Sabyasachi Patra

Eastern Imperial Eagle Attacks Desert Fox

Eastern Imperial Eagle Attacks Desert Fox

When I watch our wildlife battle for survival, I also feel as if a Strategy masterclass is unfolding in front of my eyes. In our MBA classrooms one students are taught many theories and many myths are also propagated. Many corporate head honchos make strategic missteps with often-disastrous consequences.

In corporate warfare, if you trip, you lose whatever you have painstakingly built over the years. However, there can be another chance of relaunching a different product, brand or service or even another company. In the wild, if you lose you pay with your life and most of the times the loser becomes the food of the victor. So you can find some of the finest strategies adopted by the wildlife warriors. It is never about brute strengths. Each combatant brings to the table a set of weapons and strengths and tries to fight the battle according to their own strengths.

Consider this battle between an Eastern Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca) and an Indian Desert Fox (Vulpes vulpes pusilla).

Have a look at this video before you proceed to read further:

 

Strengths & Weaknesses of Eastern Imperial Eagle & Desert Fox:

One of the mightiest predators from the Sky is the Eastern Imperial Eagle which can soar high up in the sky and swoop down and make a kill. The Eastern Imperial Eagle is between 28 to 35 inches tall and can weigh from 2.45 kgs to 4.55 kgs.

The cute Indian Desert Fox weighs upto 3 kgs. Some visual estimates put it closer to 5 kgs. The Desert Fox is omnivorous and feeds on rodents, gerbils, insects and even fruits. On the other hand the Eastern Imperial Eagle predates on small and medium mammals, birds and reptiles. So can the Eastern Imperial Eagle kill the Desert Fox?

The body weight of the Eastern Imperial Eagle is mostly bigger than the Desert Fox unless a juvenile Imperial Eagle tries to take down an adult desert fox.

The Eastern Imperial Eagle with its huge wingspan ranging from 5.9 feet to 7.1 feet can come down from the sky with a huge momentum and sink in its talons and beak into the desert fox and kill it. The Eastern Imperial Eagle has the speed advantage over the desert fox and can make a quick attack.

Indian Desert Fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla

Indian Desert Fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla

The desert fox on the other hand is agile in the bush and can make quick dives and jumps over vegetation. Whereas the eagle can’t fly inside the dense thorny vegetation as its wings will get entangled and ripped off. The Eastern Imperial Eagle can’t just take off vertically. It needs to hop a couple of steps while beating its massive wings to take off. When the eagle is on the ground, it can’t just rush headlong and attack the desert fox inside the bush.

The Eastern Imperial Eagle has sharp talons and beak and can jump while fighting and use its talons to tear up the opponent. So if the desert fox tries to make a frontal attack then it can also get ripped apart by the talons of the eagle. The Desert fox can side step and jump over the eagle if it is not careful. So on the ground the Eastern Imperial Eagle has to be watchful and now the balance of power between these two combatants have shifted from the eagle and has become neutral. 

Convert your opponent’s strength into weakness:

Both the Desert Fox as well as the Eastern Imperial Eagle know their own strengths and weaknesses. The Eastern Imperial Eagle knows that it can easily kill the desert fox in the open where it can attack from the sky. The Desert fox knows that too. However, the desert fox only faces the opponent in the area where the desert fox has strength and the Imperial Eagle’s strength becomes its weakness.

The desert fox doesn’t understand that this is what is taught in MBA schools ie to convert your opponent’s strength into weakness.

During 70s and early 80s, Bajaj scooters used to have a long wait list. In those days one could jump the queue if the payment was made in US dollars. The long waiting sign was treated as a symbol of success. In the early eighties, LML tied up with Piaggio to launch LML Vespa scooter. Apart from its better features like better headlight, both front and rear brakes working, single seat, the major thing was that the Vespa scooter was available directly to test, buy and drive away from the showrooms. Why wait for Bajaj when a good rival product is available? Vespa turned the long waiting period of Bajaj, which was earlier seen as a strength into weakness and asked people to just go and buy from the showrooms. There have been many such cases in different fields.

In the recent American Presidential Election, Donald Trump converted Hillary Clinton’s strength into weakness. Hillary Clinton has an amazing resume and was touted as the most qualified candidate to have ever run for American President post. Even President Obama said so. However, Donald Trump who was never in politics, branded Hillary Clinton’s long service as proof that Hillary as a Senator and Secretary of State was corrupt and was in cahoots with the system. Donald Trump promoted himself as someone who was trying to break the system or establishment.

Stick to Your Strength:

In MBA schools people often talk about SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat). However, most of the time there is talk of overcoming your weakness. If the Desert Fox would have gone to an MBA school, then it would have perhaps tried to fly like an eagle? Perhaps not, as true forms of insanity is only known to afflict the human species. Mostly humans indulge in such stupidity.

So people try to improve their strengths in areas where they have no talent whatsoever. So students are often berated for not having a talent in say singing or writing poetry or studies like the other student. A musically gifted individual may not be adept in doing karate. Forcing such an individual to also practice Karate would be stupidity. It is better to spend 10,000 hours to hone your skill in a particular discipline and become a master in that discipline rather than be a jack of all trades who is average in everything.

We often find race cars racing against an aeroplane. Invariably the aeroplane overtakes the race car. The Indian Desert Fox didn’t make the mistake of running straight in an open desert for a long time as the Eastern Imperial Eagle would have just gleefully snatched it up as a nice lunch. The Desert fox stuck to its strengths and only faced the opponent in the forest patches where the Eastern Imperial Eagle’s advantage was neutralised.

Panic leads to stupid reactions:

The Desert fox didn’t panic. While running away from one forest patch to the other, at times it was running slowly and was keenly aware about the movements of the eagle. It was putting sufficient distance between itself and the eagle. The moment the eagle starts hopping a few steps and beating its wings to raise itself into the air, the desert fox would have been half way near the other forest patch and used to vary its pace depending on the speed of the eagle. When someone is nervous, there are high chances of committing mistakes.

If the desert fox would have panicked and decided to run to a forest patch which is far away, then it would have become an easy meal. It didn’t panic as it knew its strengths well.

History is mute spectator to many battles fought and lost when one side panics. Impregnable forts have been abandoned as the inmates panicked and patience ran thin.

The Knights in the old days used to often choose their rooms according to the length of their swords. If you have a long sword then it is better to stay in a room, which is big enough for you to swing your sword against attackers without hitting the walls. Even though there would be more enemies swarming outside the door, one can save himself. However, if the person panics and tries to run away, he will surely fall victim.

The famous villain Gabbar Singh from one of the all time great hindi movie “Sholay” says “Jo darr gaya samjho marr gaya” which loosely translated means one who panics dies.


 

Ethics

Even though the Desert Fox was being hunted it had once kept an eye on me as well as the Eastern Imperial Eagle. So I decided to be farther away and only film with my longest lens with focal lengths upto 1200mm so that the combatants didn’t get disturbed. That is the primary rule of Wildlife Filming and Photography. It is ethical to not interfere in the ways of nature. It was 10.45 am and the heat waves in the desert ensured that the footage becomes soft due to the distance between me and the combatants. Nevertheless, I kept my distance and often circled a long way to shoot them without alarming them.

In the end, the desert fox proved its cunningness and foiled the plans of the eagle. So the eagle gave up after about 25 minutes.

Sabyasachi Patra
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Sabyasachi Patra

Sabyasachi is an award winning Cinematographer and shoots for international broadcasters, feature films and corporates to make a living. He is a passionate wildlife filmmaker and photographer and has won awards and accolades for his documentary 'A Call in the Rainforest'. He has been striving to make his films and photographs full of life and emotion and write articles to educate and evangelise the need for conserving the last tracts of vanishing wilderness and wildlife in our country. He hopes that his wildlife films, photographs and writings force people to pause, look, ponder and ultimately take action.
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