Animal Infanticide
Botswana Wildlife Behaviour

© Predators kill each others young in order to reduce the competition for food
Many aspects of wildlife behavior do not fit the African safari beauty of glossy brochures, with animal infanticide being particularly gruesome.

By Leigh Kemp

We are mostly presented with a post card image of Africa in glossy publications, where herds of animals range the open plains and Leopards stretch languidly across overhanging tree limbs, but there are many aspects of Africa that are offensive to our developed ideals.

Killing the Young

Mombo journals: A tiny Warthog piglet was strewn in pieces on the ground and judging from the evidence it has been killed by an adult Warthog, the theory confirmed by a member of staff who had seen a big male feeding on the carcass.

A few meters away another piglet was cowering in the undergrowth, having escaped the fate of its sibling. Later during the day this piglet had gone, presumably having been found by its mother. But why would another warthog kill and half eat a small piglet?

Infanticide in the Wild

Infanticide in animals is the killing of young by members of the same species. Male Lions that take over a pride will often kill all the young cubs in the pride but will seldom eat them. This killing is to ensure that the females come into heat again to enable him to start his own lineage. Females with young cubs will not come into heat so it is not to the new male's benefit to keep them alive.

With Hyenas the cubs of same sex will battle from soon after they are born. This will lead to the stronger one preventing the other from suckling and will cause the death of the weaker one. This behaviour eliminates competition in the clan hierarchy.

Eagle chicks employ a similar tactic where the stronger chick may eventually kill or eject its sibling from the nest hereby limiting the competition.

Killing and Eating the Young

Animals have been known to feed off their own kind in severe conditions such as drought, but this is considered extreme behaviour. Baboons have been recorded eating their young babies in times of severe drought.

The two more popular explanations for this are that the Baboons are preserving the limited food source by killing the babies and thereby protecting the mothers from having to provide for the young one or that the Baboons see the babies as a food source.

The latter explanation seems to the most feasible when the incidents of Baboons killing and eating the young of other animals is taken into account.

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