Carcasses are interesting because you never quite know who will show up. This morning I found a nearly finished carcass with a few jackals gnawing away at the bones and some vultures waiting nearby. The jackals looked full and I knew that soon it would be the vultures turn to eat. In the distance (and seemingly unrelated) were a small group of banded mongoose. The loose knit group of mongoose were wandering and foraging as one often sees them doing and appeared to be unaware of the birds just ahead of them. Martial eagles and other raptors will happily feed on mongoose and typically the “sentinel” mongoose who is keeping watch is quick to sound the alarm is such dangerous predators are seen nearby. But can mongoose tell the difference between an eagle and a vulture? Certainly Lappet-faced vultures are of comparable size to Martial and somewhat similar in coloration and shape. I was about to find out.
As the mongoose neared the carcass, several large adults stood upright and the previously dispersed group began to come together into a tight circle. What had previously been thirty or so individual foragers was now a large mass of wiggling bodies all working as one. The mass approached the carcass at speed and the jackals moved off. The Lappet-faced vulture flew off and the White-backed hopped away. The Marabou seemed more intrigued and when it took a snap at the family of mongoose, it soon realized it was outnumbered. The mongoose rushed at the attacking stork and quickly chased it away as well. Like a swarm of bees, they then surrounded the carcass and few of the larger animals appeared to be feeding. Within a few seconds, they had lost interest in the meat and quickly scurried away, finally allowing the vultures to feed.