by Matthew Sterne
on January 12, 2016
There’s much we don’t understand about the animal kingdom.
Penguins in Antarctica have been known to walk inland, away from their food source and colony, in what has been described as penguin suicide. Cows do it too. Blue whales are singing in ever-deeper voices every year. The collective intelligence of ants is also hard to explain – they can construct an underground megalopolis that “looks like it was designed by an architect. A single mind.” And let’s not even get started on the frightening behaviour of crows! Honestly, it all gets kinda creepy.
African animals are certainly no different.
On a recent trip to Kenya with Rhino Africa, Kimberly Maurer and her travelling party witnessed a truly incredible scene. Something that experts are also struggling to explain.
As Kim explains, “Upon landing in the famous Masai Mara, we were met by our driver and guide, John, who asked if we would like to have a game drive before heading to our camp. Along the way, we noticed a large one-tusked momma elephant with her family walking toward us.
“As our vehicle pulled forward a bit, we noticed a cape buffalo asleep under a bush about 20 feet from the road. John suggested that the buffalo might not be well. As we were watching the elephants grazing and moving toward us, the Cape Buffalo raised his head and stood up, which must have been a threatening movement for the elephants. As the buffalo stepped toward the approaching elephants, the momma elephant trumpeted a warning and threw her trunk up in the air. The elephant moved closer to the buffalo and the buffalo decided to try to ram the elephant and they head butted. The buffalo fell to its knees after it lost the head butt.
“The elephant then surprised us all by lowering her head and, without any warning, went straight for the buffalo.”
“We were in complete shock as she then bent down and literally skewered the buffalo with her single tusk and lifted it straight up over her head with her tusk protruding from the other side of the buffalo.”
“She slammed the buffalo back on the ground and backed up. She then herded her family to the other side of the road and continued to trumpet at the mortally wounded buffalo. The buffalo got up and staggered away as blood gushed from its side. He moved about ten feet away from the attack and fell to the ground. He did not immediately die as he kept his head up for a minute or so before completely collapsing.”
“The elephant family, now content that there was no more threat, moved along their way while my family stood in shock and disbelief about what we had just witnessed. It all happened so fast that no one had a chance to start recording a video until it was all over. The sounds of the elephants, the cry of the attacked buffalo and our screams must have woken every sleeping animal for miles. The entire attack lasted less than one minute. My camera recorded my first shot at 10:22:58 and the last one at 10:23:46.”
“Our racing hearts and raging adrenaline had all of us in quite a state. When we had all gathered our wits, we started toward the camp. Upon arrival to Sand River Camp, we shared our story with the General Manager who had been in Africa since 1976. He said he had never seen anything like it. Over the next few days, we became more aware of just how exceptional this experience was. In fact, we were met at the airstrip by the Chief Game Warden who approached John asking to see the photo that he had heard about. His response while viewing the sequence of photos was just, ‘Wow. Wow. Wow. Unheard of.’ Before we departed, John asked for a copy of the photo so that he could ‘silence the skeptics.’
“There must be no place on earth quite like the Masai Mara. We are truly privileged to have witnessed such an incredible sighting in this magnificent setting.”
If you too would like to contribute to our Safari Snapshot series, we’d love to hear from you and feature your photos or video from your special African sighting. Please email Matt (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your submissions.