I hope I explained some of the background regarding our Safari at Kaingo in my last post, so I won’t re-hash too much of it.

I’d rather spend this post talking about a specific three day incident that we encountered and then followed while staying at Kaingo. It’s a bit gruesome animal wise, so be forewarned. On the second day of our stay, we noted a large hippopotamus that was laying quite still in a cut leading down to the river. We were pretty surprised by his demeanor and his location so, as our guide eased closer we tried to discover if he was still alive or not. As it turns out he was, but seemed to be paralyzed from the waist (middle of the hippo) down. We left him that morning, intending to come back and visit him that evening to see if he might recover or if he had truly encountered his doom. After another full, fantastic day of game drives, filled with Baboon, Monkey, different types of antelope and deer, hippo, ellies, giraffe, and zebra we returned to visit our friend in the later evening. We discovered much to our dismay that our big friend had not moved. As we drew closer in the vehicle we noted some hyena circling the body, and then a blurred shot of fur popped up away from the rear of the hippo and moved off a few feet, allowing the hyena to begin eating into the rear (the only soft spot on the hide accessible to them) of the hippo. It seems the Leopard had opened up the hippo, and after getting his fill, had decided to leave the rest to the Hyena. 

As we watched the cycle of life continue we were soon shocked, as the front half of the hippo twitched, and as the hyena were ripping off chunks of meat, the hippo stood, looked back behind him, and with silent stoicism, dropped back to his belly. The horrific realization that the Hippo was still alive, and being eaten alive from behind while partially paralyzed was… gruesome. The Hyena were fully aware of the Hippos state, and were sure to avoid the Hippos front and head – focusing in on the exposed soft tissue at his rear.

We watched for some time, and then were called in for dinner – our appetite understandably diminished. After dinner though, Alex and I headed back out to see the Hippo – thinking that he would have bled out and that Lions might come and claim the kill. Watching in silence we observed the Hyena continue to rip into the Hippo, and the Hippo still clinging to life. Although gruesome, there was no way, and no will to intervene. Nature must take its course uninterrupted, or with as little disturbance as possible.  As we returned to camp, we shared our thoughts on the moments we had witnessed, and gave hope that the Hippo would bleed to death or would die of other causes in the night. Now it should be noted that a Hippo is a huge beast, its 1900 lbs or more, understandably it seems like it would take a long time for a small pack (3) Hyena to eat said amount of meat. We’ll talk more about that later.

The next morning as we passed we were relived to find that the hippo had died in the night, and was now no longer suffering, a few more hyena had arrived (up to 6) but they were still struggling to eat much of the Hippo. Hyena are not a particularly beautiful creature – and their cruelty is brutal, add to that a mask of blood and gore, and it surely doesn’t help their case in the least. However, they can make for some pretty interesting observations. They will eat until they can hardly walk – their bellies so distended that they have to lie down and digest for some hours before they can move. When they then sit (much like a dog) their bellies protrude so, that their hips splay out – out of context an absolutely hilarious pose.    The Hyena had opened up more of the Hippo after he’d expired, using the soft skin under the neck as an entry point – the Hippo’s hide is so tough that the Hyena can’t bite or tear through it, requiring access to the softer vulnerable spots.

As the day passed, the vultures and other scavenger birds began to arrive, until the Hippo was covered in them, with hundreds more resting all around watching. The Hyena were still at it, and by the afternoon of the third day, there was only one leg bone, the spinal column and skull left. All the rest had been eaten, and the skin dragged off to… mature and soften in the rainy season. In less than 72 hours an entire massive hippo had been reduced to almost nothing – Absolutely spectacular to witness.

We had a series of Leopard sightings (4 distinct kitties) and got to see some young male Lions, and mature females – gorgeous and powerful. Had an open bush breakfast under the boughs of the nearby forest overlooking the river, and enjoyed six absolutely mind blowing sunsets.

A spectacular series of days!