Wilderness Safaris Toka Leya Camp, on the banks of the Zambezi River in Zambia, is situated in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park outside Livingstone, Zambia. This is a small park that is home to buffalo, elephant, rhino, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog and many more species. But there are no predators, which is a good thing for this story.
About a month ago, ZAWA (Zambian Wildlife Authority) scouts came across a lion kill while on patrol from their camp in the Kafue National Park. Once the lions had gorged themselves motionless, the scouts noticed a young buffalo calf trying to suckle from its dead mother. At that stage they did not intervene, but a day or so later, once the lions were gone, and the carcass reduced to bare bones, they noticed the orphan calf all alone – the rest of the herd had long gone. They decided to help the calf by providing it with milk. Having now become involved, they had to find a solution to release the calf into a safe place where it would be likely to survive. They chose Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park because it is predator-free and buffalo herds often traverse the park.
They left the calf at the ZAWA gatehouse, which is close to the Zambezi River and close to Toka Leya. After a few days, the young calf made its way into camp. Because of its trust of the ZAWA scouts, who wear a dark green uniform, the calf responded to the Wilderness Safaris staff members who also wear dark green as part of their uniform. When the scouts left the calf in Mosi-oa-Tunya Park it was already weaned, so there was no further need for any human contact. The staff at Toka Leya are naturally well aware of the importance of not encouraging contact with the young calf as it will be detrimental to its potential conservation.
In the meantime the young calf feeds happily around camp and sleeps under the decks of the rooms. Herds of buffalo have been through the park close to camp and she has gone to investigate them. But so far she continues to return to the camp. Slowly, slowly that dependence on the camp will weaken and she will join one of the herds as they come through.
Another character that has taken up residence in a low-hanging waterberry tree is an African finfoot. It has a nest tucked up in the fork of some branches just above the back-flow waters alongside the walkway from reception to the lounge. Every time the finfoot came out, we were not around, so we didn’t get a picture. We thought maybe we would walk underneath the deck and see if we could get closer, but two crocodiles have just decided to take up residence in the quite back waters, so that was not an option!
Also not around at the moment because of the high water levels, is the resident hippo, MotoMoto. At this time of the year he spends less time in camp and more in the channels of the fast moving high waters of the Zambezi River. We were sorry to miss these two characters, but lucky to have met the buffalo calf.
Written by Marian Myers
Photographed by Mike Myers