10 worst wildlife moments that have happened to other people (but I’m pretty sure they are true):
Tiger shark in Oyster Bay – In Tanzania we lived in a beautiful house over looking ‘Oyster Bay’ beach. The beach was infamous for muggings and the sea pretty dirty as water drifted from the city’s huge estuary around the corner (perfect Tiger Shark territory), however, it was picturesque and the best ‘public’ beach for miles around. We did used to walk there with our kids and our Alsatian (having removed all watches & jewellery) and occasionally paddled in the shallows. It was a popular weekend venue for swimming and hanging out until a Chinese medical student was attacked when surfing and disappeared in a pool of blood, then a fisherman lost his leg in shallow water. Signs were posted along the beach; ‘No Swimming, No Sunbathing, No Hawking’ and police patrolled up and down to implement the new rules. The perpetrator was never caught, though numerous hunting expeditions were launched to catch the beast.
Deadly snake coiled in house – Snakes are commonly found along the East African coast. An old Tanzania hand, took great delight in describing to us newcomers how he found a vivid coloured green mamba coiled next to his windsurf and he almost went to grab it, mistaking it for a rope. Any snake found in Africa is dispatched swiftly. An innate sense of self preservation dictates that there seems no sense in trying to figure out whether it’s a harmful species first. When seeking local opinion, all snakes are described as ‘very dangerous’ or 'khali'. Generally they are severed in half by a panga (machete) then thrown onto an open fire.
Snake rears head through car air vent – my parents in law also lived by the sea in Kenya. They have a great story about a tricky snake that dropped out of a tree above their parked car and quick as a flash seemed to disappear inside. The car was turned inside out; even the seats were removed in search of the pest. The gardener lit a small fire under the chassis in an attempt to smoke the snake out of its hiding place. In the end, they gave up the search and tentatively began to drive the car again. A few days passed, when to the drivers horror, the cheeky snake poked its head through the air vent in front of the windscreen and waggled around! The car was immediately evacuated and the serpent was never seen again, perhaps scared off by the screams.
Lion charges Landrover – another such ‘parents in law’ story took place whilst on a game drive with guests and children on board in Tsavo national park. A female and male lion were strolling companionably down the track in front of the landrover, but taking their own sweet time. Eventually the increasingly restless and frustrated occupants of the vehicle began to goad their driver to get closer and closer to the lion; ‘make them trot, make them run!’. No body noticed when the male peeled off to one side, until somebody called out and all eyes turned left to see one lion charging at the side of the car, leaping up and raking both his forepaws from the roof right down the side of the car. The vehicle rocked onto two wheels before touching back down again. The passengers were contrite and the lion nail filings caught in the rain water channel in the roof, became an excellent souvenir.
Lion’s smelly breath – A classic tale I heard not too long ago was recounted by friends who had recently been camping in Kenya in a national park. They arrived at the camp site in good time and set up, had dinner, then turned in early (as you do when there’s not much else to do in the bush during hours of darkness. Just as they were drifting off they heard another car arrive, then proceed to pitch a tent just nearby. Apparently it was a man travelling alone. Later in the night my friends heard their neighbour calling out; ‘Hello! Hello? Are you OK?’ ‘Yes’ replied my friends ‘are you ok?’. ‘No!’ he replied ‘Lion!’ he squeaked. It transpired that he had set up his tent, leaving the flysheet off as he was fairly confident that the night was dry. He went to sleep and was awoken by the foul breath of a lion huffing through the thin gauze of his tent. Our friends had sensibly parked next to the exit of their tent (a worthwhile tip for camping in a game park). They woke up their daughter, all piled into their car then slowly reversed over to the opening flap of their neighbour as he gratefully scrambled out. It was only then that they counted fourteen more pairs of lion’s eyes circling their camp site, patiently waiting for their supper.
Leopard hunts human baby – in Ruaha Tanzania, our lodge owners/hosts told us about the time when a leopard had heard their baby crying in their small house within the camp. The huge animal started to scramble through the window (which was an opening covered only by mosquito gauze) and had to be beaten back by the child’s father, who fortunately woke up and had a panga (machete) to hand. Leopards are known to be attracted by children’s cries as the sound is not unlike that of a wounded animal and they assume that there is an easy meal available.
Many ‘worst wildlife stories’ have ended in tragedy. Since living here I’ve heard of people when walking in the bush have unsuspectingly disturbed a lone buffalo, hippo and elephant. Consequently they were attacked and killed. But now I’m getting too morbid so will sign off. They say that when you are walking in the bush, you should clap hands loudly to warn wildlife of your approach and thus avoiding the element of surprise.