What a treat today! Not one, but two Cyberdiaries! This particular scene, mentioned briefly in the Cyberdiary posted earlier today, was too good not to share with you – albeit it later than the primary entry due to the firebreak burning.
While on safari early this week, one of our rangers spotted an elephant bull to the west of Buffalo Bush Dam. The young male seemed to be in great discomfort, and upon further investigation it was discovered that his left front leg was badly infected just above the foot. It is devastating that in such cases the probable cause of the wound is almost always the result of a man-made snare.
This young elephant bull had obviously fallen victim to the snare, but had managed to break free of it by sheer virtue of his mammoth size. But in so doing the wire had cut into his leg causing the infection. By the time we found him, the poor animal could barely move and his leg had swollen to double its normal size. As MalaMala’s policy dictates that we will only intervene in the course of nature if man is responsible, we called in the vets from the Kruger National Park. After closer inspection, the only viable solution was to put the hapless creature out of its misery.
The carcass of the elephant lay untouched in the bush for a few days. The first predator at the scene was a hooded vulture. Ironically, despite being in the front of the queue and ahead of the pack, the raptor will probably be the last to eat as the elephant’s thick hide prevented it from being able to reach the innards.
The first of MalaMala’s big predators to make an appearance was the West Street male leopard (formally known as the unidentified young male from around West Street). This impressive young cat could probably not believe his luck when he stumbled upon the veritable bounty of flesh, free of any form of competition. He immediately tucked into the feast, and enjoyed a relatively peaceful few hours before he was joined by a hyena. A single hyena versus a young male leopard will usually result in a fairly vicious interaction, but with so much food on offer this was not to be (why get into a fight and risk injury when there is more than enough meat to go around?) What did ensue was a game of ‘tit-for-tat’. The one would feed until chased off the kill when the other came charging in. A bit of growling and snarling would follow before the two would swap places. This continued for some time until the balance of power shifted in the hyena’s favour when six of its re-inforcements arrived, changing the dynamics completely.
Over the next few days, a similar scene repeated itself over and over again. The 6 hyenas would gorge themselves on the carcass. The West Street male would sit and watch from a safe distance before inching closer. The hyenas would turn on the leopard. The leopard would scamper up the nearest tree. And so it went, quite like Ground Hog Day.
The leopard’s patience and perseverance would occasionally pay off when the hyenas would temporarily leave the carcass to either return to their den, or to get a drink of water. These short windows of opportunity enabled The West Street male to satisfy himself before his arch rivals returned.
As this account is penned the stand off continues. And considering the fact that there is still a mass of meat remaining, it does not seem as if an end is in sight.
Ground Hog Day continues.
We will keep you posted…
The MalaMala Ranger Team