Photo Essay by Gareth Jones:
Friday 18th June 2010 was an interesting day:t 3 lions had been eating on a buffalo carcass for the last 3 days at the waters edge of the Eland Valley dam…….then in the late afternoon a phone call from Dave Mc Kelvie to say that he was at the dam watching the lions …I then left the office and headed towards the East gate ….when I arrived at the dam the lions were sitting quietly on top of a mound , and the hippos were deep in the water , with the buffalo carcass visible on the opposite bank of the dam.
I sat and watched them for some time ….eventually the hippos began to move towards the buffalo carcass , and came out of the water and over the carcass , from a distance it was difficult to see exactly what they were doing ,but they appeared to be licking/muzzling the carcass on quite a few occasions .
I then moved closer to the buffalo carcass by taking the back track past the dam wall , as I stopped the hippo retreated into the water ….. so I sat quietly and waited ….after some time the lions began to move towards the buffalo carcass ( a lioness with 2 sub-adult cubs ) They each ate briefly on the carcass , and I could see they were all very full from the feasting .
Then the hippo’s began to advance while the lions were at the buffalo carcass , they boldly came out of the water , and the lions immediately timidly retreated . The hippos then repeated the cycle of licking & muzzling the buffalo carcass ,
It was again difficult to see from where I was parked , because the carcass was on the water’s edge and partly hidden by the bank and long grass plus it was getting dark , but the hippo’s spent some time over the buffalo , and through my binoculars there were time when I observed the hippo’s tongues left sticking out .
A truly fascinating event to witness …however this did get me thinking …..firstly how did the buffalo (it appeared to be a cow) die on the edge of the dam ? Was it alone at the time ? Was it weakened so that a single lioness with 2 half grown cubs could kill it ? Or did it die of another cause at the water’s edge ? It’s hard to tell .Then also the actions of the hippos was really amazing …were they trying the get nutrients like body salts etc from the buffalo carcass ? Hippos are not known to eat meat .
What is also particularly amazing is the location of this natural event in the Nairobi National Park …….the Eland Valley Dam is less that 1km from the park boundary , and approx 1.5km from the East Gate ….as I sat there the skyline in the distance clearly showed some buildings such as the Panari Hotel …and I could hear the muffled drone of heavy traffic that almost sounded like the noise of a distant waterfall …..it is exciting to think that a few weeks ago ,at the same nearby boundary on the 5th June –World Environment day – over 5000 people participated in the Nairobi Greenline Project to plant trees and form a human chain within a new double electric fence 50m wide zone , the length covered was 7km , but actions are well advanced to complete a 32km Greenline to Athi River .
Lastly….We were saddened by the news on Tuesday 22nd June that 2 young lions had been killed just outside the park past Embakazi towards Athi River , (possibly about 5km from the East Gate ) . Due to the recent heavy rains many of the herbivores – zebra , wildebeest etc…have moved out of the park ,so the lions either follow them or find easier options like livestock . We do not have detailed evidence at this stage of the circumstances around the dead lions .I have not seen the Lioness and her two sub-adult cubs since the 18th June , were they the ones killed ?
With every day that passes the challenge of Wildlife vs Mankind is increased ….and it is especially evident here in Nairobi with the Nairobi National Park and the rapidly growing Nairobi Mega City with a greater population of over 4 million . The management of the park by KWS and positive actions like the Nairobi Greenline Project all help to protect the park . However this is still not enough ….more dramatic actions are needed to ensure the long term survival of this national treasure .