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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Two distant kills
Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project    Share

It is amazing what you can find even when you aren’t really looking. On our drive to set up some sheep meat for another carcass observation we passed not one but two kills. The first was more of a massacre than a kill. Over forty hyenas were prowling around, several with blood soaked faces, so we knew something was up. We followed the cries of a few Tawny eagles to the site of the actual kills. Almost fifteen hyenas, many of them still cubs, crowded around what presumably was once a wildebeest. Honestly though there wasn’t even enough left to know that for sure. When hyenas make a kill, the meat goes fast. Though a few vultures had gathered I highly doubt that got anything.

The next kill was a bit more of a disruption. Right where we had planned to put a carcass for the day, lay a pride of 11 lions. Two big males, three females, and six tiny cubs crowded around the remains of yet another unfortunate migrating wildebeest. Having started first, the males were soon full and wandered off to search for some water and shade. After a while the larger lioness decided to move the cubs off and she too walked away a small progression of fluff and fuzz following at her footsteps. When only one lion remained, the scavengers began to move in. A few jackals raced at the meat, wearily grabbing a piece now and then before jumping back at the lioness’ glare. Then the vultures crowded around. Too scared to approach, but ready for whatever opportunity might arise.

For our part, it was time to get back to work. So we found a new spot, not too far away, and set out our small pile of sheep meat. I wasn’t too sure what would happen with the lion kill so close, but figured it was worth seeing. For nearly an hour it was slow. A Bateleur circled but seemed to know better than to land with so many vultures around. Thirty more minutes and the Bateleur changed its mind. Landing gracefully at the carcass it attracted the attention of not one but two Tawny eagles, who further attracted the horde of African white-back vultures that had gathered around the lion kill. Within minutes, the entire army that had gathered by the wildebeest was devouring the sheep meat. Only the jackals decided to wait around for the lion to leave and even they soon turned up at the small carcass just in time to nibble away at the bones and skull that remained. Then it was back to the lion kill, which proved much more fruitful for the jackals who ate what little was left as the hungry vultures looked on.

Find more articles about Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Africa

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