Entries for the Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year 2017 competition are lighting up our inbox at an incredible pace.
Every week we receive hundreds of photos, and this week there was one in particular that caught our attention. Larry Broutman had this to say about a disturbing zebra sighting in the Maasai Mara.
“My Kenyan guide, Peter Liech of Origin Safaris, and I were following a cheetah family. It was while we were searching for the cheetahs that we came upon several zebras grazing. We were absolutely shocked when looking through binoculars to see the sight of one of the zebras that appeared to be bleeding – and in fact had a spear extending from its body!
I asked Peter to see if we could get closer to them because it was such a strange sighting. Sure enough as we approached, we could see that one of the zebras had a spear that had passed totally through its body, yet it was still able to keep up with its zebra mates.
I began to take photographs and captured one where the zebra was looking straight at me and the spear could be seen entering and exiting his body. The zebra had been bleeding but not profusely. I decided to back off so as not to alarm the zebras and cause the speared zebra to have to run. We were close enough to see that the spear was typical of a Maasai spear.
We immediately drove to our Maasai village, to alert them to what we had just seen and ask if they knew anything about it. They were also shocked at the pictures on my camera, but did not know how this happened. I also asked them to try and watch for the zebras which were not far from their village.
We returned to our safari camp and discussed our observations with the camp guides, as well as park rangers. Of course, no one could believe that a zebra with a spear completely through its torso could survive until they saw my pictures.
After several discussions with the rangers, Maasai and guides we concluded the following:
In recent months there had been disputes between park officials and some Maasai herders concerning grazing rights in the national park. Some of the Maasai wanted to allow their cattle to graze in the Mara but were banned from doing so.
Since the spear in the zebra was a typical Maasai spear, we all concluded that a Maasai herder may have done this in retaliation for not being allowed into the Mara.
Upon returning to our Maasai village friends, we were also astonished to learn that a day or so after we had told them about the zebra, they found the remains of the zebra and recovered the spear which they presented to me.
We also concluded that the zebra may have died while walking through brush, causing the spear to move and produce further bleeding – or it may have died of an infection.
Upon returning to Chicago, still astonished by my observation, I met with the chief of mammals at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago to show him my photographs. He was also amazed and stated that the spear must have missed every vital organ of the zebra, perhaps a one in a million chance.
I also realise that the probability of Peter and I finding and photographing this zebra in the day or two it lived after being speared is also one in a million, if that.
Never have I seen a more compelling (and disturbing) photograph”.