Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hippo Banquet

A few days ago, we found an adult hippo dead near a watering hole in Happy Zebra territory. What ensued was many hours of hippo related fun for a group of lions and one and a half groups of hyenas. Below you will find installment #1 of … Hippo Banquet!

Heidi and Spencer first found lions feeding on the hippo carcass on the way back from obs one day. The next evening we went back and found that the lions were still there, munching ineffectually away at the carcass. They hadn’t made much progress on consuming the hippo; bits of the face had been eaten, but aside from that the carcass was nearly completely intact!

24 hours later and we were back at the hippo carcass, only this time the hyenas had found it. The lions still had the carcass in their control, although there was a mountain of hyenas sleeping in the tall grass around the carcass. The lions still hadn't managed to open the carcass, but the putrescent smell indicated that the microbes and invertebrates were succeeding where the lions had failed. We noticed a number of hyenas lift their heads to the breeze and take long sniffs, eyes closed with pleasure. We couldn't share their appreciation for the smell, but the action was such a familiar one that it was hard not to take some vicarious pleasure from watching their expressions. As darkness began to fall, the hyenas all began moving about and showing interest in the carcass, and we hoped that their turn at the table had finally come. 

Two hyenas warily approach the hippo carcass 

As dusk settled in, the hyenas took control of the carcass. The lions had stopped feeding and moved a little ways off, and the hyenas knew the time had come to make their move. The hyenas would begin feeding on the carcass, only to be chased off a few minutes later by the lions. After a while, however, the lions simply gave up. As the lions retreated into the night, dozens of hyenas descended on the carcass.

Unlike the lions, the hyenas appeared to have no problem whatsoever getting the carcass open. Pretty soon all of the hyenas were completely covered in hippo, at which point they all turned the same shade of “hippo-goo brown.” We left after a few hours of observation, but we could see that the hyenas were far from finished…

No comments:

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science