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lions and other wildlife from the African bush
October 4, 2008 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Brutal or Amazing? - this is just one of many fine posts on the Photo Africa Blog, an excellent source of in-the-wild animal and nature photos and reports from bush field guides. Also see: Madikwe Lions.
posted by madamjujujive (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nature's own turducken.
posted by pyrex at 8:04 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's an awful lot of projection going on in that first link and without further information it's almost impossible to work out what's really going on. Not to be wantonly cruel or anything, but (from the available info) the "maternal instincts" could just as easily be interpreted as the lioness stashing the really good food and making sure the foetus is actually dead before she has a nap.

Brutal or amazing? Probably a mix of the two. Lots of lovely photos though.
posted by mandal at 8:18 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Love the photos, but yeah, kind of a ridiculous amount of projection happening there.
posted by agregoli at 8:28 AM on October 4, 2008


Brutal or amazing? Probably a mix of the two

With subtle hints of disgusting and highlights of revolting.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:29 AM on October 4, 2008


There's an awful lot of projection going on in that first link and without further information it's almost impossible to work out what's really going on.

We project motives and emotions on other humans all the time.

Does that comparison not seem apt?

You may be right. Who knows what was really going on in the lioness' head. But the tendency that many people have to assume that understanding animals as automatons is somehow more objective is, in fact, just the opposite. I suspect the reason we want to look at them as automatons is to relieve ourselves of responsibility.

To argue for the other side, here's a simple scientific explanation as to why in fact we should attribute emotional mental states to higher animals (beyond just hungry, angry, kill). The vast majority of the evolution of our brain occurred before you could differentiate humans as a species. How is it that the sophisticated mental states that we claim to have could have appeared so quickly, that we are the only ones who have them?

I think the lioness didn't expect what she found, and felt somewhat guilty.
posted by Alex404 at 8:32 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


There certainly was a lot of projection. The lionness kept on looking around as if to look for help? It reminds me of studying chimp sign language in anthropology/linguistic classes, and how much the keepers/interpreters would project.

Not that animals aren't infinitely more complicated than most people give them credit for, I just think this sort of thing is a more interesting study of human tendency to come up with an understandable human intent for things we don't understand.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:46 AM on October 4, 2008


We always have to be careful of projecting our own emotions onto the animals we are watching...

Not that careful, it seems.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:47 AM on October 4, 2008


I think it's fair to say that a person who studies and photographs lions knows a little more about what he or she's observing than we do. They were there, they took the photos.

Humans ourselves are an excellent example of the fact that not all animals within a species are completely uniform in behavior and awareness. Perhaps not every lioness would have reacted this way; that makes what is shown here even more fascinating. For those who can recognize that consciousness itself evolves, or that some individuals within a species find it easier to overcome (or manipulate) their instincts than others do, then this is more than just brutal or amazing; it's downright personally affirming.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:55 AM on October 4, 2008


Not that careful, it seems.

This is clearly not a scientific journal and the projections, to me, seemed more questioning and descriptive than in any way definitive statements as to cause of behaviour. I think people are being over-critical about this.

Besides, hiding the fawn in a thicket is precisely what a lion does with its own cubs, and I imagine a little snack like that would normally be tasty and tender, so why didn't it eat it? The lion carried it like a cub, rather than as a food item. It was a bizarre exchange, and the author, to me, seemed to be trying to be looking for answers and voicing possibilities (the style suggested 'talking out loud' to me) rather than stating "this is what we say and why". He at no stage suggested his projections were the correct interpretations.
posted by Brockles at 8:58 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lions will hold their prey by the nose and mouth until they die by suffocation. Ligers, on the other hand, will raise the young of other species as their own until they and their eccentric cohorts go on to defeat the despotic overlord of the jungle in a climactic showdown between good and evil.
posted by stavrogin at 9:07 AM on October 4, 2008


He at no stage suggested his projections were the correct interpretations.

Of course not. He clearly was making assumptions and wasn't pretending to be an expert. That doesn't stop us from hypothesizing, either.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:50 AM on October 4, 2008


That sounded more snide than I intended. I'm sorry. I liked this story to be honest, and think the photographer was probably correct but still projecting.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:22 AM on October 4, 2008


Paraphrasing C. G. Jung: anything you can't measure is automatically a projection, by definition. Projection is our primary link to the outside world.
posted by RussHy at 11:16 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's why straight reporting would have made a better impression on me. But obviously a worthwhile blog.
posted by agregoli at 1:31 PM on October 4, 2008


Rrawr.

Those are awesome photos on that blog!

There's a feast of great images there. Like these of the praying mantis and the silhouette of the hoopoe (I love hoopoes).

I love the care the blogger takes to look at all the details that I wouldn't think to think about, like the lions' dental situation, lol.

I like that tag cloud app on the right side of the pages . Cool looking gizmo and nice to use looking things up.
posted by nickyskye at 1:43 PM on October 4, 2008


I just interpreted it in a more mechanical way. The smell of amniotic fluid probably just stimulated some maternal behavior. I don't think the lion had any sort of sympathy or anything. Just the "oh look, a baby" instincts kicked in and she treated it as she was programmed to do.
posted by marble at 1:46 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think marble has it. It just didn't smell like food, so she reacted unsurely.
posted by RussHy at 1:54 PM on October 4, 2008


Here are some videos of lions killing by smothering the prey with its mouth. The fetus was probably still alive so she killed it. It's not maternal instinct.
posted by stavrogin at 3:19 PM on October 4, 2008


Just the "oh look, a baby" instincts kicked in and she treated it as she was programmed to do.

Ah, so just like people then.
posted by mobunited at 3:55 AM on October 5, 2008


Whoa.

I missed seeing something just like this (the first link story) - in the exact same place - in person by exactly 2 days. It was my first trip to Madikwe in early September of 2007 (about a year to the day after this guy saw this kill, oddly). We were out on our first drive and our guide found the same lion pride that they had been tracking that week - a mother and 3 large adolescents.

He told us that 2 days prior he had been out with a family from Joburg who witnessed a kill of a pregnant hartebeast by the same pride (usually the mother leads in the killing process). The family (with their 2 young kids) watched as the mother opened the belly and out popped the head of a live fetus. Which the lions promptly ate, to the horror of the family watching. (You know, data point, and all.)

Here's the lions we were looking at. Crazy.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:35 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


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