Thursday, February 11, 2016

Mealtime in the Mara

The thing that the Lion King doesn't tell you about the Circle of Life is that it's actually somewhat horrific to see in person. In my time here, I've seen four mammals killed by other animals. Before I came out here, I had never seen anything killed and eaten before (thank goodness), and let me tell you, it is not an easy thing to watch.

But it is a part of life and survival out here – animals have to eat to live, and living is the ultimate goal of all biological organisms. The first two kills I witnessed have already been explained on this blog – the first, a leopard killing a baby zebra, the second, a jackal killing a rabbit. And now, for your viewing pleasure, the other two Mara Meals I've seen:

NOTE: These, as I mentioned before, are hard to watch, and caution should be exercised if you are squeamish/really love baby gazelles/have a terrible fear of ants.

This is Firefly, one of our South clan hyenas, eating a baby Thomson's gazelle. We were at the den when we saw her run by with it in her mouth, obviously delighted to have procured her meal, and we followed her to where she finally settled down to eat it, devouring the entire animal, bones and all, in literally five minutes. It was incredible – hard to believe even as it was happening in front of us. I have known for a while now that hyenas can eat 1/3 of their body weight in one sitting, but it never really hit home to me how fast and efficient that truly is until I saw this.

That mass of ants in this very shaky video I took is devouring a bat they likely knocked out of a tree. The bat is still alive as this is happening – we could hear it squeaking and you can see it flinch in the last few seconds of the video. This is undoubtedly the most horrible thing I have seen out here. We saw the bat fluttering about on the ground but the sheer volume of the ants overwhelmed it and it was covered in no time at all. At camp, we live in mild terror of siafu (the biting ants in the video), who can live in colonies of up to 50 million individuals and like to unexpectedly swarm and invade our tents. This incident just solidified our fear – all that was left of the bat come morning was a perfectly cleaned bat skeleton. Thankfully for us, siafu are usually simple enough to avoid as their typical mode of transport is in carefully regulated columns that we can easily step over. 

Mealtime in the Mara can be a disgusting thing to witness, but I am still glad that I have the opportunity to see these things and share them with all of you. 

Enjoy your dinners! ;)

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