February 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

The lioness and her coalition executed a textbook-prefect ambush. They sprang from thick cover the moment their quarry surrendered their guard and dipped to drink.

A millisecond before her claws could sink into flesh, some sense alerted the zebra herd and sent them rocketing off in every direction.
Hooves and paws pounding the earth, panicked horses bursting one way, cats catapulting in pursuit. Utter pandemonium briefly obscured by dust. We were electrified; Some screamed encouragement to the lions, others willed fleetness to the zebras.

As the dust cleared, we saw this:

Contemplate this instant through this lioness’ eyeballs; it answers everyone’s recurring question; “Why do zebras have stripes?”.
In the crisscrossing mess of diagonal black and white streaks, the predator is confused. It is momentarily impossible to pick out and lock onto an individual.
When black and white bands from three near-identical animals zigzag across your field of vision, how do you briskly determine which of your targets flees to the left and which darts to the right? How do you quickly figure out what is head and where is rump?

Our lioness flew into the epicentre of the melange but paused a microsecond as she tried to pick a target.
Her caution was practised and wise; zebra are formidable prey - a mistimed pounce or misdirected bite could place a lion in the trajectory of a kick which could readily crack a skull or snap a limb.
One instant of indecision.
That’s the time their stripes bought these zebra. That’s all the time they needed to elude the lions’ claws.

Now you know.

Dagga Boys

February 06, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Crusty old cape buffalo bulls.

They don’t mix much with their kin. They roam alone or in tight bachelor gangs at the margins of the herds.
‘Dagga’ is the mud in which they wallow. It cakes their hides protecting hairless flanks from sunburn, snuffing skin parasites and salving wounds.
Many believe that these bruisers (not crocs or hippo) are Africa’s most dangerous animal.

In the heyday of big game hunting, a thousand tales were whispered, with dread and reverence, about their irascibility, cunning and tenacity.
Once they commit to a charge - so goes the legend - they’re coming for you, and absolutely nothing - not even a rifle bolt will dissuade their hooves and horns from pulverizing your hide.
When they catch up with you, their unique blend of mass and malice ensures that they’ll make a sweet mess of your puny ass.

Peter Hathaway Capstick, my favourite wildlife author, summed the outcome of the average buffalo-human interaction -
“By the time the buffalo’s done mauling you, your own mother won’t be able to tell whether you’re lying face up or face down.”

Some locals call them ‘Widowmaker’. Do you still wonder why?

But I relate deeply to dagga boys; they are truly my spirit animal.
I get muddier and crustier each passing year. Pretty soon I’ll be exactly like one them ~
Grouch, grump, grim, gruff; completely intolerant of anyone’s guff. Dishevelled, isolated; glowering at all humanity from society’s fringes.

When my time comes, I’ll insist that they don’t just label me a cranky old man.
They’d better call me ‘Dagga Boy’.


February 05, 2018  •  Leave a Comment


Arguably, one of the Maasai Mara's most recognizable wild citizens. Probably its best-known lion. His distinctive disfigurement, replicates the mark on his 'Lion King' namesake.

In these parts, he is legend - he has scattered his seed, inflicted and absorbed battle blows and catapulted his DNA across his stunningly beautiful homeland.
He defence of his kingdom has been exceptionally able. He’s never backed down from a brawl this region’s unceasing lion civil wars.
He mates with a gusto uncommon for a cat of his age - in a couple of these images, he cavorts with a pair of his current consorts

Depending on whom you chose to believe, his eye was either gouged by a Maasai spear or a rival’s claw. To me, its origin slips into insignificance beside the raffish air it bestows.

His injury intrigues but it’s that super-mane that separates Scar from his peers. A rakish shroud of anthracite, bronze and gold. Bouffant and bouncy, it frames his face then cascades - impossibly lush - past his pectorals, caressing his shoulders before it splashes halfway down his back.
An uber Afro; a hair do to outdo all lion dos.

The sun is setting on Scar’s kingdom. His flanks are thinning, there's a hitch to his gait. Challengers figuratively nip at his heels; in the coming months one will successfully bite at his throat.
Don't mourn him when he falls. He has lived and loved very well - his throng of admirers have relished his unprecedented 14 years of skirmishing and siring. As a veteran of countless conflicts and copulations, he's evolved into our perfect metaphor for the intertwining and interdependence of life and death.

He will die well and will depart with his place etched in glory in the pantheon of lions. Until then and after then, we will celebrate him mightily.
Scar is legend.

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