The Circle of Life

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Today I cried.

It was unexpected. First it was tears of fear and sadness, then it was tears of joy – an acceptance of life, and death, in the wild, wild bush of Africa. The Circle of Life.

It was dawn, we were out in a comfy safari jeep – just passed a family of giraffes and now we watched three springbok quietly grazing ahead of us. The sun was rising, birds like Zazu (a red billed hornbill from the Lion King), busy flitting from tree to tree.

I was happy, thinking how I love to be “on safari”.
Then I saw her, about 200 yards from the springbok, in the tall grass. She was sleek, glossy, and beautiful… and she was watching. She crouched low, then she stretched her neck… stalking, step by silent step.
I looked at the springbok, unaware, enjoying the fresh morning grass and looked again at the cheetah, tense and concentrated. I cried inside, no, no, please no.

Then, suddenly, like a bullet from a gun, like an uncoiled spring she shot forward at a speed that blurred her body, and the three springbok fled in terror. Her acceleration was amazing. The distance closed. They ran in a line. The third springbok seemed to make a snap decision and darted away to the right, thinking he would find safety, but the split-second decision narrowed the gap enough for the cheetah to lunge and bring him down. Within seconds it was over, and I lost sight of them both in the tall grass. My face was wet with tears. How can that be OK? One minute you live and the next you die. It’s over.

A few moments passed and the cheetah appeared again – she was dragging her kill, but only a few yards. She was exhausted, and sat a little way away, as if guarding it from any other animals, while she caught her breath.
A silence fell over the whole bush. No springboks and no Zazus – no noise or life anywhere.

She must have sat for some 5 to 10 minutes, and then she walked away, back the way she came, leaving the dead springbok behind!

I scanned the bush towards where she was going and through binoculars, under a tree, I saw some ears, then some heads – 3 cheetah cubs waiting for their mum to call… and she did! They leapt up and ran towards her, while she turned and led them to breakfast. Some hyenas joined the table, but she fended them off while her cubs ate – then, it was her turn. With full tummies the cubs played and rolled around together, the hyenas patiently waited for scraps… and a vulture settled on a nearby tree top.

My face was still wet with tears, but my heart was lighter. She was only a mum after all, doing what we all would do for our children.

It’s just the circle of life!

I’m sorry I have no pictures for you. I put the camera down and lived in the moment.

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