Geoff's blog...

Click to enlarge each photo on this blog post

Stories from the Kenyan bush

October 30th 2013 - The mystery of the missing half Gnu!

lion on zebra killMy photo album on facebook consists of lots of elephants and even more photos of Mount Kilimanjaro but we did actually have some pretty decent predator sightings during our one month of relief management.

One afternoon I was alerted to a lion feeding on a zebra near the causeway and went over to investigate with Kara. She doesn't get out of the office very often and so this was a great opportunity for us to spend some time together out in the bush! When we found the lion he was some 50 metres from the road with about half of the adult Zebra already eaten. What puzzled me was that this was not a typical ambush scenario. The landscape around the kill was open and completely devoid of bushes, scrub, rocks and no undulations in the land and thus, in theory, unless the zebra was blind and had no sense of smell, it would have been very difficult for one rather lazy male lion to have a successful stalk in such an area.

gnu killAbout 10 days later our senior guide, told me that two male lions had taken down a wildebeest right at the causeway. As it was really early in the morning and Kara had everything under control, I took advantage of the gorgeous light and headed out for a short while. When I arrived the two lions were still eating the wildebeest, there was one car on the scene and about 8 hyenas skulking around a couple of hundred metres away. After about 15 minutes of taking photos I realized that something was amiss. All that I could see of the carcass was the front half…. From the rib cage back, everything was missing!

>gnu killAnd judging by the behavior of the very nervous hyenas they had not stolen it. Now I know I may sound cynical but let's look at the facts (and the attached photos) – lions don't eat hooves, especially when there is still a complete front half of a Gnu mostly uneaten, the ribs were all symmetrically damaged and there were no torn strips of skin, so either the lions were using a knife or there was an element of human interference involved.

>gnu killSo here is the theory, offered by an ex KWS warden. At certain times of the year there is not a lot of grazing available to the plains game and so they tend to move away from the national parks and into areas where the grazing is better… these areas are normally already occupied by cattle and Maasai. If the predators follow them then livestock predation increases and so do the complaints from tourists that there are no big cats in the parks. The solution is to shoot a wild animal (zebra or wildebeest are the most common) and strategically place it in the reserves. This is a great idea, but in this case it's a pity that the game rangers involved obviously decided that Wildebeest Stew would taste rather nice and took the entire rear half for themselves!

Oh well – at least the thirty something minibuses that arrived before I left got to see good ol Simba and Mufasa!