Thursday, September 11, 2008

Even Though I Know They Don't All Make It....


While I love Africa more than anyplace else I've been so far, it's always a place of extremes. The highs are so fabulously high they are incredible - and unbelievable. But the lows can be absolutely heartbreaking. I don't forget either extreme, and one tempers the other.

For some reason I have been thinking about this lioness lately. I saw her in a park in northern Botswana in rainy season in February of this year. While everyone was excited to find a lion, it was pretty clear when we got close that this one wasn't going to make it. I have no idea what happened. She appeared to be a young female, alone rather than with a pride. She was very, very thin - emaciated. Whether this was because she could not hunt alone, or had a sickness, I have no idea. It was rainy season so the animals were more spread out, but there were a variety of them, including young baby herbivores, so it doesn't seem like lack of prey would be the issue.

Her skin hung around her in folds, and her bones jutted out. She looked up at me and her eyes were still bright. She had a lot of life left, her eyes hadn't clouded over and she hadn't given up yet. But, it was clear she was in some distress, and she seemed very tired. She did not move or get up other than to turn her head.

It would have been nice to be able to help her. Of course, there was nothing I could do. I didn't think she would last the week, and by now she's probably long since gone. I wonder how she was separated from her family, and how she came to be alone and so darn thin. Even though I know they don't, and can't, all make it, it is so hard to come across an animal that is on the way out, and not be able to do anything about it at all.

It was bittersweet. A few minutes later I saw one of the most fantastic sunsets in my life. As I watched the blazing reds, the flaming orange, and the pinks and purples over the savannah, I thought about her, still lying there, not far away. I wished that I could comfort her, at the very least. I was only with her for a few minutes, but the memory of her is still fresh, and comes back to me at odd times.

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