Beautiful tusks
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Elephants in the Mara

OK not both at the same time but on the same morning!

Elephants out on the Mara plain are easier to spot than lions but at a distance, especially if they are stationary and partly obscured by bushes or scrub you can mistake them for hippos or rhino or at a push large buffalo! If they are on the move though they have an easily recognisable gait. We saw two lots of elephants on this particular morning. One was a lovely encounter with an female with an older calf and a newer, smaller baby.

Mother elephant and baby peacefully grazing
Peaceful grazing

One photo that I really like is this one. The baby inserted its trunk into the mouth of its mother. I’m not sure why. It’s not something I have seen before.

Baby elephant with its trunk in its mother’s mouth
Checking for bad breath?!

They were unconcerned by our presence and were fairly close to the vehicle at one point. Then they turned to walk away. I quite like photos of rear ends – I like the feeling that they are going off into the wild.

Backsides of mother and baby elephants
On their way

But when the shutter clicked the mother spun round really quickly and faced us down with ears spread. She wasn’t really threatening us but it was an impressive response. It is easy to forget how mobile and fast they are when they choose.

Hearing the camera shutter the female elephant turns to face us
Instantly alert

I have chosen to include pictures of the second group of elephants because you can clearly see how they wind their trunks around the tufts of grass, then pull to one side and up to get it free from the ground.

I like the next picture because it made me appreciate how long the trunk is. Usually trunks are curled up a little, wrapped around something or in water. Laid out straight like this it is even more impressive. She was scenting the ground ahead. They were quite fussy about which things they chose to eat.

Elephant with its trunk stretched straight out showing just how long it is
Trunk longer than you think

The other story with this group was that we could see a large prone elephant in the background. It lay very still and even with binoculars we couldn’t see it breathing.

Three elephants walking in the foreground but an elephant is motionless on the ground in the background
Mysterious elephant laying down at the back

The other elephants ignored it and we became very concerned. We were there for a long time. Fortunately all was well. As the last of the group passed by it lumbered to its feet and followed them.

Hyenas are complicated animals and in their own way fascinating. They can hunt and kill if they need to. They mostly scavenge though and I have seen them steal a complete carcass from cheetahs. Most often though I have seen them with scraps of a kill. Today’s sighting was a hyena carrying quite a sizeable piece of a carcass. We saw it trotting across the plain in front of somewhat bemused wildebeests and a warthog!

Hyena with kill with watching wildebeest
Hyena with kill with watching wildebeest

We managed to anticipate its route and positioned ourselves so that it would be coming towards us. The kill it was carrying was quite large and heavy. It did put it down briefly a couple of times but they have incredibly strong jaws and knock muscles.

Hyena with carcass
Hyena with carcass
Front view of hyena carrying a chunk of a carcass
Strong jaws

It took quite a long time but it took the carcass back to the den. What happened there was interesting. The meat was given to a young but pretty much full grown hyena. There was a much smaller cub there lying in the grass but there was no sharing even though the small one was calling.

Two hyenas next to the kill facing down a cub in the grass on the right
Establishing the rules

It tried to slide in close to get scraps but even getting close elicited some pretty aggressive biting and snapping. It kept trying to get some but unsuccessfully while we were there.

Hyena cub inches forward to get nearer the carcass
Worth a try

As we left a hyena head popped out of a hole in the ground! Great final photo op. It looks like it’s squinting at us!

Hyena den mouth with hyena head popping out of the hole
Popping out …

We were heading back to camp but then on the way we heard of a leopard in a tree! So we had to go see… (next post)

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