Could this be evidence of a baboon funeral? Very interesting behavior. So far in my volunteer efforts for Snapshot Serengetti I have not run across any carcasses.
Originally posted on Snapshot Serengeti:
Today’s guest blogger is Lucy Hughes, an undergraduate working with us since “Serengeti Live” (Snapshot’s predecessor). Lucy lived and worked on a private nature reserve in South Africa for four years, carrying out field research that included a camera-trap study into the reserve’s leopard population and twice monthly bird surveys for Cape Town University’s Birds in Reserves Project (BIRP).
The purpose of my study on this relatively small reserve was to try and identify how many leopards were using it as part of their home range. Leopards were rarely seen on the reserve but signs of their passing – scats and tracks – were plenty. The fact that there was only an occasional lion passing through the reserve lead us to believe that perhaps the leopard density was greater than expected. So a colleague and I set out to try and identify the individuals using camera traps. Part of our strategy was to look for animals killed by leopards and then set up camera traps nearby in the hope that we would get plenty of shots of a leopard with which to start identifying spot patterns. The method worked well except it meant spending a lot of time hanging around decomposing carcasses. It’s amazing to see a leopard usually thought of as picky munching on a rotting carcass that you would think was fit only for spotted hyenas and vultures. In fact we had a wealth of animals recorded at these carcasses. As well as the expected leopard and spotted hyena we recorded brown hyena, jackal, honey-badger, civet, bush-pig, warthog and even a kudu picking at the remains of ruminant. Needless to say the high smells made us super efficient at putting up our cameras quickly.
The leopards on our reserve were not under pressure from lions and so tended to stash their kills under bushes rather than up trees, probably to keep them out of sight of the vultures. This meant it was easier to set the cameras. On a number of occasions we would return to a kill to collect the camera only to find the bare bones strewn far from the original bush and thousands of pictures of squabbling vultures.