SECONDARY CONSUMERS IN THE ECOLOGICAL FOOD CHAIN.
The Maasai Mara, National Game Reserve in Kenya is the Northern continuation of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. A vastly natural, extensive, terrestrial ecosystem, a Nyika plateau and a Savannah Grasslands. It is the sanctuary of wild life, plants and animals. Maasai Mara is so named after the local pastoralist community, the Maasai and the perennial River Mara that quenches the punched thirst of the beasts.
Maasai Mara National Park is one in the list of the marvelous wonders of the world in the Gunnies Book of Records.
The open horizons of the wilderness are an attraction of BBC Media Group focusing on the Big cats, namely: cheetahs, leopards and lions. A many tourists, whose captivation and interest is the wild life, come in thousands.
The rolling tropical grasslands have a scarcity of rainfall, with just enough to support semi-arid vegetation. The ground of the wild terrain is covered with tall and brown grass. Patches of shrubs fringe most drainage lines, hilltops and hill slopes. Clumbs of distinctive scattered acacia trees grace the rolling grasslands. The tall-necked giraffes foliage on them. The abundance of grass and foliage is a haven for a million animals that chew the cud as well as many others that depend entirely on a dietary of flesh that comes by predaction, stalking, killing and eating one million plant- eating animals.
The blueplanetbiome writing on savannah grasslands has this to say “Herbivores provide a wide range of food for the carnivores, like lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals and hyenas.”
The word carnivore is derived from two Latin words, namely: “Carne” meaning flesh, and “volare” meaning to devour or to eat. A carnivore is an animal that eats a diet consisting mainly of meat whether it comes from live animals or dead ones. [Scavenging]. Flesh eating mammals, the feline family, the big cats and the small cats sustain life nourishment by feeding on herbivores animals.
The feline family constitutes a large order of mammals classified as “carnivores,” the Latin neuter plural of “carnivorus”- the flesh eating animal. The carnivores in the Maasai Mara comprise of the predactors, the three Big Cats, Cheetahs, Leopards and lions. Scavengers consume the remains of animals killed by the Big Cats or the recently dead of natural causes. In the list of scavengers are hyenas, jackals, foxes, wolves and vultures.
“In ecology predation is a mechanism of population control. Thus, when the number of predactors is scarce, the number of preys should rise. When this happens, the predactors would be able to reproduce more and possibly change their hunting habits. As the number of predators rise, the number of preys decline. This results in food scarcity for the predators that can eventually lead to the death of many predators”. [www.bioonline.org].
The carnivorous are the secondary consumers in the ecological food chains. They derive their energy for growth and reproduction by killing and eating herbivores. The scavengers feed on the remains of the hunted.
Hunting carnivorous are mammals of high intelligence and tactful skills of preying on their predactors. They know best by the sixth sense of the instinct the anatomy of the hunted prey. The sooner they get hold of the hunted, the next and the swiftest move is to get hold of the throat with their strong and powerful canine teeth. They know by sheer instinct, the precise place, the easiest and the quickest way to suffocate the prey. Suffocation is to kill or choke to death by obstructing the passage of oxygen into the lungs. The exhausted prey dies in no time due to lack of oxygen.
Carnivores have a well-developed, classic physical characteristics [traits] that naturally adapts them as predators in successful hunting, killing and eating others animals in the category of first consumers. The phenomenon of hunting in savannah grasslands is always a thrilling chase after the prey by rapacious predators. Big cats have formidable weapons, well adapted to a successful hunting .The traits are:
[a] The four limbs permits great flexibility for being swift splinters and excellent long distant runners.
[b] Strong and powerful jaw muscles used in holding a grip, biting, crushing the prey’s vertebrate, thus enabling the predators to overpower, subdue and kill the prey. The predator also uses the jaws to drag the kill to another place.
[c] Claws are sharp and curved weapons. The razor-like tools are used to catch and hold the prey inflicting as much damage as possible thus rendering it helpless.
[d] The incisors six on each jaw are quite sharp, pointed, prong-like and used for grabbing and shredding flesh.
[e] The canines, two on each jaw are long, sharp, curved [conical] and suitable to kill the prey by suffocation, to rend flesh from bone and slice it into digestive pieces.
[f] On either cheek jaw is a pair of specialized teeth known as carnassials. On the upper jaw is the last premolar and the first molar on the lower jaw. All have blade-like sharp edges for shearing and shredding flesh off bone.
[g] The sense of sight is highly developed. The eyes face forward, with a highly developed binocular vision providing an excellent depth of perception and accuracy in hunting. The binocular vision is on the horizontal axis, empowering the predator with the ability to spot the movement of the prey from a great distance.
[h] The ears too are highly developed and sensitive to high frequency as well as the faintest sounds.
The Big Cats have individual genetic characteristic that make them distinctively unique predators.
[a] Leopards are slow in speed than all other cats, but physically stronger than them all. Comparatively, they are solitary and have unequaled excellence in climbing trees. They climb trees as easily as tree squirrels. After a successful kill, a leopard has the muscular and enough strength to drag a prey [carcass] twice its weight high into a tree for safe keeping.
[b] Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammals speeding at 120 km/h or 75 mph. After a kill, a cheetah drags its kill to a shrub, a hiding place, to protect it from opportunistic scavengers.
[c] Lions are the masters, kings and pride of the jungle. They live socially, in groups called prides. The pride spends twenty hours of the day resting and conserving energy. They are primarily nocturnal and communal hunters, active in early and late hours of the night. The female lions [lionesses] do the hunting. The males only enjoy the hard-earned meal.
A Lion and cub
The eerie chase of predators after their preys is a thrilling spectacle. The human eye is the messenger of the brain in the physical world. It is worthy concluding therefore by say, “Seeing for oneself is believing.” Come to Maasai Mara to see the secondary consumers.