Material Eagle versus Warthog
Feathers fighting Bristles

from Uwe Walz

"What a murderous heat!!" We are sitting in the Toyota Landcruiser in the middle of the Massai Mara Savannah in Kenya, and the sun burns down relentlessly on us through the open folding roof. We have been enduring this in the terrain vehicle almost the whole morning, full of expectation. The leopard lazing in the tree in font of us shows no sign of awaking from his slumbers to go hunting. He shows no inclination at all to leave the only shady spot around.

Just at this moment, the driver urges us to close the truck windows and the roof hatch. Nearing the truck is a swarm of tsetse flies. These bloodsucking infection-carying insects are highly dangerous. Even our African driver is most wary of them, and doesn`t hasitate to spay each insect penetrating into our truck with an abnoxious insecticide. Gradually, the wellkown greenhouse effect is developing inside the truck, with the temperature climbing to over sixty degrees. A short while later, we can`t stand it anymore, and give the order to move on. We will make a new try later towards evening to capture the leopard on film as he sets off to hunt prey.

Now there is time to take another look at the lions. A family of lions,which we have got to now in the meantime,has settled down near to us and includes three small lion cubs. The cubs spend the best part of the day romping together. Now and again, we have a chance of capturing the playful lion cub on film.

Then, suddenly, I spot a magnificent bird-of prey-perched on a acacia tree. Quickly, I signal to stop the truck. It`s a tawny eagle; next to the material eagle and the crowned-hawk eagle the tawny eagle is the third largest bird-of-prey to be encountered in Africa.

Then, suddenly, I spot a magnificent bird-of prey-perched on a acacia tree. Quickly, I signal to stop the truck. It`s a tawny eagle; next to the material eagle and the crowned-hawk eagle the tawny eagle is the third largest bird-of-prey to be encountered in Africa. Strangely enough, it stays at the comparatively shortdistance from our truck as we pull to a halt, without flying off. Through the roof hatch, which has been opened again as we were still moving,I am able to take a couple of quick shots with the teleobjective. Just as I has loaded a fresh film into the camera ,I discover a second eagle just a few meters distant and perched on a small mound of earth. The distane to this second eagle from our truck is even less than to the tawny eagle. Somenow it`s more natural to see a bird-of-prey in a tree rather then on a mound of earth. I recognize it immediately as being a material eagle. This is really photographer s luck! It means that I`ll be able to take some large-size close-up shots here as well. Whilst I am filming, I notice that the eagle directs its gaze in only one direction, and pays no attention to us at all. We decide to wait a short while in the hope of filming the eagle as it flies off. At this moment, the situation changes completely!

s06ba01.jpg (22794 Byte)A warthog with two small babies is approaching the eagle. Slowly it gets closer and closer. Coming from behind, it circles around our truck and continues a few meters more,heading straight for the eagle. The eagle ruffles its feathers and spreads its imposings wings in a menacing gesture.

I don`t waste this opportunity for a few shots. Suddenly, just a few meters short of the eagle, the warthog changes direction and passes by our truck with it two babies. Just as was again renewing the film, I saw how the warthog started to attack the eagle. Now it was approaching this huge magnifient bird directly.

s06ba02.jpg (22612 Byte)The big wings spread again,even the eagle hissing can be heard distectly. But the warthog isn`t being frightened off, it comes closer to the eagle. I realized that a battle was going to start any moment. I prayed that my film would last. Perspiration ran down my forohead dripping onto the camera. My pulse raced. What was going to happpen now? And now they confronted each other.

s06ba03.jpg (22563 Byte)

The warthog made an attemple to strike the eagle with its powerful tusks. In a lightning move, the eagle raised its claws and struck the warthog on its vulnerable nose with its razor sharp talons. These attacks were repeated in quick succession. Finally, with its vulnerable nose wounded, the warthog was forced to retreat. And at this moment, I had just made the last picture on that film. The film was completely full. My heard was beating madly, and perspiration ran freely down my face. What an experience! How could anything like this happen? A string of questions. What had driven the warthog to launch this attack on the stately eagle? And wy hadn`t the eagle flown of as we approached?

At my request, the driver took the truck up closer to the mound of earth.It had occured to me, perhaps the eagle had prey some kind under it claws, just hidden by the tall grass. Yes, indeed, from behind I can see that the eagle is cluthing a baby warthog that it had caught. Now the warthogs unusually strange behavior became clear to me. In all probability, the eagle had seized one of the warthogs three babies, carrying it off to the earth mound, just before we had arrived on the scene. The tawny eagle sitting in the tree had probably witnessed this, and probably was awaiting a chance to steal the prey from the material eagle. Thats why neighter of the two birds had paid any attention to our approaching Landcruiser.

This was an unforgettable experience for me. I had been fortunate enough to get some portrait close-up of a material eagle and of a tawny eagle. And the absolute highlight of my Kenya trip was this photographic documentary of this battle between an eagle and a warthog.