It’s frantic in the penalty box when a corner is taken. As the ball spins and arcs into the press of bodies, pushing and shoving takes centre stage as everyone tries to get a head to the leather. When the ball is cleared the tedious tic-tac-toe begins again as the midfielders try and wrestle control over the sphere and take it forward.
Its not so different in a large mass of warm and wet herbivore dung…
Dung beetles zip in from everywhere. The art of flying with the Scarabs has been perfected but the landings need work. An inglorious head first crash sends the little Broad Bordered Grass Yellows, butterflies who are looking for the sweet drops of moisture on the bolus, scattering.
Soon, the dung becomes a fest – a piranha like bubbling and toiling mass as balls are patted into a sufficient size and then cleared from the fray. When a new ball is in play it’s a mad dash for freedom.
Nose to the ground and with its legendary legs pumping away, the Scarab propels the ball to safety and a burial site. Every now and then a quick halt to climb the ball is taken, a fast pirouette executed to orientate on the sun and then the push continues. Along the way resistance is encountered in the form of pooh bandits with theft in mind rather than a trip to the dung quarry. Losing a fight means to return to the dung or simply steal from the next passerby.
There is no referee here, no yellow or red cards and certainly no rules. There are spectators though- and lilac-breasted rollers frequently swoop down to play the man and not the ball.
Victory is won and the day declared when a ball is safely buried beneath the rain sodden earth with an egg inside. Soon to wake up, the grub will feast on its parents industry and begin the development that will take it to the summer battlegrounds in a far away field.
It is a Sunday here at Londolozi. Some of the staff have a church appointment in the village, some have game drives to take and meals to cook but there are some who no doubt will sit down and watch any one of a dozen football games to be played locally or internationally. There, players are paid millions to roll balls into nylon nets. No life and no death in it but rather an agony or jubilation for the masses . Next to the dung beetle rolling its future across a grassy african field it all seems kind of pointless doesn’t it?
2010 is just a few days away. This year Soccer World Cup comes to South Africa.
Someone will get the Golden Ball and carry it home amidst ticker tape parades. For others there will be inconsolable heartbreak.
Sitting at a mass of warm, wet elephant dung brings the realisation that there can be purpose, honour and sometimes acceptable scullduggery in the way a ball is rolled. Dung Beetles know that. Lets hope the players and fans remember that in June.
Here at Londolozi – we’ll watch all the games on big screens with guests while the real masters wait for the rains.
Written by: Tom Imrie
Filmed by: Rich Laburn
Filed under Wildlife
Love it! Not only were you a great ranger, but WOW, you really write well too!