Tag Archives: Big Five

The ladykiller and the lion

I’ve been following the Melissa Bachman lion killing debate with great interest.  As a nature lover I’m heartened to see the outcry that her callous behaviour has spawned.  I guess it would be naive to think that hunting doesn’t take place, but I think that the shock value of the Bachman incident is twofold – one, that she’s a woman and two, that she dared to brag about hunting one of South Africa’s Big Five animals.

A young male lion

South African women tend to leave the more robust sports to our men folk and it really doesn’t sit easy on our minds to see a woman sporting a hunting rifle and grinning from ear to ear because she has just shot a magnificent, defenceless lion.  I know that women have fought long and hard for equal rights in the world arena, and I appreciate their efforts on our behalf, but somehow as nurturers of the world, hunting just doesn’t seem like one of those jobs that women should share with men unless it’s an absolute necessity.  If women start hardening their hearts and becoming cold blooded killers of animals, who will take over from us as nurturers and carers?  And what is the next step from killing animals – killing humans?

Lion cub Botswana

And talking of equal rights,  why didn’t she challenge him without a gun in her hands?  What a shame she chose the cowardly way of taking him on.  Anyone who has camped in the wilds in Africa can tell you of the thrill of living amongst wild lions.  To lie in a tent and hear the deep roar of a male lion nearby is about one of the most thrilling sounds in the world.  I guess for Ms Bachman the sound of a gunshot does more for her than listening to an animal calling to its mate.  Shame on her!

Kalahari red-maned lion

It’s a sad indictment of our society if this awful act was a publicity stunt because she’s a TV presenter (Michelle hosts “Deadly Passion”).  If people need to boost TV show ratings or their image by killing proud animals it doesn’t say much for the rest of the world if we continue to watch these shows and stroke their inflated egos.

Magnificent beast

Our rhinos are being poached into extinction in this country so it won’t be too long before we are left with the Big Five minus one!  If people are going to start on our lions as well, then they are going to have to face the wrath of South Africans.  Thank you to all those people around the world who signed petitions (hell yes, I did too!) and who voiced their anger at this woman.  It was a debate that I wish hadn’t needed to be brought to light, but if it raised the consciousness of people’s inhumanity to dwindling populations of animals on our planet, then our poor brave lion’s death was not in vain.

Ms Bachman’s post on Twitter alongside her photo – “An incredible day hunting in South Africa!  Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion … what a hunt!” – elicited a magnificent retort from Ricky Gervais : “Spot the typo!”

Well said Ricky!  My sentiments exactly.

Tembe National Elephant Park & Safari Lodge – a Timeless Treat

There’s a park in Africa that is sandwiched between Zululand and Mozambique.  It’s a little park – 300 square kilometers to be exact, but it is a magical place, filled with beautiful African animals, birds and insects.  It’s a place where leopards pad around quietly at night seeking their prey; a lion’s roar pierces the dawn and buffalo roam on the empty plains.  Here Africa’s largest elephants break through the bush on their way down to the water and dung beetles have the right of way on the dusty roads.  Nyalas nibble on leaves and grass right next to your tent and bush babies join you for dinner.

The lounge and dining area at Temba Safari Lodge

Tembe is about five and a half hours drive north of Durban and as parks go it ticks every box for visitors – from the Big Five and excellent birding, to bushveld camping in luxury tented bungalows and delicious cuisine.  Tembe Safari Lodge, inside the park, is co-owned and managed by local Tembe folk who know exactly how to make you feel like honoured guests in their special place.  On arrival we were met by one of the guides and driven in an open game drive vehicle to the main lodge, where the entire complement of staff welcomed us with a warm traditional song.  What a lovely touch that was, as were the beautiful bushveld decorations that adorned our bed!

Our beautifully decorated bed

Game drives are part of the package and you get loads of them.  Two a day – each taking three to three and half hours depending on what animals show up along the way.  That’s a lot of time spent out looking for animals.

Young lion

In between sightings, our amazing guide, Carlos, regaled us with tales of his youth when he was a herd boy.  He knew every plant and tree in the area; from the Lala palms that the locals use to make copious amounts of wine (a very laborious process, I might add), to a leafy creeper that can be rubbed to make a shampoo.  His knowledge of the birds and animals was excellent.  We even learned that the Crested guineafowl is known locally as a “Bob Marley chicken” because of its resemblance to his wild hair style and marijuana-induced red eyes.

Crested guineafowl - or Bob Marley chicken

But Tembe is not just about any animal – it’s about a very special kind of elephant called a “tusker” which is a descendant of the huge tusked ellies that roamed the Ivory Route in the days of Jock of the Bushveld.  The pride of their herd is a magnificent old elephant called Isilo whose tusks reach almost to the ground and weigh about 55-60 kgs each.  Unfortunately, at about sixty years of age, Isilo has past his prime and doesn’t look as robust and well-covered as the other elephants, but when your eyes are drawn to those enormous tusks you can only stare in awe and imagine what this beautiful old boy was like in his heyday.  The staff have great affection for Isilo and happily forgive him his trespasses when he causes damage by coming into the lodge area.

Isilo - the most awesome tusker of them all

The terrain in the park is a combination of dense sand-forest that is home to the delicate little Suni, the smallest antelope, and open grasslands where buffalo and rhino can be seen grazing.

Buffalo with oxpecker passengers

Magnificent sunsets are toasted with sundowners and dawns are greeted with hot coffee and rusks whilst examining tell-tale prints in the sand that give up the secrets of who or what padded past during the night.  Our hosts, Tom, the manager, and Carlos, our guide, shared meals with us and we came away feeling quite enriched by having learned more about them and this lovely place in the sun.

Tom and Carlos joined us for dinner

Our three days at Tembe was my birthday treat and it certainly was very special.  It was made more memorable by the staff who baked me a beautiful birthday cake and sang to me after dinner.  Thank you to Rob and the Tembe Safari Lodge for such a wonderful birthday celebration.

The Big Five : Part 2 – The African Cape Buffalo

I started my five part series of articles on The Big Five by chatting about the leopard.  The second one on my list is the most dangerous of them all – the African Cape Buffalo.  This animal has killed more hunters than any of the other Big Five.  In herds, where there is group protection, buffalo are more docile, but it is the solitary break-away ones on the alert that humans need to be the most wary of.  They have apt nicknames like “the widow-maker” and “black death” as they kill a couple of hundred people in Africa every year.

A nice headshot of a Cape buffalo

We had wonderful sightings of buffalo in the Kruger National Park in South Africa where they can be seen in large herds and on their own.  They often have birds on them, pecking off ticks, as can be seen in two of our photos below.  Another way they get rid of ticks is to wallow in mud.  By coating themselves in this way they smother these pesky parasites.  Nature is very clever in this way.

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These strapping animals are very sturdy.  They weigh in at between 500 – 900 kgs and can stand up to 1.7 m in height at the shoulders.  Their crescent-shaped horns, which are fused at the base to form a boney saddle known as a “boss”, have a span of over a metre and are used with great effect as powerful weapons.  Combined with the ability to charge at great speeds, the overall killing capability of the fearless buffalo is formidable.

African Cape Buffalo profile

If hunters don’t shoot them properly, buffalo will continue to charge even whilst being hit by a barrage of bullets.  They are also very dangerous when injured and being tracked.  Many a hunter has lost his life by under-estimating this four-legged opponent in the battle of the bushveld!

Cattle-egret - a healthy partnership

 Males and females differ in both size and colour, with the males being larger, more black or dark brown and the females having slightly reddish-coloured coats, as do young buffalo.  Males also have bigger horns than females.  Females breed only after they reach the age of five years old and the gestation period is eleven months.  In herds buffalo are very protective of one another, and especially of their young, and will rush to the rescue if one of their own has been downed by a predator like a lion or a crocodile.

Red-billed oxpeckers on Cape buffalo

Due to their large numbers, buffalo are fortunately not endangered, but they are highly prized by hunters who feel the need to decorate their walls with enormous buffalo heads.  Personally, I like to see them alive on open plains or in mopane forests, and always feel incredibly sad when I am confronted by a mounted buffalo head on a wall.  I always send them a silent apology for man’s arrogance.  I wonder sometimes if there’s a planet out in the universe somewhere where animals have the upperhand and men’s heads are mounted on walls.  That would be a turn around for the books.