Kruger National Park

 

There is something magical about being in the bush, the fresh air, the colours, the smells, the excitement of possibly being in the right place at the right time to see something incredibly unique. My recent trip to the Kruger National Park was no different.

 

On an early morning game drive, the icy fresh winter air battered our beanie-and-scarf covered faces, but the sunrise was incredible.

Early Morning Sunrise

The Land Rover rattled on the dirt road while we were looking for any early morning animal movement. The sun had risen just enough for us to take off one of our many layers of clothing, when we came across an unbelievable stench. Our astute tracker quickly said that it must be a large animal that died.

 

A few minutes later we found the carcass of a rhino about 40 metres off the side of the road. We knew immediately that it was dead and the first thought on everyone’s mind was that this poor rhino was the victim of poaching. The Land Rover left the dirt road, approaching the rhino, to see if we could see its horn. As we grew closer, it seemed like the rhino was twitching! Was it alive?

Dead Rhino lying on its side in the bush

We came around to the other side of the rhino and to our surprise; a single young male lion was feeding off the carcass. What we thought was the rhino twitching was in fact the lion causing the carcass to move as he attempted to bite through the tough skin. We worried that poachers had removed the horn but thankfully it was still attached. On the side of the rhino’s torso were two puncture wounds. Bullet holes? We thought so, however our guide suggested that it was most likely an injury from a fight with another rhino or an elephant. The lion managed to eat through the rhino’s genitalia but struggled to tear the skin open any further.

Wound in the dead rhino's side
Lion feeding on rhino carcass

The stench was 10 times worse now that when we originally discovered the rhino because we were only 2 or 3 metres away. As incredibly unique as this sighting was, we were ready to leave. We waited a few minutes for another ranger to arrive in a separate vehicle to inspect the rhino to determine the cause of death. It was incredibly sad to see such a magnificent creature on its side, whether from natural causes or not. The other ranger arrived and we vacated the sighting, much to the delight of our stomachs.

Young male lion feeding on rhino carcass