The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
Trainees of the SA College for Tourism have had an incredible week of animal sightings at the start of their traditional bushveld savannah biome training at Londolozi Game Reserve, bordering the Kruger National Park.
On Monday, not long after we left camp at 5:30am we heard elephants trumpeting and vocalising intensively. We thought the herd was irritated by a pride of lions we had seen in the area the previous afternoon. Upon finding the herd of elephants we discovered that one of the cows had just given birth a few minutes before we arrived. The calf was still wet and lying in the grass. One could still see the umbilical cord attached to its stomach!
Approximately 20 minutes later the little calf stood up, aided by several young females in the group. It was amazing to watch how each member of the herd made its way to ‘greet’ the newborn calf. We spent two hours watching the events unfold with the students. This was the first time Renias (prinicipal trainer) or I had seen anything like this. It was a wonderful experience for our students to have so early on in their conservation careers. The photo above was taken shortly after the elephant calf got up for the first time.
The following day we tracked an old male leopard (called Marthly male) on foot, eventually finding him in the Sand River feeding on a buffalo carcass that he had found. The reason for the buffalo’s death is still unknown. However one man’s misfortune is another’s gain – this old male leopard, close to the end of his life, was delighted to find a ‘free’ meal. It took him a long time to chew through the buffalo’s thick skin in order to access the meat below.
Having spotted the carcass from above vultures began landing in the nearby trees. This in turn attracted a group of seven lions who arrived and chased the old male leopard up a tree, nearly killing him in the process! The lions had only fed for a few minutes when a massive 4-metre crocodile showed up, chasing the lions off the buffalo carcass, and started feeding. For the next two days the lions and crocodile fought over the meat – each getting their fill before relinquishing it to their competitor.
Story by Alex van den Heever
SA College for Tourism Tracker Academy Manager
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