On a recent safari to the Serengeti with family and friends, we scored all big five in no time, as many do. Viewing cheetahs and a rhinoceros up close was an added bonus. We were too close to a rhino that our vehicle had to move away to put at least 100 m of safe distance between us and the irascible, unpredictable rhino.
Elephants gave a riotous performance, raising so much commotion in shallow waters, stamping and spraying their backs with wet mud. But what held me dumbfounded and burnt images into my mind was a lone hyena among a herd of wildebeests.
Rain tonight, predicts the driver/guide, pointing up to the clouds, laden with moisture. When the rain comes, wildebeests give birth to their babies. Really? Should we take that at face value or with rock grains of salt?
Sure enough, it rained that night. The rain cleared the air and vegetation of dust, transforming the plains from dusty brown to vibrant green grasslands. Grasses even appeared inches taller.
Dark grey of wildebeests ahead, several hundreds of them .The dark grey is sprinkled with brown. Why brown? Closer up, we see fluffy brown furs of newborns, several hundred, each following its mother jauntily on spindly legs.
A lone hyena sits on its haunches, contemplating the herd intently, about 500 m of grassland separating him from the wildebeests. It slowly gets on all fours and heads stealthily toward the grazing wildebeests, all the while staying focused on one target, a mother and its newborn on the outer edge of the herd. A car moves to block the hyena’s progress but it continues on its course, unperturbed.
The mother wildebeest is alarmed by the sudden appearance of a hyena. The hyena makes several moves toward the baby but the mother quickly places herself in between them. Then, a fatal mistake. The mother wildebeest charges at the hyena, determined to put an end to the unwelcome intruder. But its horns strike the air in vain. The hyena evades the charge effortlessly, turns on the newborn which is left unprotected, and aims for its jugular.
The mother breaks her charge and turns two seconds too late. The stunned mother feigns a few attacking moves. The hyena’s grip on the newborn’s neck remains firm. The mother whimpers, then trots away.
While the entire drama unfolds so close to the herd, not one wildebeest comes to rescue. They just go on grazing.
In another incident, a lone hyena is hotly pursued by a sole wildebeest. They zigzag through a herd of wildebeests. The drama hardly sends a ripple through the herd which continues to graze calmly. When both tire, the chase is dropped. Another mother, sensing danger to its own offspring, picks up the chase. More zigzagging through the herd. All the while, other wildebeests remain unconcerned.
In the safari vehicle, we get agitated. Come on, wildebeests. Go at him! As we move away, there is no doubt in our minds that the hyena will have its way, a tender newborn wildebeest for a meal.
Don’t we, human beings, behave like these wildebeests often enough and suffer the consequences?
Last year, this column carried an article about a prostitution ring in a village on the Pare Mountains, run by a second Head Master of a secondary school. Innocent school girls were unwittingly lured into the ring.
An old man of the village hears a number of lecherous old men who boast of their prowess. He shuns such talks. He will not condone or engage in such acts.
Barely a month later, pandemonium in his son’s home. His favourite granddaughter, a beautiful, innocent girl turned barely 13, has been lured into that sex ring and defiled, perhaps even impregnated. With that, her hopes for college and for a better future come tumbling down, shattering into shards.
The grandfather had known about the ring, as did many villagers. It didn’t occur to them that shunning such acts were not enough. It didn’t occur to them that to take action to put an end to it.
No amount of banging his chest now will turn back the clock. No amount of regrets will erase the enormous wound that scars his grandchild for now and always.
Nothing could restore her lost innocence, her dashed hopes. If only he had acted while other people’s children were being hurt. If only he made it his business to eliminate the bad in the community. If only….
Isn’t it so with many other things in life? For our minerals, we are not even half as lucky as wildebeests. They keep multiplying each year despite hyenas and other predators
aplenty; our minerals that take millennia to form, so with each predator contract they deplete. Our civic duty surely demands that we right the wrong or the wrong will come home to roost.
By YOUNG KIMARO, Tanzania Daily News