What happens when you throw together a nocturnal predator, an unsuspecting nyala, a ranger and two managers/wannabe trackers? The answer: our very own version of Londolozi Cluedo!
A few nights ago at exactly 2:42am (we know this because Beejay Watson, the in-house yoga guru, sat up in bed as she heard a scuffle, a few panicked animal noises and noted the time), something went down in camp. She wasn’t sure what animals were prowling through,but she said she knew the rangers were sticklers for detail and she wanted to have her facts straight. Other members of staff sleeping in the vicinity reported other noises. A bushbuck alarm calling, a possible hyena cackle and a growl of what sounded suspiciously like a leopard. Some said they heard the thunderous footsteps of a hippo, whilst others heard nothing at all. The reports were as diverse as they were numerous.
The greatest diversion though was when two staff members (who we won’t name to avoid shaming them) came across some remains on the staff pathway the next day and were convinced that it was the afterbirth of a hippo.
Jess MacLarty, ex-ranger turned Village Manager, tried to put these aspiring trackers straight by telling them that what they were looking at was in fact rumen from the stomach of an animal that had been killed, but the two men in question were convinced they were correct.
Upon following the tracks a little further, they found a shard of bone and a few blood spatters. Now the confusion was at full throttle; this was certainly no hippo. With a few more patches of blood and a faint drag mark, they were eventually led to the base of a Jackalberry, in the heart of Londolozi’s staff housing. As they looked up, a recently deceased female nyala hung from the branches above them.
Luckily for the ‘trackers’ and the occupants of the house the carcass was hoisted next to, the culprit was not on site. Obviously having eaten as much as it could before daybreak, it had since skulked into the brush of the river for cover, hoping to return to its meal later that evening when everyone was safely tucked in their beds.
Since then we have come to learn that the leopard in question was the 4:4 male. His unmistakable tracks (rather small for a male) were found dotted around camp and he was even seen by our security on the pathway that evening, returning for his prize.
One thing that leaps out at me from this version of Cluedo is the reminder of just how great our reality is. Although it requires some level of vigilance and wariness around camp, we are so lucky that our neighbours are leopards and that we truly live in the heart of the bush. What seems to be the greater lesson though is that a General Manager and a Maintenance Manager are not to be trusted when it comes to tracking. The old adage ‘stick to what you know’ leaps to mind. Thank goodness for female rangers!