hurricane formation directly above us. We watched as they came hurtling through the air at breakneck speed towards a dark object lying in the grass. It was difficult to see exactly what animal they were squabbling over through the writhing mass of feathers. Our first clue eventually came bounding up to us in the form of a baby wildebeest, clearly confused. It immediately became apparent to us that his mother had been killed sometime that morning. He ran up to the vultures, bleating as he went, searching for his mother. This caused the vultures to scatter and a yellow-billed kite that was “waiting in the wings” took this opportunity to make a half-hearted attack on the youngster.
We were amazed that the calf’s bleating had not attracted any predators as the sound is like someone ringing a dinner bell. Not long after a black-backed jackal arrived but was clearly more interested in the carcass than the live bait.
A little further down the track we stumbled upon a pride of three lions, one adult female, and two sub-adults (male and female). They were the obvious culprits of the murder as they all had full bellies and were now sleeping it off in the shade of a river bushwillow thicket, completely ignoring the cries of the young orphan.
This is one story which does not have a happy ending, however, as later that afternoon during the evening safari the lions began to stir again. They made a beeline straight for the wildebeest calf, made short work of him as if he were a rag doll and dragged him down into the riverbed to be eaten at their leisure.
All photo’s by Rob Overy
Cameron Pearce – Head Ranger, Kapama Karula