The Animals of the Aberdare Ranges of Kenya: Death

Dying Buffalo



Did you know that when animals are ready to die, they actually look for their place of choice to fade out?

They just withdraw from the rest and, if they are loners like the leopard, they look for a place that suits their immediate need – to die. It seems that animals understand the fundamental wisdom of nature – that there is a time to die. The ones that do this are either sick or injured, or too old to hunt. The ones in their prime, and the younglings, fight for their survival with all that they have. They are not ready to die, they have yet much to accomplish.

I have always found the wild a great place of instruction. I realise that even though animals have no words, they have a great wisdom that seems to be a part of their DNA. At first glance, natural laws seem brutal, but when you think about it, then you realise the logic. For instance, we would say to the animals that retreat to die, cling to life. However, what kind of life is that, starving and terrified in the great Savannah?

It is kinder to die and there are helpers who perform mercy killing in the wild. The sick would simply pass on their sickly genes to the next generation and this would go against the law of the wild – survival for the fittest – and the fittest only.

It is very hard for us Human Beings to understand this, and that is why we are always interfering and changing that which should be left unchanged.

Let me illustrate this by telling you about a video clip that I watched some time back that has stayed with me ever since.

The large herbivores were returning from their migration across the Serengeti Plains. They included wildebeest, buffalo, zebra and Kudu. It was an especially dry year and there was very little to forage so the herds were almost starving. They were so very weak with hunger.

The camera zoomed in on a buffalo herd and framed a young bull. He was so weak that he swayed on his feet. Slowly, he became isolated from the rest of the herd, a dangerous thing in the Savannah. Very soon, he had got the attention of various types of predators: hyenas, jackals and a large male lion.

The hyenas were especially excitable, perhaps because of their large numbers and competition for food was fierce. They made a beeline for the bull, surrounded him and cut off any line of escape. Then they moved in on the hapless victim and began to eat him alive. They tore off huge chunks of flesh, starting from the soft area of his under belly. His agony was difficult to watch, but still he stayed on his feet with trembling legs.

Then a huge male lion appeared in the line of his bleary vision and, with a pathetic burst of strength, the bull made a rush towards the lion, tears streaming down his face. It was as though he had seen a lifelong friend come to save him from a terrible fate. His eyes begged the lion to end it, and the lion was tempted, not out of any sense of chivalry, but sheer instinct. However, he was heavily outnumbered by the hyenas and decided not to risk injury himself. The young bull fell just a few feet from the king of the jungle and died with pleading eyes. That scene has stayed with me and will stay with me always.

There is death, and death, it seems.

The Animals of the
Aberdare Ranges of Kenya
Nyambura Kiarie

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