The food fights that took place at the family dinner table or school lunchroom may stir up some nostalgic childhood memories as we recall someone wearing a face full of mashed peas. However, the food fights of Serengeti tend to be a lot more intense, particularly since the food in question can mean the difference between life and death.
Chunde, my field assistant, and I had just returned from several weeks of dog-demography data collection in the villages. We were sitting in our trusty vehicle, “Rover”, shivering in the chilly drizzle as we watched the drama unfold. Our stomachs were grumbling, and we knew we should head home before we got shredded up completely by mosquitoes but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the soap opera taking place.
It was a pride of lions. They were languishing and lolling around in the damp grass, with bellies full of meat, but still intent on keeping this kill all to themselves—a matter of pride, perhaps? (No pun intended)
The pride of lions gather around their kill.
We watched as hyena after hyena, one after another, unsuccessfully attempted to penetrate the ring of lions surrounding the remaining scraps of what had at one point been a hefty buffalo carcass. These hyenas were very lucky these lions were full and only gave a half-hearted chase or else it may have turned into a rather intense fight. As visibility disappeared with the coming darkness and heavier rain, we headed home for dinner.
The hyenas consider another approach to get the meat.
One of the lionesses offers a warning look.
The next morning we checked on the carcass again and found that overnight the lions had shifted over to the other side of the road to digest peacefully. Now it was the hyenas defending the carcass from vultures and jackals.
The lions rest and digest their meal.
The hyenas get their own chance with the carcass.
And try to delay the vultures from taking their turn.
This was a great reminder of the amazing diversity of wildlife in the Serengeti and why Lincoln Park Zoo’s Domestic Dog Vaccination Program is so important. By checking the spread of diseases like rabies and canine distemper, the vaccination program protects the diversity of the very carnivores we were enjoying.
The encounter was also a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with our wild side as we would be seeing dogs, cows and goats for the next few months as we headed back to the villages to continue our dog data collection.