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Biyamiti Bush Stories

Discuss the interaction between humans and nature
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Stephen
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Biyamiti Bush Stories

Unread post by Stephen » Mon May 15, 2006 4:00 pm

Shooting a Rhino

This topic has nothing to do with photography – it has everything to do with purposefully pulling the trigger of a high calibre rifle and the aim is to stop a rhino about to run all over your two year old boy! But let me not start the story backwards.

As in most companies there are certain perks that come with the job – like being able to get out into nature when you are working in the Kruger National Park. Staff get certain perks to go and enjoy the beauty of what they have around them. That does have to happen with the knowledge and blessings of your local game ranger of course.

So one day about two years ago, after we had some good rains in the area, the Biyamiti River was flowing for the first time the season. It was just a trickle of water, but it was water nevertheless. I asked my local game ranger’s permission to go and make a picnic in the riverbed close to Blinkwater windmill. He gave me his blessings with a warning that one should always be alert in the bush and should not take any chances – he was obviously concerned about our safety (and the possible stack of paperwork he would get to complete should there be any incident). I thanked him and, keeping his concern in mind, took my .458 calibre rifle with 10 rounds of ammunition and set off with my family to Blinkwater.

The picnic was well organised as one could not quickly go back home should anything be forgotten. Water (always important in the bush), cool drinks, snacks (my wife Elmarie can surprise one with some real treats) and some other important things were all packed - and of course the rifle.

The excitement ran high in the car. Tarina, about six at the time, was telling her brother about the beach that they were going to play on and Steve had his own idea of the sea. Anyway as we got to Blinkwater I did the necessary safety rounds making sure nothing was lurking in the bushes. All was clear and I settled back into the vehicle and gave everybody a decent speech again on what to do and what not. We walked down into the river bed and sorted out the picnic sight. The children were playing in the sand, Elmarie and I was sitting facing each other and from that point could scan the area behind each other’s back as well. We enjoyed a lovely time on the “beach”, drank cool drink and ate the snacks and just took pleasure in seeing the kids play in the sand.

Suddenly Elmarie, very nervously, sounded the alarm that there was a rhino on the river bank to my right and back. I immediately summed up the situation – we were in a reasonably safe area, away from his normal walking path, and the rhino should just continue further down the river bank to the midden a little distance off. He probably just had his fill of water at the windmill. I told Elmarie to take Steve and Tarina to take her shoes. If we needed to move I wanted to be prepared.

It was just then that everything went wrong. Steve saw the rhino and with and exclamation of “noster” (and abbreviation of renoster - the Afrikaans for rhino) he set off running directly at the rhino. Elmarie was in close pursuit – but a two year old boy can be very quick on the sand. Tarina saw the race and just jumped in. I was barking orders at that stage and trying to keep my mind focussed on the rhino – surely he should turn and run with all the sudden commotion.

One thing I have learnt in the bush - never put an animal in a box and expects it to behave the way you think right. This rhino came straight down the river bank towards us. He was on a slight trod coming down the riverbank and Steve was on a full charge going at him. A number of things went through my mind, but the sense of helplessness is probably the one thing that I remember most. My corporal from the basic training in the air-force did not come close in comparison to me shouting commands at anybody and anything that would care to listen – especially the rhino. I must have spilled my full vocabulary on that rhino.

I then realised that I was shouting at the rhino over the barrel of a very big rifle. Instinctively I had gone through the motions of placing myself in a firing position, automatically I have chambered a round and automatically I have taken aim at the danger approaching – all the hours of thinking about the day and training for the moment had paid off. I was ready to shoot this rhino that was about to smash into my little boy. It was all happening in slow motion; I felt the pressure increasing on my finger as I was squeezing the trigger.

Elmarie caught up with Steve, Tarina caught up with the two of them and my finger was squeezing the trigger even more. I had to stop the rhino. I was still shouting at it though (probably more swearing by now) – holding on till the last minute. There was still space – he was not on a charge he was just trotting. Elmarie was busy retreating with the kids – I was squeezing the trigger. I felt my body jerking tremendously under the power of the rifle - Elmarie shouting “Are you OK?” I opened my eyes and saw the white ceiling of our bedroom. “What….?” It was a dream.

I never shot the rhino – it stopped at the last moment, turned and made its way up the bank again and off into the bush. It was as if the world was trembling, I was shaking, but my family and the rhino were fine.

All ended well on that day. The picnic was over sooner than planned and we as a family realised how special every minute together was - it did not matter whether it was spent at home, in the car or in the bush. :D
Last edited by Stephen on Tue May 16, 2006 10:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
Stephen Nel
Manager: Hospitality Services
Berg & Dal Rest Camp: KNP

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Stephen
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Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2005 4:22 pm
Location: Kruger Park

Bush Stories

Unread post by Stephen » Fri May 26, 2006 3:04 pm

:D Panthera pardus (Leopard)

The leopard has been called a lot of interesting names – Prince of Predators - being one of them. It does however reflect that it stands second in line to the King of course. I am not always convinced.

The leopard has also been described at “pound for pound the strongest cat” and its power is awesome – especially considering the power to weight ratio which is phenomenal. In my opinion it is probably the ability to adapt, its true opportunistic behaviour and its excellent use of the landscape that makes the leopard one of the most dangerous animals in the wild.

I would like to relate three short incidents in which leopard came to earn my complete respect as a predator:

Friends of ours visited us at Crocodile Bridge a couple of years back. They went for a drive to Nkumbe lookout north of Lower Sabie the one day. Nkumbe being one of my favourite spots – a truly splendid setting. Tarina and their son Jacques (1½ and 3 years at the time) were sitting close to the couple underneath the thatch lapa at the lookout. They herd a car approaching slowly, but thought nothing of it. A gentleman then spoke from the car, telling them to sit very still as there was a leopard walking pass them just behind the lapa – a mere 3m away from where they were sitting :shock: . They just held onto the kids and the leopard continued on his way into the bush.

This just shows me that there is no prescribed way in which an animal will react when encountering humans. I am just very thankful that it did not have any interest in the children.

On another occasion I was out with two guests on an evening drive and stopped after dark at Gayisenga Waterhole. On the way in we scanned the area well and could not see any danger. We got out of the vehicle to stretch legs and stood between the vehicle and the cliff – a reasonable safe place. Tarina was with us and stayed in the vehicle on the passenger side right next to me. We discussed a number of issues and listened to the night sounds for a while. I helped the couple back into the vehicle walked around the front and got in at the driver’s side. As I switched on the lights, Tarina saw this leopard first - crouched down a little more than 5 meters away. Close enough to have grabbed me in one jump :shock: . I can probably consider me fortunate to be sitting here today.

Beginning of this year we were out on an evening drive on the 18k’s. As we came over a rise the Lukimbi Safari Lodge’s Landrover was standing skew in the road and the tracker guides us with his spotlight direction into the bush. It was dark already. We could not see anything and on driving closer we found a leopard next to the road about 50m from the Landrover. I stopped there for a while and then flicked my lights at the Landrover in order for them to join us. As they shone onto the front wheel we could see that it was flat. I drove closer to lend a hand ad the guide asked me to just keep an eye on the leopard. We reversed back to the leopard and I switched off.

As the guide and tracker got out of their vehicle the leopard immediately reacted. It got up and crouching down started its stalking making well use of the bushes :shock: . I shouted at the guides that the leopard was moving, started up and kept up with the leopard in order to cut it off should it make a dash for them. It came to within 20m fro the Landrover where the bushes ended. It would probably have to make a charge from there – or get detected by the “prey” should it keep on stalking. Fortunately the guys were finished and back into the Landrover. They must have practised that very well.

These were just some of the more fortunate encounters that I have had with leopard – unfortunately there have been other members of staff and family of staff that have been less fortunate losing their lives to this ultimate, powerful stalking machine.
Stephen Nel

Manager: Hospitality Services

Berg & Dal Rest Camp: KNP

User avatar
Stephen
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Posts: 107
Joined: Fri Jan 21, 2005 4:22 pm
Location: Kruger Park

Hop-Along

Unread post by Stephen » Fri Jul 07, 2006 8:20 pm

:D The Story of Hop-Along (Not for sensitive readers)

When my mother told me I should behave I had my own way of doing things; I just had to push my luck till, eventually it ran out. I was told to leave all the security I ever new: No more luxury of just following the adults around to all the nice grazes and water places, no more luxury of having a family around for company or security. But then, who cared. I was a teenager and free to go and explore the world. I had time on my hands and I could do with it what ever I wanted.

I roamed around at will and met other groups, but no one really cared to take me in. I met interesting wanderers; lazy guys and I met giants. One such giant was Duke. He really is an impressive guy: Larger than life and so much to tell. He taught me the finer techniques of mastering a Duke-ship, and I thought he was just great.

One day in the summer season; after we had some very good rains and the veld was exceptionally green I met this guy in the Lwakahle territory. He was angry at the world; just as I once was. We were both just looking for new area to explore, but he did not like me being there. He started to push me around, and wow he was strong. He had good long tusks pointing to the ground. I was not really looking for this fight, but not going to be pushed around for nothing either. However, I misjudged myself slightly and on a muddy slope slipped. I was down on the ground when he pushed his tusk in my left front leg, breaking bone as he did. As he left I realised the severity of my predicament. I knew life was never going to be the same again.

From what my mother taught me (oh where was she now), I new I had to get to a place with water and food as security. There I would have a chance on survival; not out in no-mans land. I started my slow journey north looking for the Biyamiti. It was very painful walking; most of my weight was on the front of my body and hopping on one leg dragging the injured one with was putting severe stress on my whole body.

My mother told me never to give up and step by painful step I made my way north. I had to get to the Biyamiti, to the security of water and food. I could feel my body giving its all to keep on going. With every day passing I could feel the infection creeping up in my leg.

After what felt like and eternity I came over a rise one morning and could see the green snake of the Biyamiti down in the valley. I kept on hopping down into the valley, crossed a road for the humans and made it safely to water and green food. At last I could relish in the coolness of the sparkling clean water. My body was aching with fever; my front leg was swollen into my shoulder the stench of the rotten wound bringing hordes of biting and sucking flies.

So far I have been lucky; I had very little predators making a nuisance of themselves. On my fist day in the Biyamiti though there were some humans sounding too close. Most of them stayed up on a small hill with their noisy vehicles, but two came wandering down the rise; one with a long stick and one with a shiny branch. I was determined not to show my weak side to them and kept on turning away to keep an eye on them. The smallest of the two kept on pushing to get to my bad side; the taller one standing back just looking on. At last I had to give up and let him see my vulnerability. I could feel that I was defeated; all the time spent trying to get to security had led me straight into the humans’ den. I could not run; they had to do what they wanted. Then they left again.

I spent the night there in the riverbed, trying to cool my aching body with the fresh water of the Biyamiti. I grazed on the green reeds to try and rebuild my strength. Somehow I new it was in vain. I could feel my power draining through this terrible gash in my lower front leg and I knew the humans would come back¦

And indeed we did. The next day I managed to get the two rangers from the adjacent sections to come and have a look at Hop-Along. This prime elephant bull, probably about 25 years old, was in a dilemma leading straight down the path of suffering. His condition was severely compromised due to the difficulty with which he had to move. His whole front leg, from the lowest joint, right up into the shoulder was infected and swollen to almost twice the normal size. The gashing wound was oozing rotten and a disaster in the making. This poor animal was in agony and was using all his strength to just survive from day to day.

After a short deliberation it was decided to put Hop-Along down. It would be the humane thing to do. Rifles were put to the shoulder and so ended the life of an African giant in the deafening thump of a single shot.

On inspection of the broken leg one only realised the pain this animal had to bear. The bone at the lower joint of the leg was completely shattered and jagged pieces now protruded from the wound.

Back at camp I downloaded the pictures of Hop-Along and was wondering how soon the hyenas and vulture would finish him up. I knew that the happening of the last two days would stay with me long after the scavengers had finished the body off.

And that was the story of Hop-Along who is now just a memory in my mind and a picture on my pc.
:cry:
Last edited by Stephen on Fri Jul 28, 2006 11:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
Stephen Nel

Manager: Hospitality Services

Berg & Dal Rest Camp: KNP


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