African Safari (Kenya) Pt. 16
Life on the grasslands of Masai Mara is not an antiseptic event. The struggle for existence is before my eyes each and everyday. But, I have chosen to concentrate on the incredible beauty given even some of nature’s most nefarious characters. The Spotted Hyena would certainly qualify. Long viewed as despicable scavengers, these highly successful pack hunters are more likely to have lions steal their larger prey than not. No worries, they will wait on the sidelines and return when the lion is full. Exceptionally powerful jaws allow the Hyena to crush the largest skeletons found on the savanna and digest the entire bone, not just the marrow. Thus, the Hyena’s excrement is a grayish white and nature’s essential minerals are recycled leaving the plains clean. With longer front legs than rear, this predator’s gait is a sight as it gallops after prey with the intensity of a marathon runner simply wearing out the young or old.
Its coloration is well suited for the normally golden hues of a dry savanna.
With its tracking collar in the late afternoon sun, this Hyena could be the next door neighbor’s pet.
Jackal is nomenclature most of us would not want applied to our person, yet, the Black-backed Jackal is a beautifully painted animal.
Here, the Jackal carries off prey to hide for a later return hoping hyenas haven’t discover its next meal. The savanna is Darwin’s chalkboard of Natural Selection. It is a matter of culling for balance and survival of the entire ecosystem. Pretty…no, necessary…absolutely.
And its not always the biggest and strongest who win all the struggles. Quickness, agility, and intelligence all have their rolls to play. We came upon this lioness who was in some degree of distress. She was bleeding from her lower rib section.
Her survival rests upon whether the puncture perforated the stomach or vital organs. The wounds look to be from a set of small antlers.
Could this have been inflicted by a small Thompson’s Gazelle? The spread of the antler punctures seems right but this antelope would prefer to outrun the lioness unless somehow cornered.
Hey, maybe the insects just agitated the little fellow…..
after all, he has been preparing to protect himself since birth.
On the plains of Masai Mara, the melancholy always seems to be quickly replaced by the miraculous. Walking out into the open is this, normally skittish and nearly extinct, magnificent Black Rhinoceros. This is even a more rare experience than my sightings in Lake Nakuru where my photo opportunities were fleeting and poorly executed. Now I can clearly see, no, I can feel the tremendous power in the armor clad front shoulder of this ill-sighted and ill-tempered herbivore. It is simply incomprehensible, with no predators other than humans, this creature is almost non-existent.
The wrinkled snoot, much more suited for browsing brush and roots, along with its slightly smaller stature, distinguishes the Black Rhinoceros from its grass grazing White Rhino cousin. What they share are those ears. Shaped like old fashioned ear horns, they can rotate like radar picking up noise from long distances. Coupled with a great sense of smell, this poorly-sighted Rhino seems confidently in control which makes its battles with phantom enemies (a tree, for instance, or even a clump of glass in an otherwise barren space) hilarious.
I fervently hope the flickering light for the Black Rhinoceros is not extinguished.