We often admire and take in the beauty of the nature around us, the scenery and ever changing landscapes, the birth of new life, the scents, endless energy and grandeur. It is always so easy to lose yourself with how tranquil it all looks, and the harmony portrayed by species congregating together. What we forget is that nature can be just as cruel and ruthless, and very emotional to watch. Many a guest would love to see lions springing on the back of an African Buffalo, or a crocodile lunging from the shallows of murky water, with 62 teeth grasping onto a wildebeest thinking of crossing or drinking.
But it can be merciless and heart-wrenching, making it difficult to watch a kill or the turmoil displayed or seen, in particular when an impala lamb is the prey, and her mother watches on, fighting its own instinct, maternal versus realisation. This unfolded on a morning drive.
I took a round route, showing some guests a new area of the Selous, a section they hadn’t seen in their 5 night stay with us. Eventually we circled back to the dry Beho Beho River, for some breakfast and a coffee. After enjoying the Riverine forest which we overlooked, watching as baboons were drinking from holes dug up by elephant, we made our way, driving along the Beho Beho. I came to a sudden holt, when I saw an impala lamb that was obviously injured, from my observations a broken ankle, but from what and how? Became clear soon enough; perched on a branch, golden eyes glaring down at its victim, talons wrapped around its perch, was a savannah specialist; a Martial Eagle. We had arrived moments later and possibly disturbed the eagle swooping down to catch a very young impala lamb, but it was chased off by the lamb’s mom, and us making a sudden appearance around the corner didn’t help matters.
These eagles are exceptionally strong, feeding on small antelope and monitor lizards. We watched and waited for the final blow, and the eagle to return to finish what it had started, but ones emotions are always challenged when you watch its mom, nearby trying to coax its offspring up and to follow.
This is when you have that mental dilemma of: I want to watch what happens next, I want to intervene, I want to rather not watch this.
The lamb’s mother was faced with a huge dilemma, and a decision which is not easy for any mother. Knowing that her lamb wouldn’t be able to survive, especially from the wound and broken ankle, she couldn’t just leave it. Every time we heard the whooshing sound of the wind through the wings and feathers of the diving eagle, with talons ready to deal the deadly blow, mother would come running with all she had, to prevent those razor claws from slashing their target. But with every attempt and every passing minute, one could see the lamb tire and the mother created a bigger distance between her and her lamb. This had lasted for 45minutes, the constant yoyo of mother versus Martial. Before we decided to leave this scene, with the knowing that eventually mom would need to make that decision of leaving her young, and try again next season.
As much as one wants to get involved and rescue the lamb, or chase away the eagle to stop the constant back and forth emotional rollercoaster. You need to understand that you may be causing a greater chain reaction, where you don’t know when last the eagle has eaten, and with the amount of energy it has invested in trying to get the lamb, it may be detrimental to it. Or that the eagle may have chicks of its own, and that the lamb would be a critical meal for their development and growth.
The reality is this is nature, and it runs its own cycle.