Predators and Prey in Ndutu-Serengeti

Feb. 9, 2018

The first thing I saw this morning was a yellow weaver tending to his nest, just outside the main building at Ndutu Safari Lodge.

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Yellow weaver finishing its nest

On our morning drive, we saw some lions – first a female pair, one of whom is pregnant and the other wears a collar. There is an interesting story about this 5-year-old lioness. SONY DSCLast July, on the Internet there was a story of a leopard cub being nursed by a lioness as if it were her own. The lioness lived in the Southern Serengeti and was tagged – it was the one we saw today! SONY DSCI didn’t hear any details about the story, but apparently the leopard cub had lost her mother and the lioness had lost her cubs, because she was lactating. So the handlers gave the leopard cub to the lioness to nurse, which she readily accepted.

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The pregnant lioness, probably the sister (litter mate) of the other
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The pregnant lioness’s face was covering in tiny flies, which she made no attempt to bat away. Right after I took this picture, she lay down on her side, the bugs still crawling on her face!

After we moved on, we saw several other animals – some predators and some prey – including buffalo,

a group of male Grant’s gazelles,

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two gazelles sparring

some zebras,
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SONY DSCand a martial eagle in a tree.SONY DSC
Not long after seeing the lionesses, we came upon some male lions. One was a mature adult with a full mane, SONY DSC
while the other two were young – one of them had a mane which still amounted to little more than some extra tufts of hair on his neck. These two were most likely brothers – lions often hang around with their litter mates; the brothers cooperate in seeking prey and guarding territory. They were just lying around, same as the females – they may have gotten a meal during the night.SONY DSC
And speaking of meals, we next encountered a pair of jackals,SONY DSCand a group of hyenas.SONY DSC

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This many hyenas together generally indicates that there is a possible meal nearby, and soon afterward, we came upon a large group of vultures, so we knew they were feeding – or about to feed – on carrion. SONY DSC

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Actually, all these animals were waiting their turn, because a Marabou stork was picking the last meat off the bones.
SONY DSCProbably a young wildebeest, Livingstone said. All that was left was a skull picked clean and a rib cage the birds were getting the last morsels of meat off of. Then the bones would be left to dry up, adding to the scattered bones that litter the area.

The animals that feed on carrion definitely have a pecking order, although the major spoils go to whichever animal found it first. Soon we came across a couple of hyenas eating the remains of a young wildebeest, with the buzzards waiting impatiently nearby.SONY DSC
Whenever the hyenas took a break from eating, the vultures moved in. SONY DSCOne of the hyenas finally got tired of this and yanked the carcass away and had its fill. SONY DSC

SONY DSCWhen it was done, the hyena simply walked off, and the vultures took over to pick the remains clean. SONY DSC

SONY DSCThe afternoon drive was very different and at times a bit scary, at least for me. We were with Livingstone again but with different people in the truck with us.

There was more evidence of death: a half-eaten zebra surrounded by vultures and a Marabou stork, who apparently had had their fill, letting the jackals move in.
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Here on the southern Serengeti we saw large herds of migrating wildebeest. Those at a distance looked like an army of ants moving along in a line.
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We saw a herd much closer, walking on the shore of Lake Ndutu.
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SONY DSCThe lake was in their migratory path, so they would eventually have to cross it, many accompanied by their young alongside them. They chose a relatively shallow area to cross.SONY DSC
Even so, some of the calves, in spite of their mothers’ proddings, would probably not make it – either getting lost in the crowd, unable to keep up with the herd or make it across the water.   Finally, late in the day, we saw a wildebeest calf, abandoned and alone. There was no sign of the herd. We knew that calf would not live to see morning.
SONY DSCWe search for, hoped to see leopards. Where would a leopard be in late afternoon? In a tall tree, high up – it would need a strong, thick branch that was more or less horizontal.

Meanwhile, I added to my list of animals I have seen: two owls in a tree, making low, short hoo-hoo sounds; SONY DSCan eland close-up;SONY DSChippos out of the water and close enough to see their faces;

and various other birds.
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Secretary bird

I think Livingstone got lost or tried to take too many shortcuts – he not only cut across flat plains, but also down washes and up the other side, rocky banks, over thorny bushes. Every time we approached some harrowing driving challenge, I held on tight and tried to look away. At first it was funny, but eventually I became annoyed. All this extreme bumping and jostling was not good for my sensitive stomach right now. 987.JPG
I trusted his driving skills, just felt that it was unnecessary to do so much off-road jostling and bumping.

But then as the sun began to go down, I realized he was in a hurry – we were supposed to be out of the reserve by sundown. I think we made it with only a couple of minutes to spare!SONY DSC

Coming up: More of the beautiful wildlife around Lake Ndutu in the Southern  Serengeti!

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