Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DAYBREAK ON THE BANKS OF THE LUANGWA RIVER

Its early morning, the sun has not yet emerged and the stars are still gently flickering in the distance. Soon the inky skies softly turn Titian and expectantly we wait for that glorious break when the fireball emerges above the horizon. Today we wait in vain. A dense blanket obscures those wondrous rays and we are left with a soft subdued light that struggles to light the banks of the Luangwa River.

Our destination is a dead Buffalo and a Lion pride. The headlamps of the vehicle throw harsh bands of light across the macabre scene where one life has been sacrificed for the benefit of others. The remains of the Buffalo exude a putrid stench that wafts in the air while the primary beneficiaries of this feast lie close by with their bellies distended by a night of gorging. Three heads turn instantly towards the noise of the vehicle as we approach and their disquieting glares remind us that we are in their domain.
As we throw a spotlight over the scene we see the growing number of vultures dropping from the skies to wait. They are patient and sit in a frozen tabloid their eyes focused on the prize. Imperceptibly they start to edge closer and closer all the while watching for the reaction from their feline foes. It is an uneasy truce and they need to test the ground before they are able to advance.
Finally, one lone pioneer makes it onto the recumbent heap that such a short while ago was a living breathing deadly beast. The piercing blue eyes and sharp hooked beak start investigating the remains. In a single hop talons anchor the winged creature to the dead skin still masking the skeleton. Suddenly, despite the flashing yellow eyes of the lioness, still lying only a few feet away, more vultures move in. The sharp hissing and beating of wings heralds the beginning of the end of the feast.
Not far off will be the other scavengers, the Striped Hyena, the Jackal, the Whiteback Vulture and the Lappet-faced Vulture will soon appear to demolish the remains and the cycle will be complete.
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