Written by Armand Grobler from Rhulani Safaris
You never know what to expect on a safari. I guess that’s what gives it a unique thrill, an adrenaline rush like no other. Some days are quiet, as you drive for hours without seeing as much as a lonely impala. But on this day, much to our surprise, the action happened no more than a mere 2km from camp.
As we left Orpen Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, we were only driving for a minute or two before a cluster of colourful creatures grabbed our attention. There was a small group of cars parked, observing an event of some sort taking place by the side of the road, so naturally we invited ourselves in! We soon discovered what the commotion was about as two blue wildebeest cows were chasing away a pair of persistent black-backed jackals.
It was a confusing sight until we realised why the jackals were so determined to stay, as our attention was taken to a wildebeest calf struggling to ‘find its feet’. With the protection of the adults, the jackals wouldn’t dare come too close, but as the adults disappeared, the scavengers suddenly become hunters…
For about two hours we sat witnessing this incredible event, almost as one watches the waves on the sea shore washing up and down in hypnotising rhythm. The adult females would both wander from the calf, then the cunning jackals would try suffocating it and the commotion would alert the females, charging back in to chase off the jackals. It was a long, ongoing process, which was not only witnessed by us, but by a bateleur (eagle) sitting on a nearby branch.
We were all getting exhausted, I could only imagine what the calf felt like after being consistently harassed by the hungry predators, when suddenly, almost like a knight in shining armour, a large wildebeest bull came charging in!
We thought that the jackals had now met their match, but to our surprise the bull headed straight for the cows, chasing them into oblivion! The confusion was incredible and suited the hungry jackals perfectly as they were given their opportunity to kill. It was like a scene from the Great Migration as these three wildebeest kept running to no end.
The females, desperately trying to save the calf, were kept at bay and eventually chased off by the bull and that was when, after almost two-and-a half-hours of persistence, the jackals finally completed the job. Gorging themselves on the fresh meat, you could see the satisfaction on their cunning faces. A job well done.
Their presence and deadly act did not go buy unnoticed as the sky filled up with ghostly shadows. Vultures, in their hundreds descended upon the carcass with dizzying speeds as the jackals departed after their fill, and in a matter for minutes there was no more than a mere memory left of the event.
In nature, you must take the good with the bad, realising that with death comes life. The predators that we all love to see, such as the mighty lion or prowling leopard, would not exist if they couldn’t kill. Nature truly is a magnificent spectacle.