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Wild Cats and Kills in Etosha

On day three in Etosha, we started driving towards our next campsite. We spotted four lionesses on the horizon, in front of the pan. We tried to get ourselves closer to the lions but were distracted by a pair of Red-necked Falcons sitting in a tree. They moved from one waterhole to another and we followed. Soon we were surrounded by tourists looking at the lions, but we stayed around and saw some Greater Kestrels and a Lanner Falcon. Some zebras came to drink and we thought the lions might ambush them but the zebras were long gone by the time the lions started to move. Unfortunately, the four lionesses, followed by 10 cubs, walked to another waterhole which was inaccessible to us.

Further on, we started seeing more and more zebras along the road until we arrived at a waterhole which was covered in hundreds of zebras, oryxes, ostriches and jackals. It was beautiful! We stayed there for the rest of the day, watching as zebras walked or galloped towards and away from the waterhole in huge numbers.

busy waterhole etosha
Busy waterhole

That night, I woke up several times to chaotic wildlife sounds but slipped back into sleep. In the morning, Simon said he heard lions kill a zebra during the night, so we went to find the waterhole that is right next to the campsite to investigate. And sure enough, a pride of lions was picking at the carcass of a zebra not too far from the waterhole. There were lots of other tourists around and we didn’t have long left before we had to be out of the park, so we drove back towards the area that had been covered in wildlife the evening before.

We were stopped looking at a Pale Chanting Goshawk when Simon saw an African Wild Cat run across the road. So we approached and drew up next to it. It stayed sitting in the long grass, eating a mouse, looking to all intents and purposes like a domestic cat. It then walked out of the grass and sat next to the car looking straight up at us. They are usually quite shy, so it was surprising to see this one so tame. Quite easy to see how it is the ancestor of the domestic cat!

african wild cat etosha
African Wild Cat

And just a few metres down the road, we stopped to watch a Greater Kestrel eating a small bird. A little further and we stopped to watched two lions feeding on a zebra. As we looked through our binoculars, we could see other lions with cubs feeding on a different zebra further back. It was all action! Over a dozen jackals were sniffing around, trying to get close to the food. We were surprised not to see one single vulture in the sky with so much food around for them. We concluded that there must not be many vultures around, perhaps because of the lack of trees to nest and roost in.

What we didn’t consider is that the vultures here are just lazier than the ones we are used to: late-risers. We drove for a while and suddenly started seeing lots of Lappet-faced Vultures becoming active, and next the White-backed Vultures until we could see lots of vultures in the sky. We returned to the two carcasses and sure enough, they were descending on the zebra that the two lions had just abandoned. The jackals fought off the first few vultures but soon there were so many that they had to give up and leave the vultures to it. At one point, we managed to count about 150 vultures but I’m sure there were many more.

jackal fighting off vulture etosha
Jackal fighting off a vulture

We are disappointed at having to leave but we have something to look forward to. We are off to the coast to look at large seal colonies, and hopefully some Ospreys too.