Travel Series. Out of Africa.
Out of Africa: Nature isn’t Perfect.
Last week, I wrote about the choreography among different species consuming a kill. How each species behaved was crucial for their survival and the survival of Kruger National Park in South Africa.
Nature behaved flawlessly.
But, like us humans, nature isn’t perfect. I saw many examples of that.
Hippopotamuses have been cartooned as adorable, fat creatures wearing tutus, a wide flat-toothed grin and a sweet, clumsy nature. Never has an animal been so mischaracterized. Hippopotamuses are the most dangerous animal in the bush, an estimated 500 people are killed by them each year. That’s right, more dangerous than lions, leopards, elephants and even rhinos. Those flat teeth you see have been sawed down by zoos.
Why are they so dangerous? Hippos are grouchy, unpredictable and quick. When we were in Kruger, a young impala jumped into a watering hole to evade being eaten by a pack of wild dogs. Annoyed that this poor guy jumped in the river, the hippos simply drowned him…just because. The dogs would have eaten him, but the hippo herbivores, just killed him. Hopefully his body will make shore in time for other carnivores to eat him.
Throughout our 6-day safari, we were able to observe four different leopards. The most ominous one was a young, large, very strong male who had recently entered the territory. He had already seized territory from other leopards…but that wasn’t enough. We watched him relentlessly sniffing, wandering, clearly on a mission. Our ranger explained what he was doing. The leopard had caught the scent of young leopard cubs and was searching for them…to kill.
From nature’s perspective, it makes no sense. Leopards are somewhat endangered so there is nothing to be gained by his killing these cubs. Ultimately, he will mate with the young female cubs, if the mother is able to hide them until they reach maturity.
The next day, we saw the mother, relaxed and resting after consuming part of the Kudu that she caught. Our ranger wanted to see the cubs, but while she kept looking in a particular direction, she wouldn’t give away their hiding place. Several years before, she was defeated by a male leopard and had to watch him kill her twin cubs. She was older now, and we left hoping that she was wiser, too.
Rhinos are seriously endangered; anti-poachers risk their lives to patrol every night to save them. Despite their severely threatened state, many male rhinoceroses die each year from injuries sustained while fighting each other.
It shows that nature can be as slow to adapt as we are. Despite dwindling numbers of leopards and rhinos, they haven’t changed their aggressive behavior. And hippos, they kill just because.
Oh well, we all make mistakes.
Travel Series. Out of Africa Series
Nature isn’t Perfect. Part Two (This one)
More of the series to follow.