A breeze picks up. It sways the ‘out of reach’ canopy of green, rustling the leaves and taunting the animals below. Sporadic black clouds puff about, promising big rain but dropping nothing. The parched earth seemingly on fire – forces the animals to seek shade. They wait; motionless, weak and starving – unexcited about the distant thunder. They’ve heard it all before.
Just then 2 young impala bolt out of the bush, bleating madly – desperate for their mothers return. They’ve been abandoned. They approach a group of Nyala, hoping to be welcomed with their mothers familiar nuzzle and rich supply of milk. But the strange white stripes of the Nyala come into focus, dashing all hope of a reunion. They call again and again. And nothing. It’s certain though, that their call will eventually be heard -late at night, when the hyenas emerge from the dark underground.
Looking out towards the beautiful Shire River, I see an island with towering Mbawa trees and a soft carpet of green grass. The wheels of our vehicle slowly roll forward towards the river bank where we can admire the rare lushness of a river island. A pair of warthog, usually alert and easily startled, tails up and trotting away – lie still, staring longingly at the green paradise not far from them. Some animals, unable to resist the allure of green grass, leap into the flowing water and risk it all. The splash, like an alarm bell in a quiet river scene, triggers the senses of the opportunist crocodile, prompting the powerful predator to glide through the water at an alarming pace towards its prey. Some of them make it across and are rewarded with a feast from their dreams. But with bellies full, they must also come back.
The relentless African sun begins its afternoon descent. The relief of its disappearance is brief and bittersweet. For in hours to come, the night will close in and the shadows will come to life.
An old buffalo bull seems to mourn the death of its mate, hovering in the background not wanting to leave just yet. The Majete lions bulked up and powerful, with food in abundance, notice the old bull. The lioness, with 2 teenage lions in training, take cover and quietly move towards their target. Confidently, they practice their ambushing techniques, bursting from their cover and gripping the throat and rump with teeth and claws. In the moonlight the old buffalo bull meets its bloody end, toyed to death like a mouse in the claws of playful cats. Its rotting carcass lies untouched in the sun, a seemingly senseless death to the human eye -its purpose merely to feed the maggots.
While the drama of death seems to be everywhere, in a dark twist of fate, life prevails. Leopard numbers boom, lions grow fat and healthy and the hyena need not travel far to feed. In the small reserve, once completely depleted of wildlife by poachers and refugees fleeing the neighbouring Mozambican civil war, it seems nature spins her beautiful web and the predators of Majete, once again, take centre stage.
And then it happens. Just a drop or two at first. That black cloud bulging with water, rumbles and moans and crashes into another. Finally with a crack of lightning that illuminates the night sky, the cloud bursts its walls – spilling out everything it is – giving hope and pushing the wheel of nature forward, round and round we must go.
“It’s the circle of life, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love.
Till we find our place on the path unwinding.”
– The Lion King
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