Nature isn’t always pretty, particularly when natural selection is acting, as it might be here. These photos come from reader Robert Lang, who called the sequence, “Brown water, green death.” His captions are indented:
These are some photos from a trip last year to Kenya. One of the highlights of the trip was watching a crossing of the Mara river in the Masai Mara National Park. Twice a year, vast herds of wildebeest (these are blue wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus), plains zebra (Equus quagga), and others cross the river to get to new pastures. The river is swift and rocky, and there are only a few places where they can easily get down to the water, and the animals congregate in the thousands at these spots. They mill around for hours (“you go.” “No, YOU go.” “I’ll go if you go.” “OK, but YOU go first,” etc), until one brave soul jumps in, and then the rest follow.
Many don’t make it; they get swept downstream, are tumbled on the rocks, or trampled by their mates, and provide a smorgasbord of carrion for the scavengers. (Also, a bounty for more active predators, as we will see.) This little fellow got swept down from the main crossing area, but an adult (presumably mama) positioned herself downstream of the youngster to provide a little assistance.
And they both made it to the other side, a bit bedraggled, but safe and whole. Someone else didn’t, as you can see off to the left.
Current and rocks are not the only hazards, however, and ungulates are not the only creatures who know the crossing spots. The casualties provide a banquet for the resident Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). Some of them, though, like this one, seem to prefer their food fresh.
That was a big croc: maybe 12- or 15-footer, but that was also a big gnu, who gave the croc the stink-eye:
And croc backed off, perhaps knowing that there would be easier pickings coming along.
Like this one. Croc showed no hesitation.
There were about 30 vehicles on both sides of the river at the crossing, each stuffed with photographers. When this croc hit, one heard the thunder of a thousand motorized shutters.
A few seconds later, he opened his mouth to get a better grip…
And he chomped down again.
And then he swam away with his dinner.
Seeing this engendered some pretty mixed feelings. I think I was probably not alone in thinking simultaneously “the poor little thing!” and “wow, I’m glad I got to see that”. But that’s Nature for you. (And human nature.)