Birth and death are everyday in the bush of Africa, yet for us humans we like control.
A young Brown Snake (or Tawny) Eagle is calling in a tree nearby. He has been moving from tree to tree all afternoon… calling. I’m no raptor (bird of prey) expert so I can only guess that it is an immature bird calling for his mother. It is quite disturbing and I wish I could do something to help. My thoughts move to the stories Peter has told me about the distressful bellowing of a rhino calf orphaned by poachers and how heartbreaking that is to witness.
At the same time as I sit here at our campsite I hear other birds singing and chirping. The breeze blows gently and the leaves of the giant blue gum above me rustle soothingly.
What a paradox nature is!
It reminds of the other evening on the beach. We joined a party in an open Landrover heading for a protected cove in the Isimangaliso Wetland. Our hope is to spot Leatherback or Loggerhead Turtle hatchlings racing for the sea.
It was a windy night and our guide Abindigo couldn’t find any tell-tale tracks in the sand. However, after walking along with our red lights one of our group spotted a lone hatchling caught by a crab. Fortunately the crab released the hatchling and scurried down its hole. The hatchling appeared unharmed.
We all gathered round and the photos starting snapping… we turned into regular paparazzi as the guide shone a light on the sand in front of the little one, guiding him toward the Indian Ocean still about 50 feet away. No others were found so we cheered on this lone little fella as we walked along beside him. Once he toppled into one of our footprints, stopped, climbed out disoriented and started off the wrong way towards the flash of a camera.
Back on track one of the group smoothed out the footprints to make his journey easier. Finally he was getting closer. A huge wave came, hurray… nope, he simply got bowled over and landed on his back a few feet from me. Fortunately Abindigo, no stranger to this of course, had expected it and had his flashlight on him almost immediately and to begin guiding him towards the waves again. The next one was more gentle and we cheered as the hatchling was swallowed up by the sea. Would he be one of the few of his 120 odd siblings to survive to adulthood?
Not much further down the beach another “Got one!” Again a solitary hatchling, much further up against the dunes. Oddly it was going in circles despite the guiding light. A crab had injured it. Travis (young college student) with a hi-tech camera showed me a close up. This hatchling was blind. How sad. The guide walked off, there was nothing we could do for this one but leave it to the crabs.
The wind picked up and the rain and sand beat against my legs and face as we started our journey back to the Landrover. I had such mixed emotions. I felt privileged to have seen the first hatchling rescued from the claws of death and make its brave race for a life at sea. Yet I felt sad about the second little one that for what ever reason got left behind by the others to become crab food.
Yes, nature is both kind and cruel and the personal impact much larger in real life.
The raptor is quite at last. Did he find his mother? Or did he resign himself to being alone? I’ll never know the answer to that. But I do know that I thrill at being a part of the heartbeat of Africa and the endless circle of life played out here.