Crocodiles hunting wildebeest 08
During the months July to November each year the great migration brings more than a million wildebeest and some half a million of other plains’ game into the Masai Mara Game Reserve. With them come many predators such as lion, but some other predators have been waiting many months for their chance. These are the monster crocodiles of the Mara River.
Many wildebeest have already crossed the river a number of times and the crocodiles are not as hungry as they were during the initial crossings. However as the wildebeest begin crossing the river a large crocodile slowly moves to within striking distance.
This wildebeest seems to ignore the crocodile or it is not noticing it. The crocodile sizes it up and decides that its hunger level does not warrant the effort of struggling with a fully grown wildebeest in shallow water. The crocodile waits for an easier prey.
The easier pray arrives and the crocodile lounges on the calf...
…and stops the calf in its tracks holding it by its rear left leg.
While a herd’s mate looks at the bleating calf the crocodile turns downstream…
…and drags the calf in deeper water. Notice the change of the crocodile’s hold. It is now squeezing the calf in the middle. Notice also the size of the jaws muscles of the crocodile clearly visible on the water surface.
With such pressure around its abdomen the calf cannot breathe. Death is near.
The last sight before the calf is dragged under. The eyes are already glassy. Its heart will stop in the next minute or so.
One wildebeest remains behind during the attack while others flee. Perhaps, the mother whose maternal instincts overcome the fear of another crocodile nearby.
Having killed a wildebeest calf about 45 minutes ago this large crocodile is joined by a smaller one (maybe a female?). The large crocodile is holding the wildebeest calf protectively.
The large crocodile releases the hold on the wildebeest and gently pushes the smaller crocodile away. There is no aggression in this. It seems it is a pro-forma gesture as later they will co-operate while feeding.
The large crocodile returns to the wildebeest carcass and holds it secure.
A few minutes later, displaying cooperative feeding behavior, one crocodile holds firm the body of the wildebeest while another spins tearing open the belly. The teeth of the crocodile are conical and cannot sever flesh. Therefore, they have to tear their victims to pieces.
One crocodile emerges with intestines.
Another emerges with the bladder.
The big one emerges grinning.
The feast is joined by a large catfish (probably a clarias mossambicus).
The catfish, which is an important item in the crocodile’s diet, especially when mammals are scarce, is not concerned by the proximity of the crocodiles during the feeding. Driven by its genes and evolutionary experience the fish takes its chances knowing that under these circumstances to survive it is better to feed with limited danger than to go hungry. Carpe-diem!