Wildlife Stories

Read trip reports, stories and experiences from the field.
  1. This story is graphic, and disturbing. Only suitable for adults.

    Etosha Lions - A true story

    Fear is what keeps us alive. Once you loose your fear, you will pay the price. That price is determined by unseen forces, as mysterious as those which silently rule the rotation of the planets.
    Another common fault we humans are known for is arrogance. Arrogance and the feeling of invincibility have lead to the eventual conquest of many people throughout history.

    Besides loosing fear, the next stupidest thing you can do is to be ignorant. It is said that ignorance is not an excuse of the law. That law was written and is controlled by such a superior force that even man does not understand it. Who does man think he is in any case – he is no more important or valuable than even the smallest of creatures.

    This story is about ignorance and man’s apparent mental superiority.

    The Etosha National Park is one of the Seven Wonders of the World according to every Namibian. With its dry salt pans stretching beyond horizons, and with forests of the strangest trees imaginable, this piece of land represents every animal’s idea of Heaven. Food and water aplenty, animals of every size and breed live the way they were always meant to – in peace and freedom. With nearly 2 200 square kilometers of “saved” land, it has become a symbol of what man is capable of achieving. Greater than even the tallest sky scraper.

    With herds of antelope so great in number that they can not even be counted, the great Etosha has become a tourist attraction that Namibians even did not anticipate. From countries beyond the vast oceans they came, armed with cameras and imaginations of “wild” Africa. They came in their hundreds, thousands, uncountable hordes to look at the “unspoiled”. Besides the wildlife and the vast open plains, they also came searching for the sun – apparently in their countries they do not even know it exists.

    Soon a need arose to deal with the tourists with their machines of rubber and steel. Thousands of vehicles left the few roads in the park in such a bad condition, that the wildlife conservationists had to appoint a “road maintenance” section. Nearly a hundred staff had to maintain the condition of the roads and see to it that the reputation of the park was kept. Obviously, being such a “new” development, a whole bunch of people had to be hired by the Government in order for it to meet its set objectives.

    And so the story starts … .

    The three young men packed their few belongings and said goodbye to their loved ones. They were on their way to the famous Etosha, and to a new beginning. Life was harsh and it was very difficult to make a living. The men were excited at the prospect of earning a monthly salary, as were they to be wearing a uniform soon. They came from the city of Windhoek where the only dangers were the taxi drivers. At last their turn had come to prove themselves for once and all. Their families would be proud of them.

    The maintenance team was split into five different groups, each responsible for a certain number of roads in the park. The work was simple and straight forward. And so the three young men started with enthusiasm and commitment. They worked hard and relentlessly punished their bodies for the sake of pride and acknowledgement. Job satisfaction was not an issue; they just wanted to make a living.

    Due to the vastness of the park and the slow progress of the work, the different teams mostly slept out inside the park, somewhere where there were shade from the burning sun and plenty of firewood. They never camped close to watering holes as everybody knows it is the most dangerous place in the world. The life giving water is also a life taker. Predators find watering holes to be very convenient. They simply have to wait for their meals to come to them. Everything is dependant on water.

    One day the three new recruits and their team camped at a beautiful spot, far from the normal tourist buzz. That specific day they had not worked as hard as they normally did, maybe because the weekend was at hand. Always staying together, the three men decided to go for a short walk. For a change, their bodies were not as exhausted as usual. Very quickly they found themselves quite a distance from the camp, being caught up in an energetic conversation of what they were going to do with that first pay-cheque.
    Un-breakable their spirits were and pride walked by their side.

    Time sped past and suddenly the men found themselves on the edge of a large pan. An imaginary alarm sounded and they realized that they had wondered off too far from camp. They immediately turned around and started walking with intend, back home. The sun was not ready to go to sleep yet and hung around as a witness to the men’s fate that was about to befall them.

    A load roar drove sudden fear into their hearts. Lion. A magnificent beast if observed from safety. On foot in the middle of nowhere is a different story. Silently praying not to stare the beast in the eyes, the men continued with their journey, knowing well that a lion’s roar can be very deceiving. On cool breezes the heart-shattering sounds can travel over vast distances and suck out every little bit of bravery from the soul. Conversation suddenly drowned in silence. “Kalunga” (God) was begged for mercy.

    Out of nowhere they appeared. A pride of four. One huge male with a brilliant black mane and three females. With shiny coats they weaved through the bush, muscles bulging and twitching as they quietly walked on paws of extreme strength. Their golden eyes melted the men into shells of emptiness. At that time, the world ceased to exist for them. They realized that they were standing on legs made from dust.

    After the initial scare of seeing the lions, the men had to compensate for the second shock of realizing that the lions were actually walking towards them. The most powerful drug in the world can not light a match in comparison to the drive of self preservation. Trees and safety filled the minds of the men. They had to find a tree to climb and thus ensure their continued existence.
    On that day, the men were faced with a test. Destiny had dealt them a hand of impossible magnitude. With the lions a mere twenty meters from them, there was only a single tree close enough to reach in time. They did not care that it was covered in a white coat of two-inch thorns. Without thinking about it, the three men raced towards the illusion of safety. They climbed it with considerable ease, not caring about the prickly protection of this safe new haven they had found. Blood dripped from their bodies, mixed with urine. They could not keep control of their bodily functions and tears soon joined the liquid mess at the bottom of the tree.

    Normally lions will attack anything that runs, representing prey. On that day, they casually walked towards the small tree where the men were perched like weak little birds, violently shaking with uncontrollable fear and the prospect of death.

    Lying in the shade of the tree, the lions soon fell asleep. They were in excellent condition and it was clear by the dried blood on their whiskers that they had recently fed. Their bellies were full, for the time being.

    After a couple of hours, one of the females lazily woke from her panting sleep and stretched her powerful body to rid her muscles from nothingness. She looked up. Staring at the men with eyes that burns more intensely than the sun even. She yawned, exposing her ivory white knives. Then she stood up on her rear feet and with the front paws reached into the tree. Only at that stage did the men realize how huge and tall a lion actually can be when standing upwards like a man. Realization of vulnerability drove deep into the legs of the one of the men. Her claws slid into his flesh and got tangled up in his muscles. With the greatest of ease she flung him from the tree.

    The two remaining men stared at their friend, helplessly lying under the huge lioness. He looked at them as she started feeding on him, tearing out chunks of adrenaline infected flesh. His blood soon flowed into a little stream, trickling down the harsh African soils. He was silent, gulping for precious air. His tears dried up and he grabbed onto a stone as his bones were crushed by the messenger send to collect him. Then he faded. Like a dried leaf he drifted towards eternal darkness. He became a child of the night.

    Eyes filled with horror, the men watched as the other lions also woke from their sleep and joined in the feeding. Again one of the lionesses looked up into the tree. And then turned away.

    After a few more hours, the sun eventually went down and darkness gave birth to a whole new world. The shiny stars faded in brightness as the moon made its graceful appearance. Almost full moon. The lions got up and walked around for a little bit, but did not leave the “feeding” tree unattended. Sounds of the night sprang up like orchestras. That night they did not sleep, could not even if they tried.

    Sunrise brought new hope to the friends. The men from their working team should have noticed that they had not returned to camp and would surely be searching for them. Or so they hoped and prayed.
    Half way through the morning, another lioness reached up into the tree and pulled down her prize, kicking and screaming. He was not ready to die yet. As he hid the ground, he immediately picked up a stone and started beating the lioness. This caused excitement amongst the pride as they finally had a bit of a challenge. They were quick to attack.
    A haunting sound came from his body as the male lion bit right through his neck, crushing the man’s spinal cord and squeezing his air pipe into a tangle of skin and blood. The man’s eyes remained open, staring coldly at the sun. A few minutes later, his existence was a mere memory, his body no more.

    The last of the surviving three men could not take it any more. His mind was caught up in maize of death and sorrow. For a little while he imagined how it would be like, death. Questions faded. He could not understand why he was there, or what he was.

    His thorn pierced hand slowly lost grip. With an exhausted and mindless body he fell to the ground admits the lions. For a while they looked amazed and did not show any interest in the creature. They wanted him for later, maybe at lunch time or so. Suddenly a shot rang out, rolling into every crevice of the bush. Another and another pierced the infinite blue sky.

    The game rangers picked up the crazed man and took him home. A body with no mind and no soul, drained by the power of nature. Forever lost to the darkness, and to Africa ...
    Replied 4 years ago, modified one year ago
  2. Wow, another brutal and tense story that had me on the edge of my seat. "They realized that they were standing on legs made from dust." is beautifully worded, it is exactly how one would feel when being unarmed against a lion, just totally powerless and weak. Replied 4 years ago
  3. Thanks Ferdy for your appreciation of these stories. And indeed so, man is but a mortal being in this grand picture of nature unfolding as it should. Not wanting to get into the politics of stories like "Cecile the Lion", all I can do is to contribute through true acts of nature. Replied 4 years ago
  4. Great story.
    Even tame and domesticated lion are dangerous if hungry.
    And this are wild lions we speak.
    Replied one year ago

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