GIVE A DOG A BONE

You must remember singing the counting rhyme of

This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my thumb;
With a knick-knack paddy whack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

and so on until reaching ten:

This old man, he played ten,
He played knick-knack once again;
With a knick-knack paddy whack,
Give the dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

It came to mind during our recent trip to the Addo Elephant National Park when we came across the remains of an elephant that must have died several weeks before our arrival. All that was left near the road was some dried up skin and a scattering of enormous bones. The rest of the carcass had already been cleared by various predators and scavengers in the Park. We were not surprised, however, to find a pair Black-backed Jackals sniffing around for they always seem to be on the lookout for something tasty.

Pictures of pet dogs gnawing at bones that are ordinarily far too large for them – all for the amusement of their owners – are common.

Here though were jackals giving what was left of an enormous feast a good look over for titbits that may have been overlooked in the feeding frenzy. Each sniffed the air cautiously as it approached the carcass. The second to arrive approached the first with its ears back and lowered its head. The two sniffed each other before making a close inspection of the surrounding area together. The jackals then circled the bones lying in the grass and, with heads down, surveyed the skin together before one found something tasty to gnaw on a bone, while the other – much to our amusement – stuck its head right into a large bone, presumably to get at the marrow inside.

jackal getting marrow

We left them to it, musing at the efficient way nature has of disposing of the dead while sustaining the living.

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