What a crazy start to the day when we noticed hordes of vultures descending on the bush. The sight of about a hundred vultures surrounding a huge male elephant lying on its side, with rigamortis setting in fast, met us. We were informed that the bull had sustained fatal wounds from a fight with another elephant bull and finally gave up his fight close to the Msutlu River. His head containing the Ivory tusks was removed by the Sabi Sand Wildtuin in order to eliminate any threat of attracting poachers to the reserve and will be placed back with the carcass when the time allows.
The vultures hung around hoping for an opportunity to get in at the bounty that was ahead of them. Vets from the Kruger National Park were on hand to assess the injuries, taking samples of the wounded areas and cut the thick hide to allow the scavengers to access the carcass and to start the process of decomposition of the six-ton gentle giant. The hyenas didn’t take long to get there but their bickering over positions at the carcass attracted one of the Kruger males. He didn’t waste time in clearing the other animals from the carcass and sat down to enjoy the monstrous feast in front of him.
He has been there for the past two days now and is still feeding on the rotting carcass. The smell is quite horrendous but hasn’t seemed to put him off in the least. I am sure this elephant will provide many amazing opportunities to watch lion and hyena interaction over the next two weeks.
This morning when we went in to see what was happening, the lion had abandoned the rotting carcass, opening up an opportunity for the vultures and hyenas to get stuck into the carcass. The hyenas looked incredibly nervous, anticipating the return of the lion but did not waste time in getting shoulder- deep into the carcass to get to some of the meat.
The vultures squabbled amongst themselves as they fought for space at the lacerations that were made. Their long, thin necks make it easy for them to get to the meat inside but the biggest areas are being guarded by the bigger hyenas who temporarily chase the birds off.