The Kill

Linda Lou Burton posting from Amboseli National Park, Kenya–“That’s another one dying of thirst,” Amos said. “They get so weak they can barely move.” Amos was our new driver; we’d assembled in our vehicle the same way as we did before – Rick and me third row back, behind Otis and Venita. Abdi was in the other 4×4 with the rest of the gang. Amos was straightforward in his approach, giving us facts about Amboseli in a quietly scientific way. Maybe that’s what it took, seeing what he saw every day. Stay unemotional, stay sane. Record the facts. Report on what’s happening. And what’s happening is — animals are dying of thirst. We’d fallen into a state of shock since leaving the airport twenty minutes ago. All we were seeing was dust. Flat plains, and dust. None of us expected this; only hours before we’d been on the lush plains of the Maasai Mara, where everything was green and animals grazed peacefully side by side. The zebra before us now didn’t fit the pattern in our minds; something was off. It was about to get worse. Amos drove on. “There’s one that died,” he said, just as I spotted a zebra carcass on the ground. “You can tell it wasn’t a kill because of how it lays. Every day is like Christmas for the lions these days. They don’t even have to hunt.”

There were bushes by the roadside; Amos suspected a lion sheltering there, and he was right. We watched as the lion stretched, sat up, and stared; bored, it seemed. Thinking of something to do next? He stretched again, then stood, and ambled out, heading for the open field.

Amos backed the 4×4, turned to track the lion. Around another curve lay zebra bones picked clean, a death from other days. Another zebra carcass then, more freshly fallen. Past the bushes to an open space; the 4×4 was in position now. We watched the lion.

A zebra standing in the dust. The lion approached, a slow-stroll walk across the field. The zebra did not move. “He can’t,” said Amos. “He is exhausted.” Venita softly crying then, the rest of us sat mesmerized. The lion struck. The zebra fell. The lion turned, and walked away. The zebra kicked two times, and died.


Note: As you can see, I did not get a photo of the kill itself. I was, in truth, paralyzed, and could not think of my camera at that moment. This was the beginning of our three-hour game drive in Amboseli National Park on the afternoon of September 17. The next two posts are as sharply disturbing as this one; it was an afternoon that shook us all.

The story of the elephants is next.

Amboseli National Park