Just when things were ticking along and we were convinced we were going to be welcoming a clutch of Ostrich chicks into the world at Londolozi, disaster has struck, and we found the nest in a shambles this morning, with the male ostrich – who usually incubates through the night – wandering off by himself and the female over a kilometre away.
Tracks of the Matimba males were heading into the area, so we were already feeling a little bit of trepidation when we were only a few hundred metres away from the nest site, when we suddenly spotted the male ostrich moving away from the nest. Now that normally wouldn’t be cause for concern, as when one of the adults is away the other is invariably brooding the eggs, but since the female had already been found a few minutes before, and we therefore knew she wasn’t in the area, we were now suddenly very worried. Something drastic must have happened for the male to leave the nest unguarded. He was making soft grunting noises, which were either distress calls or an attempt to call the female.
Leaving him to go on his way, we moved to the nest site, and were horrified to find the eggs scattered everywhere. Some shells had been broken and their contents devoured, but thankfully a few eggs remained intact. Tracks of hyenas were all over the area.
What exactly happened last night is unsure. Since ostriches are known to be fiercely protective of their nest sites, it may well have required multiple hyenas to distract the male while others ran in to snatch an egg or two.
Whether the male or female will return to the nest and attempt to continue raising the remaining eggs remains to be seen.
We moved off to see if they male would reunite with the female, but he began feeding, milling around about 500m away. We will return to the area this evening to see if there have been any further developments…