I had planned on doing my next piece on Moditlo Estate, a beautiful Wildlife Estate set in Hoedspruit where we are fortunate enough to spend several weeks/months every year. However, fate intervened, and we had a visit from a special friend whose story I would like to share with you.
Although we find life in the Bush idyllic, it can be tough and brutal for those hanging on at the end of the food chain. Nyalas are close to the bottom and for that reason have to be constantly vigilant in case a predator crosses their path.
Nyalas are not renowned for their strength or speed. They avoid predators by disappearing into the bushes where they are well camouflaged. The downside is that this makes them a target for leopards lurking in low branches. Sadly, leopards are not their only natural predator. They are also often pursued by wild dog and lions. During lockdown, a lone wild dog tried to corner a nyala ewe just outside our bedroom window – wild dogs are undisputedly my favourite predator, but I was still relieved when she managed to escape.
On 29 May 2020, we had a visit from a nyala Mommy who had been the victim of a savage attack. Her neck was stretched, and her head was slightly angled to one side. She was off balance and struggled to jump over the deck. She seemed to be having trouble holding her head up – it seemed her muscles had been affected too.
We speculated about what had tried to take her down, but we honestly had no idea. Zaza was shocked and saddened to see her in such a sorry state and I honestly didn’t expect her to survive the night. She had a small calf that was still nursing – and its chances of survival without its mother were significantly diminished. I said my silent goodbyes to her when she disappeared into the bushes for the night not expecting her back. Late that night before falling asleep I thought about the little buck, and how potentially cruel nature could be. Imagine losing your mother before being weaned?
The next morning, at about ten, Teen 2 shouted for me excitedly. “Sore neck” was back! We were elated! The whole family ran outside to see her. We were excited that she was still alive, but her wounds were gruesome, and we were worried about them becoming infected. We were still convinced that she was operating on borrowed time – after all, predators tend to target injured animals in a herd. “Sore neck” proved that it was more than just the luck of the underdog – her outright refusal to give up and her feisty attitude towards the other buck who tried to shun her initially, showed that the really determined Mommy might have a chance at survival.
Fortune shone on “Sore neck” and she survived for several days and this later stretched into weeks. She had plenty of cheerleaders in our household and every visit from her was joyously shared. Even the “Teens” managed to overcome their perpetual state of feigned indifference to cheer her on. She earned herself the title Sonic (since it sounded a little like sore neck) from us because we felt that she deserved a “real” name rather than a status.
2 days ago, my potential ending to this story read as follows: Although we haven’t seen Sonic for some time now, we would like to believe that she healed so well that we no longer recognise her, and that she’s is happily munching the fresh spring grass in a particularly beautiful part of the reserve!
Now I can say that she is indeed alive and well. Understandably, exceedingly skittish. Some of the other buck in her herd allowed us the time to say hello, but she was clearly just passing through. Her wounds have healed incredibly – she is still clearly identifiable by her neck, but the skin has healed and apart from the indentations there, you would never guess at the massive trauma she experienced to her neck, not so long ago.
We would love to see Sonic again. You never know when you say goodnight to one of your favourite visitors whether it will be the last time. What this story highlights is:
- There is always hope, even when the situation seems bleak!
- Persistence and tenacity are characteristics that always stand you in good stead.
- Some stories really do end “and they all lived happily ever after!”
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