Caught between a rock and a hard place

27 09 2012

The famous river crossings in Kenya’s Masai Mara are usually filled with excess drama and action, but every so often, one individual’s story catches your attention. I was taking a photographic safari to witness these magnificent crossings, and found myself engrossed with the plight of one young wildebeest.

The crossing had a normal start to it; hours of back and froth from the mega herd of wildebeest, followed by more waiting. The herd had built up nicely, and we were in for a massive crossing – if, of course, the wildebeest decided to jump in and get started. As it turned out, the zebras, unusually, took the lead, but started crossing a little further downstream than usual. This meant that together with the fear, panic and strong river current, the wildebeest now had to contend with rocks! Most of them dealt with the new obstacle by simply jumping over them. In a fantastic display of athleticism (and action photography), all but one youngster cleared the rocks without any problem.
The young wildebeest had somehow managed to wedge his hips into the rocks underwater. I am not sure how he got that right, but he was firmly wedged in. He struggled bravely for a good half hour, before his struggles got the attention of a passing croc. The monster of a croc came right into the action to see what all the splashing was about, and found himself face to face with the trapped wildebeest. There was a cruel ten second stare down as the croc, with a huge weight advantage, sorted through the options, before it lunged out of the water and grabbed the young wildebeest by the horn. I don’t think the croc was fully aware of the wildebeest’s predicament, because he couldn’t get him out of the rocks. A second reset, and he was better prepared. The wildebeest, understandably panicked, was trying his best to get free from the rocks, but to no avail. The croc had come in for a second attempt at an easy meal, and pulled the wildebeest free from the rocks, and down into the water.

It is not always easy witnessing nature unfold, and I certainly felt for the young wildebeest. The whole situation made for some interesting images, ones that documented an unusual event.

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