The Tale in between
Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Its an oft repeated cliché that every moment in the wild is a fight for survival. A see saw battle between the hunter and the hunted and a constant drama of attrition, intrigue, victory and retreat. That there are no rules.
Cliché it might be, but just as clichés often are, its an accurate statement.
As we move up the food chain to the larger mammals, some of this fight for survival is a little easier to observe. Within this too, some are more obvious, like a hunt by cheetah coalition or a pride of lions. It is slow, deliberate, well planned, gradually building up into an explosion of speed, noise and dust and its all over in a few minutes.
At the same time, a lot also happens quietly, under the radar. Slow moving but intense, just another act in this constant, throbbing drama for survival. Drama that no one will ever know about, unless one is just plumb lucky to have a ringside view.
Two images. However, what happened in the time between these two incidents offers a glimpse into this constant, never ending battle for survival.
We had just entered to see the quintessential Mara scene around us.
Wide open blue skies with a few aimless clouds loitering around. Knee high grass swaying in quiet contentment in the gentle breeze. Rolling hills all around us.
The setting looked perfect for a picnic.
Just that, on the acacia tree in front of us, there was a leopard, Split Nose, the dominant veteran of the area, with a warthog kill stashed for company.
It was hot. We were at least an hour from sunset and we didn’t expect the leopard to descend from its perch earlier. We were just hoping he doesn’t stay put till it was dark.
However, nothing is ever predictable in the wild. We could see Split Nose suddenly moving about on the tree and pretty soon he made a quick descent.
We raced across the bumpy terrain, wanting to get ahead of him and get images of Split Nose walking through the tall grass, with the sun behind us, when someone in our vehicle shouted, ‘Leopard ! ‘
There was another leopard hidden in the tall grass, a much smaller one, which scooted as soon as it saw Split Nose walking towards it. Just as we were wondering if Split Nose would now head back to his meal now that the intruder was chased away, we noticed the real reason Split Nose behind his descent from the tree.
There was a gazelle kill in the grass. Fresh.
Clearly, the gazelle would have wandered off from the safety of numbers its herd provides and the second leopard , hidden in the tall grass, would have made a swift kill. Split Nose, hidden up in the tree would have seen all that and decided to stake ownership of the kill and stock up his larder up the tree.
Well…the best laid plans of men and mice and all that.
Just as Split Nose had settled down to have a leisurely free meal and had begun an elaborate ritual of washing the kill, we noticed more movement in the tall grass behind him.
There were two of them rushing towards Split Nose, quietly, without their characteristic whoops. In a matter of minutes, the hyenas reached the spot and Split Nose, retreated snarling. He was experienced enough to know pointlessness of engaging in a fight where he had little chance of winning and a high chance of getting injured.
He began a slow return back to his half eaten dinner. Our concern now was a little different. Will he climb the tree when the sun was still up ?
Two images. With an enthralling story in between.