Water for elephants
Malawi is poised to be the next big safari destination
Life and death in the wild can be sudden and dramatic. A golden dawn is rising to a chorus of birdsong in Malawi’s Liwonde National Park as antelopes graze and butterflies flit among lush grass, while a warthog laps quietly at a reedy brook. It is a bucolic African scene of peace and harmony. Then all hell breaks loose.
The water erupts as a prehistoric monster rears from the depths, seizes the hog’s head in massive jaws, and drags it squealing and thrashing to a watery grave. The real battle begins when other crocodiles close in to fight for the prize. It lasts for hours as tourists watch from a game lodge metres away.
The day after the hog’s demise in Liwonde, I witness a heavyweight dispute between a hippo and an elephant. The hippo is splashing about in a river with its pals when a herd of elephants lumbers up to browse on the banks. This annoys the hippo, which roars from the water with jaws wide open in a ferocious display of anger. The nearest elephant is unimpressed. It charges, trunk raised and ears flaring, and the hippo retreats to midstream, where it half submerges and glares balefully at its adversary. In nature, size matters.
Last week there was an even more dramatic spectacle here, as vets in helicopters fired tranquilliser darts to anaesthetise hundreds of elephants, the beginning of one of the largest animal translocations in history.
From Liwonde, the elephants are being taken by truck to another Malawian reserve as part of a $22 million rehabilitation project.
Malawi’s premier nature reserve has always had an