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We were airborne out of Kaluku in 5Y DTP at 6.15am on morning of 15th September 2011 and the plan of action was to fly over the Sobo region of Tsavo East National Park as a routine recce on behalf of the Kenya Wildlife Service. However, as is so unusual for Tsavo at this time of year, we experienced low cloud and rain just after crossing the Tsavo River whilst heading southwards to Sobo. Although we welcome this rain with open arms, the rain front was extensive and this forced us back towards Kaluku but on the way we overflew the Athi River upstream, again as a routine reconnaissance flight.
A few scattered herds of elephant, some buffalo, 2 herds of impala, a few water buck several crocodiles and some hippo had been seen and then out of the corner of my eye I saw what looked like a fresh giraffe carcass. On banking round to get a better look I noticed the giraffe carcass had a leopard sitting on top of it! It really was an amazing sight, the leopard looked at us several times in a threatening manner. After a couple of passes over the carcass we saw an adult lion just a few meters away on the edge of a lugga (seasonal water course). He was a typical Tsavo lion, short main, huge in body size and lean and mean looking. Not one that you would like to bump into after dark on foot bearing in mind he lives close to the area that the famous "man eaters of Tsavo" once lived.
I later went to the carcass on the ground and confirmed it to have died from natural causes, sadly the leopard had gone into hiding and the lion was close by but not on the giraffe (see attached lion photo).
On the morning of 16th September 2011, I flew over the same giraffe carcass and sure enough the leopard was back there and instead of 1 lion there were 2 just a few meters away. The only difference is that todays leopard looked much darker in color, could it be a different leopard – very possible as Tsavo is blessed with a very healthy leopard population.
I apologize for the poor quality photographs, but they were taken from the air.
Richard Moller - Field operations Officer - The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust