Sacred Combe Safari III
We have all heard a good deal about the loss of biodiversity: but as I keep saying, we are also and crucially losing bioabundance. And though a good sighting of some rare and lovely thing does our hearts good, a glorious sight of biological plenty has the same profound effect.
We were walking out from Crocodile Camp in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia and as we set out, we could see the dust rising: smoky shapes, moving with leisurely purpose towards the river. Buffalo, they were, and in serious numbers, so we paralleled them as they headed onwards.
We kept with them despite the thrilling diversion of a daytime honey badger, and reached the bank of the river: a 20-foot cliff leading down to the great sand beaches you must cross before you reach the dry season modesty of the river.
The wind blew some of the sand into our faces, but that was good because it was also blowing from the buffs to us. Relaxed and unspooked they came down to the river: the first ones were finishing their drink as we arrived, and we sat until the last had drunk their fill: more than half an hour, and as I counted them, more than 1,000 buffalos.
They were travelling in extended family groups, herds within the heard, pathfinders at the front and the old and infirm at the back, trying to keep up. I remembered an American client, eyes moist, saying that his own country was once like this: uncountable numbers of vast grass-eating beasts standing shoulder to shoulder to shoulder.
I watched them drink: and you, I could swear I could see the river-level dropping as they did so…
a thousand buffalo
drink their fill –
not much river left