Written by: Ashton Morgan
Sephiri Tours‘ head guide, Andrew, started his guiding career working as a game ranger in various lodges in Southern Africa and as one can imagine, working in this industry you meet loads of interesting people along the way. We get to hear some truly crazy things coming out the mouths of tourists, one of my personal favourites was a man who asked for the telephone number of whoever was responsible for landscaping the reserve as he wanted a similar water feature in his garden. This water feature was the Sundays River with a fifty-metre-high waterfall.
Working as a chef I missed most of these moments as I was always in the kitchen, but one day when the lodge was quiet I managed to get out on an afternoon drive and I happened to experience one of these incidents first hand. About half way through the drive we stopped to admire two magnificent male cheetahs that were lying under a tree just off the road.
There were two other vehicles at the sighting, all of us sitting quietly and watching the beautiful creatures before us. Another game viewer joined the sighting and the quiet was suddenly broken by a lady exclaiming, “Would you look at that lioness!”
Needless to say the sound of hushed admiration was quickly replaced by a chorus of snorts, while people tried to stifle their laughter and giggles as we listened to a very composed guide explain that these were in fact cheetah, a fact made obvious because they had spots.
Now usually the guides can talk themselves out of these situations and pass on the correct info to their clients, but one day Andrew got stuck in a hole that he just could not get out of. Just before leaving for an afternoon game drive, Andrew went to meet his new guest. During their chat he asked if there was anything in particular she would like to see and her answer was truly astonishing.
She said that she had seen on television that giraffes hunted in packs and wanted to know what the chances of seeing such a hunt on the drive were. Andrew then went into full field guide mode and explained that giraffes are in fact herbivores and ate mainly leaves, so the chances of witnessing a hunt were pretty much nil. Unfortunately for Andrew this lady was having none of it and stuck to her guns insisting that the show wouldn’t lie, so eventually he gave up.
Now on board the game viewer our lovely guest had joined up with a family group that were also staying at the lodge and had already been on a few drives with Andrew. She was passionately voicing her opinion on the guide’s lack of know-how as how could he not know that giraffes hunted in packs, had he never watched a nature documentary? She was also very reassuring and told everyone not to worry because she knew what was going on in the bush even if the guide didn’t. Andrew, listening to all this this from the back while loading the cooler box, decided the first order of business was to find some giraffes and put this crazy woman in her place, so off they went.
As they drove off Andrew spotted some giraffe in the distance and pointed them out to the guests. “You see, they are already in pack formation,” came a loud voice from behind. The family was in total hysterics by this point and were eagerly egging her on and taunting poor Andrew by shouting, “They’re getting ready for the hunt; we’re going to see a kill today!”
Andrew by this point was having a quiet chuckle to himself over how embarrassed this woman was going to be when she realised that her show had got it wrong. This turned into an epic failure though, because as they rounded the corner there stood a giraffe with none other than the biggest bone you have ever seen sticking out of its mouth. “You see, I told you giraffes hunt in packs! My show never lies!” came the ever-present voice from the back of the game viewer.
Now for all of you in the know, I’m sure you realise that this is not carnivorous behaviour but in fact something called osteophagia, which is the act of chewing or sucking on a bone in order to absorb the calcium and phosphorus present. This is most commonly seen in areas with phosphorus poor soil, and a large variety of animals can be seen doing it such as giraffe, zebra, impala and even tortoises.
Sadly, for Andrew no matter how hard he tried the client just wouldn’t believe that giraffes were herbivores. Over the next few days at the lodge she could be overheard saying what a terrible guide he was, because how could he not know that giraffes were hunters, and no matter how many giraffes he showed her eating leaves over the next few days she went home believing that giraffes did in fact hunt in packs!
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