Winter is not the best time for hippo bulls; lower water levels as we reach the end of the dry season means fiercer and fiercer clashes for territory, some of which result in the death of one of the participants.
A carcass of a hippo was found in the north of Londolozi that we can only presume succumbed to his wounds from such a fight, and although sad to see, a dead animal of this size means a glut of meat for the scavengers.
Over the course of two drives – a grey blustery afternoon and the following morning – the following action took place…
Hyenas and vultures will feed side by side, but when the larger hyenas feel their carrion is being encroached upon, they react, sending vultures scattering.
Some of the more interesting interactions were between the different hyenas. It was almost certainly only a single clan in attendance, and in the morning there were over thirty individuals present. Brief scuffles would occasionally break out between different ranked members.
Although hyenas have jaws and teeth that can easily crush bone, they are also tremendously hardy animals themselves and can handle serious injuries. Thankfully all the clashes we watched were resolved without injury (that we could see).
The waiting mob. Look carefully and you can make out a yellow tag on one of the vultures. Some individuals are tagged so their movements throughout Southern Africa can be monitored. There were even two Cape Vultures (very rare in these parts) in attendance.
This individual (bottom right) had clearly dined exceedingly well, judging by the size of its crop.
The sun broke through for a few brief moments, just at the time of another hyena charge-and-scatter.
Every now and then a vulture would actually get a feather or two caught in a hyena’s jaws. This one managed to get away intact.
And another lucky escape. It’s more that the hyenas are looking to chase the vultures off than actually make a meal of them…
With well over 100 vultures and in excess of 30 hyenas, there was little left of the carcass the next morning.
White-backed vultures are by far the most numerous species we see here, making up probably over 90% of the birds present.
This photo was taken this morning, and when we head back out this afternoon, we anticipate the bones will have been picked completely clean…