Africa 2015: The Inevitable Life Cycle

One exceptional part of nature is its inevitable life cycle. There are amazing, strange ties between life and death. Luck plays a big role in animals’ survival, yet everything bad that occurs in nature has a reason. Something horrifying may happen to one animal, but that may help another species. Joy and sorrow are intertwined in nature, and the food chain plays a big role in this concept.

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A jackal eating a gazelle calf for breakfast

For instance, I saw an African jackal nibbling on a Thompson gazelle calf that it clearly had just caught for breakfast. A few minutes later, an adult gazelle came close and ran away as soon as it realized the calf was dead for sure. It was probably the calf’s mother. While my heart nearly broke into a million pieces and I could feel the mother gazelle’s pain, I reminded myself it is how a jackal can survive in the wild and I should be happy it could catch some food. A vulture was also waiting nearby for the jackal to finish eating the calf carcass before getting its turn. On the bright side, nature does put every part of carcass to good use.

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Cheetah cubs waiting for their mother to come back with food

I fell in love with three adorable cheetah cubs that were waiting for their mother to return from hunting when a hyena suddenly showed up and seemed to be planning to eat one of the babies. I did not actually see the hyena kill a cheetah cub, but I felt terrible about the fact it might happen soon. Regardless of how much I wanted to yell and interfere to prevent those cheetah cubs from being killed, I had to remember that some animals have to die in order for carnivores to survive. Prey decide predators’ chances for survival, after all. Leaving the cheetah cubs and knowing that one of them probably would not make it through the day was such a bittersweet feeling, but it is how nature works. Life cannot thrive without death.

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The hyena that was planning to kill cheetah cubs above

Even if some sad things in nature may not happen mainly for good purposes, they often are put to good use anyways. I witnessed a sick zebra dying right in front of my eyes, and it was awful. Our zoologist suspected that the zebra had anthrax disease, which is usually caused by eating grass in certain spots where a lot of bacteria has grown. The zebra kept falling down and getting up again and again. It gave up after a while, lay on ground, and just waited for its death. At that moment, a cheetah watched behind the tall grass and waited for the zebra to become its next meal. The inevitable cycle of life. People could get involved and try to cure all zebras with anthrax disease, but sadly it might be for the best to let nature take its course. I was already in tears when I saw the zebra die, but I did feel a little better knowing that at least its inescapable death had a positive impact on another animal.