About the Author

James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on Just How Efficient is Nature’s Cleanup Crew?

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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.

Thanks Marinda!

Beautiful writing to accompany the photos

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……

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.

Any idea how the elephant died?

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.

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.

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

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

Master Tracker

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

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…

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.

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…

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

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.

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

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

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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