15. Hyena Only

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Again this morning I sent my vehicle over first thing to the pan to see what comes in before the elephants. And again I was rewarded, this time with a hyena.

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One interesting thing is that the guinea fowl that were so comfortable being shoulder to shoulder with the jackal yesterday morning all immediately ran from the pan the minute the hyena showed up. Apparently hyena eat guineas for breakfast and jackal’s don’t. Eventually we got other animals at the pan, as well.

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Just around the bend from the pumped pan is an older, natural pan that filled with water during the rainy season and has now just become a giant mud-hole. Sitting in the middle of that is The Last Hippo in Savute. Literally. 

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All those little blobs in the mud around the hippo? Elephant poop. The elephants like this spot to come and do their cooling off thing. But you don’t want an elephant for a roommate: they’re slobs when it comes to cleanliness. They literally poop in their own kitchen.

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The two pumped pan spots are just a bit of shallow water in a small spot. Not big enough for a hippo to even get their ankles wet, really. As the Savute Channel stopped flowing and dried up, most of the hippos probably followed that receding water backwards up to its source. Thus, most former Savute hippos are probably all sitting up near Linyati, where the Channel really starts and where there is still water.

But this hippo apparently overslept the migration or didn’t get the memo. Instead, he’s just sitting in the remnants of a water source and now spends his day caked with mud sleeping. Unless it rains unusually soon, he’s likely to not survive to next season and the next chance for the Channel to resurrect the Savute water sources.

A lot of driving around in the morning netted us some info on where things are, but not much in the way of additional interesting sightings. I did manage to catch a bird harassing an eagle sitting near its nest, though:

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After lunch, however, it was off to the races, as lion and leopard—within sight of each other, which is rare—suddenly came out of the deep shade to where we could access them. I choose the leopard.

This is where things got a bit interesting. All four of our vehicles, as well as another couple of vehicles and the National Geographic crews were out here either at the leopard or the lions. This is where I ask myself, “what does the animal want to do?” If I think I know that answer, I position my vehicle for that, not for where the animal is. 

The other three vehicles might not have understood what I was doing, but this is what you get when you’re right about figuring out what the animal is trying to do:

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These are both 70-200mm. There was nothing to shoot for several minutes after we’d positioned the vehicle in both cases, but sure enough the leopard was on the path that I was predicting.

So what was the leopard wanting to do? Well, consider this:

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I knew from our conversations at dinner last night with the NatGeo folk—we invited them to dinner, which they’ll never decline, as they’re pretty much out here on their own and they know we have a full time cook that’s excellent—that the female leopard had been injured a couple of weeks ago and was just now getting fully mobile again. She’s hungry. Very hungry. 

That vulture shot was taken as I once again positioned my vehicle far away from where the leopard was. The vulture was picking at some left-over scraps on an earlier kill, and I was guessing that the leopard would go over there. I knew my thinking was good when I saw the NatGeo leopard vehicle start the same direction to reposition itself. Indeed, they got on the other side of the leftover kill so that the leopard would be coming into the kill in front of them.

We couldn’t go out into that same area, but it was close enough to the road that I could get something similar. Slowly the leopard came crossing through the brush towards the kill.

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And she got worn out and hot doing it. And it was clear she was still limping, so this was a lot of painful exertion for her. So she ducked into the brush for shade to the side of our vehicle and settled down to rest. Much to the chagrin of the NatGeo folk and I, she stayed their right until lights out.

On our way back in, though, we caught a couple of other quick portraits in the waning light:

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Meanwhile, Tony seemed to be shooting birds again based on the images he gave me:

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I should point out that what you see on this blog is not necessarily the best photos from any given day. Many of the student images you see are ones pulled from image review sessions. All of the students pretty much have full time jobs and only a few have managed to get me some additional images to look at, and some of those aren’t even processed yet. Even Tony has only done a first preliminary pass at getting his images ready for consumption. 

Meanwhile, I tend to be very selective in showing my own images, as what usually happens is that I find the best ones posted by others all over the Web. So while I’m trying to give you a flavor of what happens on this trips, I’m sure that better images were taken than those you see here. So if you like what you’re seeing, just remember that you’re only seeing the quick edit from a subset of images.

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