About the Author

James Tyrrell

Photographic Guide/Media Team

James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills were well developed, and he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team as a result. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the photographic skills ...

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on Just How Efficient is Nature’s Cleanup Crew?

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Marinda Drake
Master Tracker

It is fascinating watching scavengers at a carcass. Vultures squabble constantly. Noise levels rise. The terrible smell. Hyenas and eventually a jackal or two running of with the scraps. Great photo oppurtunities. Love it. Great blog and images.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Thanks Marinda!

Lisa Dunlap

Beautiful writing to accompany the photos

Denise Vouri
Digital Tracker

You’ve great photos to accompany your informative article regarding the “vacuum cleaners “ of the African plains. Whilst hyenas and vultures are not the most attractive if the species typically viewed in safari, they certainly have a purpose although sometimes it’s misguided when stealing kills from others.

I remember clearly the sight and smell of an old bull elephant that had died in Botswana, smothered with dozens of screeching vultures, each protecting their little piece of real estate on this huge carcass. It’s a sight I’ll never forget but I truly understood it. Thank you for sharing……

Darlene Knott
Senior Digital Ranger

Spectacular story told by the photos! And how true, James, hyenas and vultures play a very important role in nature. That should never be underestimated or disdained. Thanks for sharing.

Laszlo Toth

Any idea how the elephant died?

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Laszlo,
When the skeleton was revealed it was found to have a broken pelvis. A while prior, rangers had seen a very big bull trying to mate with a young female, and she had been seen limping. It is more than likely that her hip had broken in the encounter, and malnutrition had taken its toll as a result of not being able to walk.

Vin Beni

Your writing and photography turned a grim scene into something almost beautifully poetic. It made me think back to my first sighting of a post-kill feast and how upsetting I found it to be. Eventually, after a few more, I came to understand the balancing act of nature.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Vin,
Thanks for the comments.
Indeed, as grim as the spectacle may appear, it is simply nature in its own dance…

Ann Yonhee
Digital Ranger

Likewise, we the higher mammals wonder about our disappearance from this Earth; will it leave any residue or just skeleton ? Thank you for the story

Ian Hall
Senior Digital Ranger

Some cracking photos, especially the vultures in flight, where motorwind becomes really useful

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Haha agreed Ian. We saw the hyena coming in and were sitting waiting, motor-drives primed. A higher shutter speed would have been preferred, but the light was low and I didn’t want to compromise too much with the ISO. It came out alright in the end…

Joanne Wadsworth
Senior Digital Ranger

The true cycle of nature was summed up from the images of the body to only the final remains. Excellent teaching and storytelling, James! You really captured the mood of the site when the Vultures took flight. What a image! Also appreciated the explanation of why this young female elephant died. I have often read that the elephant herd will return to the remains, gently handle the bones as a way to acknowledge the death and thereby pay their respects. Interesting to see if any of the rangers/trackers see elephants around these remains in future days ahead. Let us know.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Joanne,
Spot-on about elephants mourning their dead, even if they aren’t from the same herd. It will certainly be interesting to watch elephants passing by this spot in future, and seeing how they react…

Wendy Macnicol

Hi James. Only an Intelligent Designer could have created such a wonderful Clean Up Crew. What a Creator we have! Wendy M

Chelsea Allard

There is something truly beautiful about the circle of life. As terrible as it is that this elephant died, and especially how if the assumption is correct, it is gratifying to know that in nature, nothing goes to waste. This elephant didn’t die in vain.

James Tyrrell
Photographic Guide/Media Team

Hi Chelsea,
Absolutely, nothing goes to waste out here!

Callum Evans
Guest contributor

Even for nature’s cleanup crew, that is surprisingly efficient!

Wendy Hawkins
Senior Digital Ranger

Thank you James for this very informative blog & amazing pictures! I always wonder why man cannot learn from the creatures of the wild instead of trashing the planet?? Sad

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