May 17, 2024

Chancing upon this fallen hartebeest became an instructive exercise in deductive reasoning, Masai-style. Broken necks are a hallmark of the big cats, which kill their prey by strangling them, so we can reasonably assume this one met its ultimate demise by a cheetah or a lion. Enlarge the image and you’ll notice fresh blood and scat on the grass near the tail, which points to a very recent kill. Though the abdomen has been opened up, it has yet to be eviscerated, meaning someone or something has likely scared them off, stopping it just short of its feast. In a bit of scrub not too far away we find the killer – and the culprit: a lioness with a pair of cubs, at most a week or two old and still blind. Their noise-some play must have interrupted the kill, sending mother back to the den lest the snackable sound of young attract unwelcome visitors. Paws bloodied, the lioness watched them closely, biding her time while keeping them a safe distance from a corpse that would soon attract all sorts of scavengers.

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