Daniël Mabunda is the Game Guard at the Hippo pool near Crocodile Bridge.
On a recent visit to KRUGER I spent some time chatting to this interesting man. He was born outside the KRUGER PARK near Shangoni 60 years ago. Daniël has spent twenty years as the Guard at the Hippo pool and is retiring at the end of this year.
During these years he has seen many things at the Hippo pools. He tells that the saddest moment to him was when he arrived at his workplace one morning and found that the Bushman paintings had been destructed by some mean thoughtless person, he says that his heart was bleeding but it was too late, the damage had been done.
He tells of Leopards and Elephants and Lions and Hippo and Baboons and various types of Snakes and Rhino, paying him a visit there at the Hippo pool.
He told of times of flooding and of dry stagnant pools, animals digging in the dry sandy bed of the Crocodile River in the hope of finding some cool life giving water.
He also told a bit of his time with Kobus Kruger the then Ranger at Crocodile Bridge.
Daniël was employed at Crocodile Bridge as Camp Security Guard.
Fences often had to be hastily repaired in the early morning after a nocturnal visit by huge grey coloured beast.
Daniël told of how often Elephants had entered the Crocodile Bridge Camp to feed on the Sycamore fruit, they seemed to take great pleasure in sneaking in and feeding and then the climax – ignoring the efforts of the two legged species in khaki or greens trying to chase them out. Eventually fire crackers and thunder flashes seemed to do the job, this big commotion was regularly watched by the amused tourists, what rather annoyed Daniël was when tourists were found throwing oranges at the raiding Elephants, not realizing that Elephants are dangerous and Elephants just love eating oranges.
He also told of how often Leopards used to go into the Camp and often scared the daylights out him while he was doing his rounds, these had to be removed with utmost care and in silence because one never knew what the stupid tourists would do in such a dangerous situation.
Once a Vervet bit a child in the Camp after the parents started feeding the troop, the young child joined in and the result – a yelling child with a bleeding forearm and upset parents.
While on duty at the Hippo pool, early December 1992, Daniël heard a whining of some small animal coming from some bushes under a now dead tree just above the rocks at the pool. Daniël recognized it as being a young cub of some kind of large predator, as per instruction Daniël did not investigate.
Coming off duty he reported the whining to Kobus and the two returned to the pool area. Daniël indicated where the whining was heard earlier the day, soon they heard the calls of a distressed cub to its mother.
Guided by the calls they reached a ledge and when they were reasonably sure that there was no angry mother in the area, went forward and found the little animal – a tiny little Lion cub, only a few days old the umbilical cord still hanging from the little body.
The little animal was shivering and thin.
The two realized that leaving the little bundle of golden fur would only spell its end, Kobus decided to take it home, they would hand rear it.
Daniël tells that Mrs. Kobie took charge of the little animal; he was quite surprised as she was quite afraid of Lions, and possibly this one was different.
Daniël said that he never saw or heard the mother coming to the area to look for her little cub; he could not understand why this was the case as Lionesses make good mothers and will protect their cubs no matter what it takes.
It was against the policy to keep wild animals but Kobus decided to give it a try and got permission from Dr. Willem Gertenbach the Director of Nature Conservation and the Park Warden Dr. Salomon Joubert- his pleas fell on kind ears and permission was granted.
Daniël was quite amazed at the attention this little Lion cub got from the Park officials all seemed to be interested, the Vet even gave Mrs. Kobie shampoo to wash it with.
The little Lion went through some trying periods, very often at the verge of death but eventually Leo became a happy shining bundle of dark spotted golden fur.
Daniël always felt proud and satisfied that he had reported the meowing from the bushes to Kobus. He was quite sad when the Kruger family moved to Pretoriuskop during 1993, Leo was now gone, he would no longer be ambushed and then tackled by a friendly Lion who owed its life to the Game Guard at the Hippo pool near Crocodile Bridge.
Daniël is now looking forward to his retirement, to be spent with his family at Shangoni. He says he will miss all the wonders of the Park, its plants and its animals and its people, next time you visit the Hippo pool do yourself a favour and spend some time with this man who has spent so many years at the pools and who has quite a lot to share. Next year there will be a new Guard and maybe in another twenty years he will also have much to share.
The man at the Hippo pool near Crocodile Bridge.