As Civilised As Wild Animals…

A daily highlight of living in the bush has been the nocturnal visits by a pair of duikers.  They come to our garden every night in anticipation of a plate of chopped apples and game pellets.  Since they are very nervous, I have to hide on the patio and wait quietly and patiently for them to come and eat.  They eat until they feel full and then leave the rest for a bit later.  I was surprised by this, because other wild visitors to my garden polish off everything that crosses their path and then still give you the “Got More?” look!  A few weeks ago I was watching one of the duikers eat when suddenly a shadow appeared a few meters behind the duiker – he looked back briefly and then carried on eating.  The new arrival was an adult female Kudu.  I watched as she waited patiently for the duiker to eat all he wanted and then approach the  food for the left overs.  I was deeply moved by the courteous, patient behaviour the Kudu exhibited – especially in these times of drought when food is scarce in Marloth Park.

Duiker in MarlothTonight, I was watching the duiker eat, when the shadows came alive again.  This time another duiker emerged – a very timid female.  She approached the food when the male was done and he patiently followed her and appeared to “stand guard” for her as she ate, without any attempt to eat any more of the food.  A huge male Warthog who sometimes comes around to try to steal the duiker’s food pulled in suddenly, and my frantic cries of “It’s not your food Wizard!”  (a name the huge horizontal “warts” beside his eyes, earned him) scared him off while I went out to rescue their food.  I left some pellets out for him and he soon guzzled every morsel and hit the road again.

I put fresh apples and the rest of the pellets out for the duikers and just now I heard them eating again.  As I contemplate the episode with the Kudu a few weeks ago, and the courtesy shown by one duiker to the other tonight, I am struck by the incredible irony that we call these animals “WILD” and sometimes dangerous.  (For the purpose of this post, I am not going to analyse Wizard’s wild, greedy antics too much!-) Earlier today, I saw not one (which was unbelievable enough!), but TWO video clips of visitors to our beloved Kruger Park, terrorizing wild animals, in their own habitat!  Both incidents were shocking – and ironically the perpetrators belong to the species considered to be the most civilised…

The first shows a tourist getting out of the car and stoning and provoking a sleeping Rhino. The “civilised specimen” is relentless in his attack, while the wild animal beats a retreat when he could easily have taken the human out for good.  In the second video, a happy hippo snoozing in the sunshine and minding his own business, is frightened by tourists breaking the strict “stay in your car!” rules of Kruger Park, to get better photos (on a tab!) the hippo RAN away in the opposite direction, when he could have lived up to the reputation of his species as the wild animal that kills more human beings in Africa, than any other wild animal! 

I am speechless. 

I am also ashamed to be a human being because the evidence supporting wild animals being far more civilised than human beings can ever aspire to be, is indisputable.  We could learn a lot from the Kudu and the Duiker – their acts of consideration and kindness, if implemented by the species Homo Sapiens, could change our messed up world overnight.  I am an optimist by nature, but the odds of this happening are so slim, they are virtually non-existent!  Not to mention the multitude of lessons we could learn from the Rhino and the Hippo – their tolerance is commendable in situations when I think a more human, more bombastic retaliation may have been more fitting!  Oh the irony.

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