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Published: August 15th 2012
When I was a little boy I remember the Disney movie, "The Jungle Book" came out and I wanted to watch it over and over. I collected the figurines of the major characters and played endlessly on the living room carpet with my little animals. Come to think of it, our mother always bought us a box of animal crackers as a treat every week when she did the grocery shopping. I grew up with dogs and cats. I always loved the sad and wistful tune of those nature shows on late Saturday afternoons. I am an animal lover by nature and my parents always taught us to respect these creatures. Just to add the irony, we lived in a housing project known as "The Jungle"!!!
So, my inevitable safari became the fruition of so many dreams. Despite the incredible early morning wake up calls (on average between five and six a.m.) and the incredibly chilly morning and evening temperatures (much layering was crucial), I have had the incredible opportunity to see so many of these amazing creatures in their natural habitats. Early morning is the best time to view these creatures before the hot African sun (the weather baffled
me!) set them all to find some needed shade. I could sit here and list them all but I will let the pictures speak for themselves. At one point we were surrounded by 15 African elephants, oblivious to our presence as they ripped out trees and branches and gorged on them noisily. Two elephants even got into a short little battle over the pickings! At another point, two rhinos and were grunting and batting horns trying to determine who was going to gain ownership of the precious waterhole. We were witness to the sudden endless trail of wildebeests charging off together to destination unknown. On the last morning we went for a walk in the bush with a guide and stumbled upon zebras who were enjoying an early morning nibble.
I was particularly fascinated by a watering hole where different creatures gathered together and did not mind sharing the precious water despite the fact that they were all representative of different species. It was quite touching to see zebras, wildebeests and other animals sharing the pond...our tour leader even mentioned that each creature would alert the others if a lion or other deadly cat were to approach the area.
I couldn't help but to see the metaphor of how people could sometimes learn lessons from these creatures in terms of sharing and working together. But again, I digress.
I imagine it must be very difficult being an animal...always having to watch out for predators, always having to feed oneself....never resting for too long in one area. We truly are spoiled sometimes! The force of nature was quite evident when we stumbled upon the remains of a dead zebra, picked over by vultures and maggots...a victim of a hungry leopard who was spotted sometime in the vicinity of our lodge.
The saddest moment I encountered was in Kruger Park when we noticed two large grey "boulders" far off in the distance. At first, our guide thought it was the result of two elephants engaged in a battle where neither was the victor. Horribly enough, it turned out to be two rhinos, both shot dead by poachers, their horns removed and left to became a feast for the ever-hovering leopard vultures. I later learned that there are only 350 black rhinos left in Kruger Park and that on average, two are killed a day by poachers. I will never
understand why this happens and can't quite resolve what is the best solution...remove their horns so the poachers have nothing to take? Or let them live with their horns as "normally" as they can since this sacred appendage is crucial to their survival in the wild?
I am awed by nature and its inhabitants. How blessed I was to spend some time with these creatures...artificial as it may seem to some...but life-changing for the little boy with the "Jungle Book" figurines.
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