The One That Got Away

Nov 17, 2017 Mike and Marian on Safari
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Peter* had a mate! Look at this picture… you can actually caption it! I knew the day would come when we found him swanning around his home with a friend. But he wasn’t in his usual Somavundla Pan, but rather a nearby waterhole. I wondered why that would be, until I realised that Somavundla was a bit crowded.

A young kudu was standing right in the middle of the pan! The reason for this was a large pack of wild dogs that were hungrily gnashing their teeth on the water’s edge. I could not believe my eyes! The young kuku bull was frightened, he was fighting for his life. He knew if he stepped out of his watery den he would be breakfast. I have never seen anything like this. Instinctively I thought to myself, “This is a clever kudu to have survived this far into the fight – he has a chance, it is just a question of perseverance and concentration”.

* I need to insert a footnote here for any readers who are not familiar with Peter Pelican. He arrived during the pelican migration three years ago, which happens east to west from Namibia to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and then back again. Unfortunately, as you can see, he has a damaged left wing and has been unable to fly off again, taking up residence at Somavundla Pan ever since. He has made friends with a crusty-tempered hippo, the noisy Egyptian geese and the other water birds that inhabit the pan.

The adult dogs pawed gingerly at the water’s edge – appearing frustrated by the fact that it was wet and menacing, promising a watery grave to any one of these non-swimmers if attempted. So now the great standoff was playing itself out. Who was going to be victorious and who would be beaten? Nothing appeared to be happening. Occasionally the kudu seemed to wobble a bit, and I thought if he could just hold on, stand firm, let the water support his terrified frame, while his mind kept him calm and focused, he had a chance. The hippo looked on with his ears, eyes and enormous nostrils being the only evidence of his presence protruding above the water. He appeared indifferent. The air was tense.

The shutter of Mike’s camera was clicking flat out. But photographing a standoff is a lot of frames of the same thing really. That is until I noticed the nine pups to my left. They were employing what seemed to be a nasty bullying tactic that happens when children in the playground think no adult is watching them. It seemed as if they were picking on one pup and mock-attacking him – you know when a child says, “I was only joking” but actually, not. Both Mike and I got that sense, and I wanted to discipline the pups to “play nicely now”. Maybe they were practicing the attack they had planned for the out-of-reach kudu? The parents were distracted by the clever kudu that was really causing an unnecessary delay in the day’s meal. The pups’ antics had also not drawn blood at this stage and didn’t require their intervention.

We stayed as long as we dared because it was our last day and we had to drive home. Time was ticking. The scene was intense. Cameras were clicking. And we had to leave. Ugh! Imagine leaving as fraught a scene as this? It’s like when the power fails during the crucial moment of your series or sports match, or your battery dies in the middle of that important call, or you’re having a really interesting, juicy discussion and the phone rings! Ugh!

In the vehicle next to us was seasoned guide Charles Ndlovu. He was not going anywhere. I told him I would email him for the outcome. But I didn’t need to. Thankfully Graham Simmonds from Wilderness Safaris Zimbabwe office was in camp and he picked up the story from there. I can only tell it to you in his pictures – take a look:

Photograph by Graham Simmonds

Photograph by Graham Simmonds

Photograph by Graham Simmonds

Nine times! Nine times! Sorry I had to say that twice. That is how many times this brave kudu tried to make the break. Look at those dogs snapping at his flanks. The kudu tried to escape on several occasions but each time was met with the fury of the dogs who reacted with lightning speed and intensity. It was like playing “catch” – each time he would have to retreat back to his “den”. Imagine the tension among the guests, the guides, the dogs, the kudu – and let’s not forget the hippo. I would imagine the hippo would say something like, “Oh sort it out already, I have had enough”.

On the tenth attempt he got away! That was indeed a clever kudu. Imagine my delight at hearing that the kudu was the winner! Of course, there were some hungry dogs and pups, but prey is so abundant and varied in our Hwange concessions that they would have been distracted by a much more obliging offering, with the pups now having honed their hunting skills in mock-play with one another.

Thanks to Graham for the rest of the story – and for the fantastic pics. Wow, we certainly missed out – I actually don’t think my mind would have been able to handle the action and intensity! Well done clever kudu boy! May you have a long life!

Written by Marian Myers

Photographs by Mike Myers and Graham Simmonds

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By Marian Myers

Mike and Marian Myers are living the bush-lovers dream! Follow the bushwhacker and his city girl through their news, views, videos and photos posted on their blog "Mike and Marian on Safari”.

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