It was a lovely and peaceful Saturday afternoon. Steven and I were sitting outside at the front of the house, watching the sun slowly make its way down towards the mountain on the horizon. The boys were playing with their older brother and sister. They were having a fabulous time. They always do when the four of them are together.
Just outside our front gate, a breeding herd of elephants appeared. They did not seem to be bothered at all by the children being a bit loud and rowdy. The older cows were feeding contently on the trees in front of our garden, while two boisterous youngsters we having a bit of a wrestling match. They were head to head, pushing each other back and forth while trumpeting and making all sorts of noise. One of their mothers seemed to try and calm them down with a low tummy rumble.
A few cattle egrets, all white and shiny against the yellowing grass, were following the elephant family around, picking at the insects disturbed by the elephant’s movements. One of the little calves was watching a cattle egret with great interest. And then it slowly started creeping up to the unsuspecting bird! It was too cute to watch this little elephant, ears flared out and all, slowly sneak up to the egret!
Two other young calves were nursing from their mothers, who stood perfectly still allowing their babies to drink their fill. They did not even move a trunk. A massive bull was parading around the herd testing if any of the cows were ready to mate. He was enormous compared to the cows. His thick neck and big head held high in an apparent attempt to impress the ladies.
As the sun was going down, our resident monkey troop made their way back to the relative safety of the trees in our garden. Some of the mothers and their babies settled in the Fever Tree right by the fence, where the babies received their ‘evening bath’ grooming session. A few of the other monkeys were playing in the tree to our left, using the thinner branches as their own jungle gym with monkey bars! Don’t mind the pun;-)
So there we were. Three families. Three Species. All of us enjoying quality time with our loved ones. All of us completely aware of the other species’ presence, but content in sharing the space in and around our garden and sharing that moment in time.
That Saturday afternoon I was convinced that it is possible for wild animals and humans to live together in peace.
And then a leopard killed little Courtney Ntimane at the Malelane Camp living quarters last week.
I don’t know what happened. And I do not want to speculate. I was not there, I did not see anything, nor do I have any idea why the leopard attacked the little boy. I just feel heartbroken for this poor family that lost their child. They might never recover from this trauma. I read a lot of heart-warming comments of support for the little boys grieving parents. And a massive shout-out to each and every person that messaged Steven and me on our Facebook Page or in private. Thank you so much for your concern for Jack and Alex and for caring!
Unfortunately, I also read a lot of ugliness, judgments and lack of compassion. And I had written a whole rant about that, but decided not to post that part of this blog. As Steven said: “If you don’t have anything good to say, rather say nothing at all.” Which, in all aspects of this case, hits the nail on the head.
So after last week’s events, I asked myself the question again: Can wild animals and humans live together in peace? Can they live together at all?
Well, we kind of have to. If Paul Kruger had not proclaimed our beautiful Game Reserve, it would not exist. All these gorgeous animals, big, small, dangerous and not so dangerous, would not be here. Staff members live and work in the park to make it possible for guests to enjoy every single aspect that Kruger has to offer. At the same time, Kruger needs the revenue of those visitors for its existence. One cannot exist without the other one. Which means humans and wild animals living in close proximity to one another.
On days like our stunning Saturday afternoon, yes, wild animals and humans can absolutely live together peacefully. On rare occasions, there is conflict or a tragic incident. And this particular incident hit really close to home. In more ways than one! The mere though of it sends shivers down my spine. So I guess the verdict is still out on that one…