It was supposed to be a regular morning African Safari in Lion Sands Private Game Reserve. The type of safari where the infamous Amarula Coffee stop in the bush couldn’t come sooner and you hide your sleeping eyes behind sun glasses after a 5am wake up call, while trying to avoid being whacked in the face by passing branches. I was hosting clients Katherine and Kristin from the USA on a site inspection for an upcoming incentive programme travelling later this year.
The drive started off slow as our intention was to link up with Jade Mkansi who heads up the Lion Sands CSR projects in the local community of Huntington, so our Ranger Scott and Tracker Norman were ‘ignoring’ radio calls of interest to avoid any delays which would possibly take us off track. Little did they know that stopping for a quick picture of a Zebra lying down close to the road would alter our plans dramatically.
My first thought was that it was strange to see a lone Zebra separated from her Dazzle, laying close to the road and not running off as we approached. We noticed her heavy breathing. Zebra are known to be bloated and are usually proud owners of a very pronounced ‘beer belly’ due to the bacteria in their stomachs which digest all the grass they eat. This fermentation produces a large amount of gas which causes bloating. So, we did not realise at first that ‘Suzie’ as we later named her, was preggers.
Suzie stood up and painstakingly walked a few steps forward before falling to the ground again. We followed her for an hour, hoping we would see the baby drop. We could see the baby kicking in her tummy and Suzie was clearly struggling.
We were all so invested…we couldn’t leave until it happened! Scott and Norman instinctively knew something was wrong and called the Veterinarian who confirmed over the radio that all the symptoms she was presenting sounded ‘normal’.
Suzie began having contractions and would lift her head up off the ground as her stomach would contract for a few minutes at a time. The contractions drew closer and closer together. We were enthralled. Katherine, having not too long ago been through labour herself, wanted to climb out the vehicle and hold Suzie’s ‘hoof’ in support through the contractions.
Suzie became quiet for a while and seemed to be at peace, giving us a little hope. Then out of nowhere her entire body went into a fit of spasms, legs and head flailing in the air.
Then, the unexpected…she died….we couldn’t believe it! The baby in her tummy continued to kick for a few short moments after, before it lost its struggle too.
We all felt so helpless. I wanted to run up to Suzie and give her a ‘bush C-section’ to rescue her baby. But as we are taught on African Safari, humans must not interfere with the circle of life and instead let nature takes its course, although hard to accept at times. Suzie and her baby would have become a much-needed meal for a pride of Lion and their cubs in no time.
The circle of life sucks sometimes, plain and simple.
It was all brought full circle that afternoon when we came across a mating pair of Leopards during our African Safari at Sabi Sabi. The vicious display of affection between the pair for multiple (very short) intervals had us all in tears (of joy this time) as we day dreamed of the teeny tiny Leopard cubs which would be born in just 3 short months. Now what a sight that would be!
It was a very short but emotionally moving time in the bush. Tears were shed, lessons learned, and relationships solidified. That is what makes an African Safari the perfect incentive team building activity.
It only seemed right to send Katherine and Kristin home with a stuffed Zebra and a goodbye card from myself and Suzie. #RIPSUZIE