Charles arrived at 4:30 pm for the evening game drive. He informed us up front that the Great Migration was still weeks behind in our area, and that we would need to drive for several hours to get to an area where animals were starting to cross the Mara River. Since we only had a couple hours of light we should leave the drive for the morning, instead we would drive around locally to see what we could find.
Topi, a Palm-Nut Vulture, and another unidentifiable Cisticola sp.
Wattled Plovers, we spotted another half dozen Zebra climbing down the hill toward the water. Almost immediately several monstrous crocs started moving upstream in their direction. Something was about to happen.
For millions of years the Wildebeest and Zebra have been following the same migration path across the Mara River to to reach the lush grasslands of north-central Kenya. It is so ingrained into their biology that they will cross the river in both directions no matter how dangerous the crossing will be. It is said that the first to cross are assuredly killed or drowned by the crocodiles that wait for the Great Migration every July-August. Even if there is safe crossing just a little ways up or down stream the animals 'must' cross at the same location every year no matter how suicidal it might be.
With the zebra moving upstream a few yards we decided to look for better viewing. As we were heading back to the main road about 1/8 mile from the river we spotted a zebra laying in the grass. It was in a sitting position with its head drooping, barely touching the ground. It's hindquarters had been torn off, most likely from a crocodile. We suspect that it scrambled up the bank, went into shock, and sat down in the grass just feet from the road. As I photographed it I noticed there were no flies on its carcass. This poor animal must have literally expired just moments before we arrived.
We continued on about a 1/2 mile when we spotted a small warthog running across the road. Behind it was a Spotted Hyena trotting up the road toward us. It passed the van and we could see it slavering and sniffing as it moved. A young Thompson's Gazelle watched nearby, ready to run if the beast turned toward it. We watched as it continued up the road in the direction of the zebra carcass. After a few minutes debate we decided to head back to see if it would find the expired animal.
Returning to the river we found the Zebra herd still in a holding pattern, with others joining them. I spotted the hyena approaching the carcass, which was obscured by the tall grass. The hyena had stopped moving. Charles drove us back to the carcass where the hyena was already tearing into the zebra. We watched and photographed as the hyena began to disembowel the zebra before our eyes. We could smell the sulphur coming from the dead animal's intestines.
The original six zebras that we had spotted when we first arrived were now braying and heading in procession back toward the kill. We watched in astonishment as they approach their dead comrade and the hyena. For the next half hour we watched and photographed the group of zebras approaching and dancing in distress as its mate was systematically being torn apart by the hungry hyena. We remained silent, conscious only of our own thoughts as all of this played out. I could only think that there is no doubt that these animals are sentient and capable of great emotion.
In complete silence we quietly drove back to the lodge. The following slide show presents these events in unedited form. Caution! Images are graphic and disturbing.
|Warning! - Graphic Slide Show|