Note: I am actually back in the US as of this afternoon (posting this from London, thanks British Airways for free internet) just slow to post these and wanted to post them in order. So enjoy the last few adventures from the Mara.
In the last few days, we have caught two more birds. Two elephants were shot and in one day we were able to catch one last African White-backed and Ruppell’s vulture. I had been hoping for a Lappet-faced vulture, but given the time it has been important to just get the units out there rather than aim for an even spread. So the morning of my last day and we have units on 5 Ruppells, 5 African White-backed, and 3 Lappet-faced vultures. One unit remains and though I will need to drive to Nairobi this afternoon to begin the long trip back, I figured it was worth one last try.
Wilson and I returned to the elephant carcass from the previous day’s successful capture. At 7 it was covered in hyenas, but by 8:30, the vultures are dominating. We drove up – tourists watching and put down the nooses. With two vehicles driving so close to the carcass, the birds had moved off a bit farther than ideal, but there wasn’t much I could do. I had a nice talk with the tourists explaining what I was doing and why and then the waiting began. Two hours later and we had a few birds feeding on the carcass and then the jackal came. I have been wary of the jackals from the beginning. Not something I want to catch, but the animal was staying mainly to one side of the carcass (the side without the nooses) and unusually it had come alone. So we tried to be patient – to drive up now would mean defeat as the birds were just starting to get comfortable again. Then the jackal switched sides, he moved right to the place where a Ruppell’s vulture had been feeding hours before and he stuck his head right in the noose. He was caught. We drove up in a flurry and Wilson grabbed the blanket. The jackal wined and leaped all over the carcass nearly clearing the top of the elephant in an attempt to get away from us. Wilson tossed the towel over it and it lay still. He had rushed in front of me, trying to protect me from our unwanted guest and had been quick with the toss. But after the towel was on, he hesitated. I moved forward and scruffed the jackal through the top of the towel. He jumped around a bit but tried more to escape then to get away. He winced as he pulled back and further tightened the noose around his neck. Wilson grabbed hold of the jackal’s muzzle and we each pressed up against one side of the animal to prevent it from moving. I pealed back the towel to reveal the neck and the noose. I loosed it slightly and then decided it would be too difficult to pull it back over its head. I hate to destroy the nooses, but I wanted to get the animal out fast. I pulled out my trusty swiss army knife (one of the small ones, so far it has always proved to be just the right side). Each noose has a weak point that is made out of string rather than cable – ideal from just this situation. I cut the string and jackal was free. We both pulled back leaving the jackal still covered, but loose. He ran around under the blanket and nearly ran into an Acacia tree before finding his way out. At first, he moved off quick, but then the jackal turned and took a good look at us. I could tell he would be avoiding us in the future.