The African bush never fails to surprise; a sentiment we observed from a small stagnant pool along the N’wanetsi River. It was a routine drive that turned out to be one of my most memorable. With the rains still to arrive, the majority of game concentrated around the few small pools along the river. This sets the scene, as opportunists make the most of the abundance of prey around this precious source of life.

We had often seen the lion prides along this particular stretch of the river as it holds water throughout the year, and during the dry season is often the only area where animals can quench their thirst.  But what we didn’t expect to see was what transpired next.  A massive sixteen-foot crocodile ambushed a herd of unsuspecting zebra which were drinking at the water’s edge. As the dust settled, we witnessed a young zebra being wrenched into the water by his front right leg and dragged into the middle of the pool.

The zebra put up a valiant fight and wrestled with the crocodile; biting, kicking and frantically trying to free itself from the crocodile’s crushing grip. The crocodile conserved it’s energy, applying five thousand pounds of pressure to the zebra’s leg with no intention of letting go.  Eventually the zebra started to tire, it’s head dropped and it seemed to rapidly lose condition in the baking heat. The zebra dug deep and with one final effort managed to free itself. The crocodile loosened it’s hold and the zebra seized the opportunity to make a dash for the bank. It hoisted itself out of the water, but it was then when we realized the extent of the damage caused by the crocodile’s powerful jaws.

The zebra was fatally injured and now out of the water and exposed to the heat, it was in real danger being both exhausted and dehydrated. To our relief the animal eventually rolled back into the water and surrended itself to the crocodile. It was a tough ordeal to observe but this is how life in the African bush unfolds and the death of this one animal brought life for many others.

Keep up with James Suter as he brings the wild ever closer with his weekly Singita blog series.

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