Body in Motion

Cry Freedom
June 2, 2009, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, wildlife

When the guide tells me there are more Bengal tigers in South African than South Asia*, I almost fall out of the safari truck.

I can’t quite explain why I was looking at a Bengal tiger in a cage in South Africa. I was staying at a game farm for a workshop and thought the Saturday morning “game drive” seemed like a reasonable way to kill a few hours. But I was wrong.

There wasn’t much that I found “reasonable” about the so-called game drive which consisted of a tour of predators’ cages and a few free-range antelope. The adolescent Bengal tigers cried against the chain-linked fence of their cage smaller than my living room. Apparently two Bengal tigers were introduced to the “wild” on another South African game farm but were re-caged after going on a kudu killing spree their first night out. No one else has release plans anytime soon.


Nursey-raised lion cub

The leopard wouldn’t come out of his sleeping hut. We’re told he had to be separated from the female because he kept killing the cubs. I couldn’t help thinking it was a mercy killing.

The lions were white Kalahari lions, bred as novelty animals. They sat in pairs in their cages and roared all night. They had forgotten what it is like to creep through the night in search of a kill. Or perhaps they have never known.

The contrast to the following Saturday couldn’t have been more vivid.

Sundown in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. An adolescent male climbs down from a weeping tree and crosses a meadow to join the pride of 5 females and adolescents. I saw him as a cub last July, creeping through the brush on his mama’s footsteps in the early evening. Today, he greets the pride silently as his compatriots loll sleepily in the grass, poking playfully at one another.


Born free

Day turns to dusk and then to night quickly in this part of the world, and it’s not long before the pride is up and streching, before they are loping silently through the darkness. We struggle to see them moving through the bush in front of us. The split up and fall into hunting formation. As the dark deepens, they become almost invisible except for the slightest slip of movement in the nighttime.

They lie in formation, in wait for some time, each with his or her eyes and nose pointed uniformly in one direction. There is hardly a sound until the warning cry of another antelope who has spotted the group through the darkness.

The hunt is off; the lions lope off together in unspoken unison, waiting for safari trucks and antelopes to sleep so they can hunt in peace.

*I can’t verify if this is true.

Comments Off on Cry Freedom

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: