Why do wildebeest not kill the lions? Adult wildebeest weigh from 400 to 600 pounds. They all have horns and hooves. They can run up to 50 miles per hour. They live in herds of hundreds to thousands. Adult lions weigh from 300 to 400 pounds. They all have fangs and claws. They run in bursts but tire easily. They usually hunt in groups of ten or less. So, why do wildebeest not kill the lions?

Surely a mass attack of wildebeest upon a lion could kill or disable a lion. However, wildebeest have evolved to use a herding defense again predators. A running herd makes it difficult to single out wildebeest for a kill. Lions, which prefer ambush attack, are forced into a chasing attack. In a short chase, lions can keep up with wildebeest. Lions usually attempt to pick out the young and lame for killing.

Herding is the most common defense used by highly gregarious animals including fish, birds and mammals. Herding is a combination of each individual looking out for itself while moving in a unified group. The benefits of herding are that each individual’s conception of being eaten is lessened and herd losses are reduced to sustainable levels.

At an outdoor concert, the audience listened joyfully to the music. First there were just two loud pops, maybe fireworks. Then, rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat! Shouts of “gun!” Screams. Everyone running helter-skelter. Some were shot, many were injured in the melee, but most escaped.

In the following days, much is argued about what should be done. Weeks and months pass. Nothing of substance changes. More concerts are held.

A parent peers through the doorway into an unoccupied room. Through the window she sees the yard and remembers the laughter of children playing games, running under the lawn sprinkler, and selling lemonade from a card table. A crow sitting on the windowsill quotes, “Nevermore.”

Rat-a-tat-tat!

A prophet said, “You should not kill.” A later prophet said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” What are we to do? Should we accept our losses? Should we kill the lions? Or, should we eliminate the rat-a-tat-tat?

To do nothing is to accept our losses.

Edwin Eugene “Gene” Ott is a retired environmental engineer, author and nature photographer. He lives near Waterloo in Laurens County.