Shenton Safaris

Opinion: Africa is not Disneyland

Southern ground-hornbill with hare in Serengeti, wildlife photography, Africa

Southern ground-hornbill with hare in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania © William Walldén (Photographer of the Year 2016 wildlife category winner)

Some imagery that comes to our screens can be tough to stomach, and every now and then Africa really tests one’s emotional make-up.

There is a primordial energy in the wilds of Africa, where ecosystems still function naturally, and wild animals are, well, wild. The following photos submitted to our Photographer of the Year competition reflect what goes on all day every day out there in the wild, where animals kill to survive and where individuals (weak and strong, old and young) often suffer horribly in the process.

Four lions fighting over zebra carcass in Kruger National Park, South Africa, Africa wildlife photography

Lions fight over a zebra foal carcass in Kruger National Park, South Africa © Sibyl Morris (Photographer of the Year 2018 entrant)

Death can be slow and agonising or violently immediate, with many versions in-between. What is noticeable to the Africa Geographic team is how some people react negatively to such images, condemning these natural events as cruel, or unfair even, sometimes insisting that the ‘victim’ should have been ‘saved’. As if leopards have a vegan option.

We even receive direct messages from incensed followers, demanding that we remove these ‘horrible’ scenes, or face the cold shoulder.

African wild dog carrying impala head in Khwai Concession, Botswana, African wildlife photography

An African wild dog with his young impala trophy in Khwai Concession, Botswana © Anja Denker (Photographer of the Year 2018 entrant – Weekly Selection)

This video of a squealing warthog being attacked from one end by a leopard, while at the same time being eaten alive from the other end by a hyena, is certainly very difficult to watch – turn the volume up, you die-hards!

Behind the scenes there appears to be a sympathy ranking system. For example, a fish gasping its last breath in a rapidly drying pool of muddy water would not generate too much sympathy, whereas a cute baby scrub hare being snacked on by a ground-hornbill would get people tapping that ‘sad face’ emoji.

African rock pythons suffocating impala in Kruger National Park, South Africa, African wildlife photography

An African rock python kills an impala in Kruger National Park, South Africa © Jennifer Kucherawy (Photographer of the Year 2018 entrant – Weekly Selection)

So many storified wildlife documentaries follow the same Disney theme – lioness has cute baby cubs, cubs get lost, cubs get found again, all is well in Simba country.

In real life, of course, many cubs are killed by rival male lions, hyenas and crocodiles. Others starve to death or die of thirst. Only one in eight male lion cubs survive the rigours of life in Africa.

Three wild dogs attacking hyena in Savute, Botswana, wildlife photography

Three wild dogs attack a hyena that stole their kill in Savute, Chobe National Park, Botswana © Johan J. Botha (Photographer of the Year 2018 entrant – Weekly Selection)

The Africa Geographic team compiled this amazing celebratory video from clips submitted by our community. All 18 wild dog puppies featured towards the end were killed shortly after this video clip was filmed, by lions. THAT is the real Africa!

Bateleur eagle sitting on stennbok carcass in Kruger National Park, South Africa, wildlife photography

A bateleur eagle visits a steenbok carcass in Kruger National Park, South Africa © Jennifer Kucherawy (Photographer of the Year 2018 entrant – Weekly Selection)

Whatever floats your emotional boat, wherever you draw the line – hopefully you all agree that Africa’s wild essence is to be celebrated, and that these images represent Africa in all her raw, savage, AWESOMENESS.

Lion staring at camera through buffalo carcass in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa, wildlife photography

A lion cub stares at the camera through a buffalo carcass in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, South Africa © Bobby-Jo Vial (Photographer of the Year 2018 entrant – Weekly Selection)

 



Simon Espley

Simon Espley is an African of the digital tribe, a chartered accountant and CEO of Africa Geographic. His travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, real people with interesting stories and elusive birds. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells, and when not travelling or working he will be on his mountain bike somewhere out there. His motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". The views expressed in his posts are his own. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

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