BRUTAL FIGHT CONSEQUENCES: MALE KUDUS LOCK HORNS IN A FATAL BATTLE
For these kudus, not even death could do them part. Last week, field guide Rex Masupe came across two adult male kudus that met their end in a battle for dominance close to Abu Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. After tracking the antelope, Masupe found the kudus with their horns locked in a fatal twist – an unusual sighting that was a first for the experienced guide.
Field guide Rex Masupe examines the carcasses.
“It’s very rare to find two males dead at the same time. Usually it’s one killing the other and then there is a winner,” Masupe told Africa Geographic. After examining the interlocked animals, he concluded that it’s likely one of the bulls died as a result of a broken spine, leaving the winner of the battle fused to the deadweight that would ultimately be his downfall. “Out of curiosity I lifted the two heads to see underneath them but even I failed to separate them,” Masupe added.
So how often does this happen? The lack of reported cases would suggest that it is a very rare event. In 2007, researchers studying greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) populations in Namibia came across two bulls that had also succumbed to the “death twist”. However, the study points out that “[g]reater kudu seldom engaged in agonistic behaviour.
Two kudu fighting was only seen on one occasion, and it was not a prolonged fight.” An older study carried out in South Africa’s Kruger National Park over a ten-year period shows no evidence of death by horn-lock. Instead the study found that males are likely to die from starvation following accelerated tooth wear (if they don’t get nabbed by lions first).
According to Masupe, scavengers had already begun to feed on the kudu by the time he found them. Adult bulls can weigh in at an impressive 270kg (600lb), so this double kudu serving is like an all-you-can-eat buffet for carnivores. A missing kudu limb was found stashed in a tree about 80 metres away from the kudu clump (the work of an opportunistic leopard), while markings on the carcasses showed that hyenas had also stopped by for a snack.