Etosha at Midnight

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In the silence of the night, four giraffes shared the waterhole. They splayed their forelegs and lowered their necks and eased their heads to the oil-black water, where their reflections copied each move. An elephant lumbered into the scene, ears flapping, trunk swinging. It passed the giraffes, found a spot which it liked and paused for a moment like a chess player pondering a move.

The giraffes stole away and a black rhino took their place and the elephant started to drink. A lion roared in the near distance, filling the night with sound, and sending a panicky dik-dik scuttling. The elephant farted impressively to show how little it cared about lions and carried on taking two-gallon sips. Cicadas buzzed, a bird squawked. The last of the giraffes loped across the back of the set.

A second rhino arrived, then a third. They ignored the other rhino, which waited a minute and then left, as if it hated them too much to share the same waterhole but did not want them to think they had won. It met an elephant on the way out and there was a brief, unexpected stand off; but the rhino gave way and peeled off to the left, affording plenty of room to the elephant.

A jackal trotted to the water, gulped down a few mouthfuls and trotted away. A lone zebra slipped in between the elephants and tensed and listened when the lion roared again. The rhinos and elephants ignored it. Lions don’t worry them.

(c) Richard Senior 2014

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