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Africa Geographic
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Africa Geographic Travel

The Cost Of Predation


Life can be tougher for large carnivores than it may at first appear. Africa’s big cats are equipped with dangerous claws, long, sharp teeth, and powerful muscular limbs to enable them to kill their prey. On the other hand prey animals come with their own defensive armory. Warthogs have sharp, penetrating tusks in their lower jaws. Zebra have sharp hooves, a powerful kick and can bite hard. Buffalo are legendary self-defenders, and have horns and bulk in lethal combination. Porcupines have sharp quills that they jab into the flesh of an attacker.

On a recent safari I was reminded of just how well some prey animals can defend themselves by observing the injuries that were apparent on some of the big cats that we saw.


At Savuti a lone lioness was sporting a big, ugly wound on her belly. Although the wound was clean and in the process of healing, it must have caused her some very serious discomfort. My colleagues from the camp had seen the lioness in an uninjured state one day, following a small herd of buffalo. Next morning she had the injury, so it seems safe to assume that she ended up getting a buffalo horn in her side. Fortunately she seemed to be recovering well at the time that I took the accompanying image, and not causing her any trouble.

A territorial male leopard busy patrolling his territory along the Linyanti River had a deep gash on his left shoulder. You can just see it in the accompanying image. This particular male is well-known by the guides in the area for his habit of hunting warthogs and it was quite possible that his injury could have come from one of those feisty pigs. This was a month back, but as of the time of this writing the wound is almost completely healed.


Still in the Linyanti I saw a lioness with a full belly, and a porcupine quill stuck in her cheek. With some luck, this quill might fall out, but it could also remain embedded in her flesh and cause serious infection.

Fortunately the big cats have strong immune systems, and they heal fast, so in most cases they will heal themselves from their wounds.

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Africa Geographic Travel

I am a South African who grew up in the former Transkei, (now the Eastern Cape) and I spent much of my time along the Wild Coast. For over ten years I have been working as a guide in northern Botswana, for a company called Wilderness Safaris. I spend many days of each year leading photographic safari trips with small groups of people through our fixed camps in the Kalahari, Okavango, Linyanti and Savuti regions, mostly. My special interests are birds, lions and photography, in no special order. When I am not guiding in the field, I take part in some of our companies environmental projects. Botswana is a country with a solid conservation ethic, and I am fortunate to be able to share some of what I do and see by means of my writing and my images. Visit my photography page