THE LATEST THINKING
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Water sport is a lovely way to cool off in the heat of the African sun, but unseen dangers lurk. Life may appear idyllic to the casual observer, but we don't know what problems someone else faces.
The westering sun still glares over the shimmering African bush. The buzzing of cicada seem to echo the baking heat. The cool forest-seamed river looks to be the ideal place.
Youngsters cavort in the shallows, pushing and shoving, ducking each other under, spraying water with wild abandon. Three, four dead tree trunks float by: crocodiles ready for a chance. But a teenage elephant, especially in a group, is not an option.
Herons watch the fun. The play is too rough for them to dare peck at a few parasites. A solitary buffalo, wallowing higher up in the river, provides better opportunity for feeding. Baboons, fumbling for fallen fruit under the trees, look at the riot, shaking their heads in disgust at the unseemly levity.
A baby ventures towards the water, tucked close to its young mother, to dabble in the wet coolness. Well aware of the dangers the river can hold, but oh, so tempted by the fun, a promise of relief from the oppressive heat. Mother is nervous, and keeps edging her baby away. Still, just a little splash…
The matriarch of the herd comes to the rescue. Guiding young mother and baby to a safe little inlet, she watches while baby frolics. The little one wades ankle deep and startles a fish, squeals in mock fright, nurses a little to gain courage, then walks into the water again, knee deep this time.
Enough. The matriarch keeps an eye on the crocodiles, and rumbles deep in her belly. Mother sprays her baby, then pushes it out on to the sand bank. Baby does not protest; already the lessons of the herd had been learnt. When the matriarch warns, you obey.
The sun begins to disappear behind the thorn trees and the distant mountains. Birds come noisily to roost, monkeys chatter as they face the terrors of the night. The baboon troop is long gone, trailing through the dusk towards a safe hillock. The youngsters reluctantly climb out of the water, only to fall back in a last wash. Mother herds her baby away to the safety of the open savanna, away from reed beds where predators could lurk.
The night falls. Another day is done.
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