Hwange National Park at 5:30 a.m. on September 20, 1999. Nine adult spotted hyenas followed a female elephant and two baby elephants – one cub was about 5 years old, and the other was newborn.
The day before, my parents were still leisurely grazing among the elephants, but now the situation is not very good. Nine spotted hyenas surrounded the mother and son and ran forward, trying to bite the baby elephant’s leg.
The mother elephant ran up to one of the spotted hyenas and tried to drive it away from her cub, but this action didn’t seem to scare the hyenas. The baby elephant was as close to its mother as possible, but it was still too young to know what to do with the ferocious hyenas, and did not yet know how to protect herself or her younger brother.
Five minutes later, a spotted hyena bit the newborn elephant’s tail and pulled it aside. The mother immediately chased away the spotted hyena and ran after it into a bush nearly 10 meters away.
Apparently this was an inexperienced mother, and within seconds of her absence, the remaining spotted hyenas continued to attack the young. One spotted hyena even bit off the trunk of the poor baby elephant.
The baby elephant also separated from the mother and ran for 20m, the mother elephant this time learned her lesson and ran in time.
Nine spotted hyenas continue to hunt and kill newborn baby elephants. In less than 10 minutes, at 5:45 am, they had bitten off one of the newborn baby elephant’s thighs and started eating them alive! While the mother and baby elephants are still standing 20 meters away and they can’t do anything.
Elephants are the largest land animals, adult elephants can weigh up to 3-6 tons. Due to their size and close social organization, adult elephants are immune to large and uncompetitive predators. However, elephants have a long growth period and prefer water and baby elephants grow up, in the process inevitably being attacked by predators.
Lions, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs and even leopards all have records of having hunted baby elephants. For example, in Chobe National Park between 1993 and 1996, a herd of lions killed a total of 74 elephants during this time; between 1998 and 2004 in Hwange National Park, lions killed 44 elephants, representing 22% of all lion prey; between 8-25 October 2005, a herd of super lions in Sauti, Botswana killed elephants every three days…
Why would these large carnivores ignore their normal prey and turn to elephants? Is there anything in common when a herd of baby elephants from tens to hundreds, even thousands of elephants still cannot protect one or two baby elephants?
From records showing that elephant hunting by lions is not evenly distributed throughout the year, these activities are concentrated in the driest time of the year, mainly in October (the end of the dry season). There are no records of elephant killing from December to March (the rainy season months get 80% of the rainfall).
Predation sites are located throughout the study area, but several areas are the focal point of occurrence, particularly the Nemba, Sumba and Somawindra waterholes. Many elephants seek out water and congregate in these areas, especially in years when the remaining water resources in the park are very limited.
The study clearly shows that the predation of elephants by lions is strongly related to rainfall. When rainfall is below average, the number of elephants killed by lions increases dramatically.
Elephants are highly dependent on water, on average each elephant needs 80-160 liters of water per day. In the dry season, elephants gather near water sources. Because elephants are herbivores (more refined than herbivores), their daily food intake is very high, they need to eat 150-300kg of food every day, so too high a density of elephants can damage the environment. living school.
Faced with a shortage of food and water, as well as great social pressure, for many years of water scarcity, elephants had to travel long distances to find food and water. In this case, the baby elephant may not be able to keep up with the herd, and may be left alone or abandoned. In the dry season, the frequent prey of large carnivores is not enough, so the young elephants are more vulnerable to lions and spotted hyenas.
Although most of the elephants killed are considered lone elephants, lions sometimes attempt to abduct elephants from the herd. The researchers recorded two cases of lions attacking elephants and capturing baby elephants, once successfully and once failed.
Once, 4 male lions and 3 female lions ambushed a small herd of elephants. A juvenile baby elephant was caught, but dragged a male lion about 10 meters before being freed. At the same time, a newborn baby elephant (1 month old) was captured and killed. According to the researchers’ explanation, when the cubs were ambushed by lions and ran away, the elephants panicked and could not protect the baby elephants.
Another time, a herd of baby elephants was attacked by a pack of lions (1 adult female, 2 3.5 year old male lions and 1 3.5 year old female lion) in the bush around a supply point. water. A lioness jumped onto the back of a 5-6 year old baby elephant that had fallen behind the herd. Two female elephants came back to protect the baby elephant, the baby elephant escaped.
In short, when elephants mature, they are completely unrivaled, but in the dry season when rainfall is scarce, many large carnivores such as lions, spotted hyenas, jackals may stalk and hunt baby elephants , especially baby elephants that go alone.