A video taken on a wildlife safari the 24th of May 2016 of hyenas and vultures feeding on a buffalo calf. South Africa is currently suffering under one of the worst droughts in recorded history and Balule Nature Reserve and adjacent Kruger National Park have not been spared. The buffalo was not killed by predators and its death is believed to be drought related. Nature can be very cruel and although the suffering of so many animals during harsh conditions can be very difficult to watch a very important cycle is taking place. Natural selection is now hard at work where only the fittest and strongest will survive laying the foundation for the continued existence of future generations that will be able to cope with severe droughts and disease that might otherwise have obliterated weakened genes.
Hyenas would go hunting for food just after sunset dispersing either solitary or in small groups of up to three or four individuals. A keen sense of smell would help them to smell a carcass from as far as 3-4 kilometers away. Hearing is well developed and the alarm and distress calls of animals will be investigated. Circling and descending vultures also provide a visual clue during the day that might need further attention after darkness settled in.
Vultures have incredible eyesight and some species like the lappet-faced vulture can fly at an altitude of 30 000 feet. They would get airborne at around 8 -9 am as the sun rises and the air warms to create thermals. The day would be spend circling upwards in a thermal and then diving down to the next to repeat the process once again enabling them to cover hundreds of kilometers in day. Energy saving flight that would make Elon Musk jealous. Special down-feathers keep them warm at such high altitudes. A network of air sacs linked to the lungs help provide a continues one-way flow of oxygen through the lungs and helps birds to receive oxygen both when breathing in and out. Vultures also have the normal low altitude hemoglobin as well as a high altitude hemoglobin. Mammals have the luxury to adjust gradually to changes in altitude, but vultures do not have the time to acclimatize and this special hemoglobin allows them to cope with the sudden change in altitude. Hooded vultures and Bateleur and Tawny eagles fly lowest looking for carcasses while vultures higher up would descend down to their relatives circling underneath to help investigate potential food.
Hyenas and vultures might not be the most glamorous of creatures one might encounter on a wildlife safari to Africa, but they might just be the most interesting.