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Taste the Rainbow
📸 by @paulconormckenzie
by @paulconormckenzie

Before its lake waters began to rise dramatically about 8 years ago, Lake Nakuru in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley used to host up to a million Lesser Flamingos.

The flamingos seemingly co-existed in harmony with the park’s many predators including its lion and leopard populations and their only real enemies appeared to be of the avian variety – Fish Eagles and Marabou Storks. Or so I thought when I first started visiting the park in the late 1990s.

Around about 2006, for whatever reasons, the local Spotted Hyenas clans began to develop a taste for flamingo flesh, which for a photographer, produced some dramatic action scenes.

At first glance, the hyena hunting tactics appeared haphazard. They would stroll down onto the lakeshore, survey the mass of pink in the water and then amble in, rarely exceeding a light canter.

The flamingos would have thousands of eyes on the hyenas which gave them plenty of warning of the impending danger plus of course, they enjoyed the gift of flight. Even when the hyenas would try to increase their speed, the water was usually up to their chests, which acted as a natural speed break.

Most of the time, the hyenas’ charging attempts proved fruitless even if it provided for spectacular flamingo blast-offs. But after watching the hyenas over a prolonged period, it soon became clear that they were much smarter than first appearances suggested.

In a pink sea of hundreds of thousands of birds, inevitably there would be a sick or injured bird. And these were what the hyenas targeted.


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