The initial sighting seemed to be a medium-sized herd of buffalo. They were on the opposite side of the Sabie River – almost loitering on the edge of the bank. Their focus appeared to be on something to their left. LIONS!
The distance from which we were watching was a disadvantage, but even more so, was the colour of the rocks on the bank – almost identical to the fawn colour of the lions. They appeared to be lying in a heap… on top of a buffalo!
Now, the sombre fascination the herd of buffalo held for the lions made sense – one of their own had been taken. Judging by the intensity of the lions wriggling all over their prey, it seemed impossible that the buffalo could still be alive. Certainly, there seemed to be no noise to indicate otherwise. From our vantage point, it looked for all the world, like a silent wake, where the lions feasted and the buffalo mourned.
I am not one for killing. On the few occasions I have witnessed a kill, I always prayed that the victim would escape intact. Then, once it was too late, I would pray their suffering would be brief. But, I am fascinated by the behaviour and activities of those involved in the kill after the victim is dead.
My past observations have largely led to an ‘each man for himself’ impression of animals eating to survive, while those who had escaped fled for their lives without hesitation. But, as I watched the mournful buffalos huddled beside their arch enemies, as they devoured one of their own, I was overcome with a deep respect for their loyalty. One buffalo, in particular, kept going closer. Was it disbelief? I doubt it – life in the wild is not for sissies! No, I believe it was loyalty. I believe it was an aching hope for a small sign of life – some indication that a rescue should be launched.
A while later, the buffalos began to move away slowly. The lone straggler was torn between staying and moving on. His conflict was patently obvious, and his loyalty touched me deeply, as he eventually accepted the truth and turned away.
That sighting has stayed with me this past week. In a world where loyalty scarcely exists anymore, that buffalo’s dedication was an illustration of the price of loyalty – sometimes we may be required to risk our reputations, and maybe even our lives, to stand by someone we value. How many of us can? How many of us will?
Of course, it was also a reminder of how short life is. Did the buffalo have any regrets as he watched the demise of someone he knew and clearly cared about? Only he will know. If someone close to you died today would you have regrets? Only you will know.