An elephant died from natural causes at the 55,000 acre Phinda game reserve on Sunday. Rangers took the skull and tusks for identification and study, leaving the huge carcass where it fell. The trunk lay nearby, looking like a giant wrinkled slug.
Four members of the North Pride came to feed. Another two lionesses from the pride had taken their young cubs away from the group until they are older. The other two prides in the park (40 lions total) will stay in their own territories.
When we arrived at the carcass, a large male lion ambled under a tree and lay down, satiated from his 100 lbs of elephant meat. He didn’t move for the rest of the morning. Too bad there wasn’t t a football game for him to watch in his post thanksgiving stupor.
An adult lioness worked the skin of the elephant, munching the fat off the hide with loud crunching sounds. She pulled at it to reveal more meat, but the hide is tough to tear.
The belly of the elephant was wide open, exposing huge white intestines spilling out. The lions were not interested in eating there. It’s mostly grass and partially digested leaves and roots. Not food for a lion. This view was downwind, so we quickly moved away from the stench. After another day or two the meat will be too rotten for the lions. Vultures, hyena, and other scavengers will move in, reducing the huge animal for a few scattered bones.
The youngs male lions came last. One of them chomped on the elephant’s scapula. They get their calcium from eating bones. They also licked the fascia where the lioness had pulled back the hide. Tear at the meat, lick the blood, crunch the bones…quite an immersive experience. After about an hour or two, these younge lions left also. We drove away, amazed at what we witnessed.