Gnus are rare in this part of South Luangwa. So rare that the impala he wanted to hang out with were spooked by his presence and ran off. He galloped after them, matching their speed but not their agility. Cookson’s Wildebeest are not the most intelligent of animals. They even look stupid. I took this photograph with a long lens on Sunday morning.
Later that day, I had been invited to Tafika Camp, north of the Nsefu Sector of the South Luangwa National Park. This is on the south/east side of the meandering river. It took me a couple of hours to drive there, feeling my way across a park, devoid of signposts. Follow the track with the most tyre tracks is a reasonable strategy. I was hoping to fly over the park in a microlight aircraft with John Coppinger, Tafika’s owner. Unfortunately, it was rather windy at 4pm, so he suggested I go on a game drive and fly the following morning.
After sundowners, we tracked a large male leopard, stalking a bushbuck in a copse of trees, in the pitch-black dark. The bushbuck was moving inadvertently towards the leopard, picking his way on tip-toe through the leaf litter and fallen twigs without making a sound. The leopard was crouched low on the ground, waiting his chance. Suddenly, the bushbuck was spooked and made a loud, barking alarm call. It really sounded like a dog. “That’s why it is called a BushBark,” cracked the spotter wielding the light. The leopard slipped away into the dark.
On the way back to the camp, we saw eight elephant shrews, not relishing their moment of fame in the spotlight from our vehicle. Finally, we spotted a honey badger or ratel, foraging in a dried up wadi. He faintly resembled an English badger, with a broad white stripe down his back, from head to tail. With short legs, and powerful claws, he looked “low slung” and menacing. The honey badger is supposed to use the honey-guide bird to lead him to honey, but this sounds rather fanciful. He has a reputation for ferocity and fearlessness. Norman Carr, the founder of animal conservation in Zambia, described a honey badger attacking and savaging his Land Rover.
We only had him in the spotlight for a minute or so, and I was unable to get any photographs, but for once I was happy just to observe. It is a rare privilege to see such an animal.