dead elephant society (not for the squeamish!)

I don’t know why I thought of this (similar in title to Dead Poet’s Society), but while watching the vultures and marabou storks hanging around having finished off the carcass of the dead elephant, that’s what came to mind.  Jeannetta had heard about the dead elephant from the guides who encountered it on a drive.  After she picked us up from Pete’s Pond, we searched out the poor dead girl.  We could smell her long before we actually found the the body.  There she was, a mature cow, quite bloated.  She had been dead for two or three days.  There was no obvious signs that would explain her death.  Jeannetta had to take some measurements and a tissue sample.   When she made a cut, you could hear the gas escaping from the body.  I was quite surprised that there were no scavengers around waiting.  But elephant skin is quite thick and difficult for scavengers to break through.  Only a portion of the trunk was eaten away.


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No more than a week later we drove by with guests and Bashi.  I would have liked to go in to see what was left but apparently it was not on the agenda.  So I made do with a quick glimpse and all that was there was skin and bone.  Absolutely nothing left….and then we saw the vultures.  It was just like the nature films with trees blanketed with big, silent, ever vigilant vultures.  Many people don’t like vultures or hyenas.. as if they represent death itself.  But they are a vital part of the cycle of life.  And watching them, vultures, storks and hyenas, I have come to respect and admire all of them.  I’ve grown especially fond of hyenas as I’ve learned more and more about their lives.  And I saw quite a few this year.  Far more than last year. 


There were three types of vultures at the dead elephant site.  The most common vulture was the white backed vulture and the  larger slightly paler cape vulture.  The cape vulture is a threatened species.










And the lappet-faced vulture.  This is also a threatened species.






Then there are the marabou storks which are scavengers.  Until last year when I encountered these characters, I had no idea that any stork species were scavengers.  Funny looking aren’t they?








And finally, there was this single raptor hanging out with the vultures.  It is either a  Wahlberg’s eagle or a tawny eagle but it’s paler than the others I learned to recognize.  Which means, I guess I’m not sure which one this is!






I did spend considerable time trying to catch birds in flight.  Soon I’ll post an album of birds, as well as the other animals, and there will be more vultures and raptors.


4 thoughts on “dead elephant society (not for the squeamish!)

  1. A sad entry but a part of Africa that everyone must see at some stage, maybe not that close though. You photographed the poor ellie well but it must have been hard. I can remember the stench, something you don\’t easily forget. As you said, it is a part of the cycle of life and while one is gone, many others will live on.I am not familiar with the Wahlberg Eagle but it could easily be a young Tawny eagle before it\’s dark colours appear with maturity.Great entry, you were gutsy sharing it………..I say with a smile on my face.Sandra

  2. Sad to see the dead Ellie. I wonder what happened to her. I like all your Vulture photo\’s Nancy…… must have been great to see so many of them.

  3. Wow these photos are so good to see. I am ad to hear of the elephant, but the circle of life continues to amaze me.

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