May 2021

Is a fright as good as a holiday?

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Is a fright as good as a holiday?

I swear I once heard the saying, “A fright is as good as a holiday!” and I would trot this out to my long-suffering husband after occasionally leaping out at him from behind a wall and scaring him witless. I’m convinced it was something to do with the adrenalin surge being as rejuvenating for your body as a holiday is. He never found the frights remotely funny, unlike me, and claimed no sense of rejuvenation at all. I’ve just Googled, “A fright is as good as a holiday” and it comes up with absolutely nothing. So perhaps I invented it. Who knows?

I did have a good chuckle at this sighting though: We were silently waiting in the sunken hide at Hwata Pan and could hear sable antelope snorting with concern and caution at wanting to come and drink. The sun went down and the sable edged closer, parading up and down and snorting all the while. There was nothing else drinking at the time, but they really are highly strung animals. They sometimes drop to their knees when drinking so this does make them very vulnerable should something be hiding in the grass waiting to ambush them – like lions.

Eventually, well after dark, they gathered at the water’s edge and drank. We could barely see them. Then, in the distance we noticed two white rhinos making their way to the water. Adult rhinos without young calves are far more bold in their approach, having vast bulk on their side, and they only really give way to elephants. I’m probably imagining this but it seemed as if the two rhinos had a glint in their eye and were up for a bit of mischief. They snuck up in complete silence, directly behind the herd of sable, then loudly announced their arrival with a snort! The poor sable got such a fright, flew into the air and galloped off. I suspect they also didn’t think the fright was as good as a holiday. 

At least the sable had a long drink before it happened. Scientific research carried out on sable antelope, here on the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, found that sable drink only every three days or so, often moving up to seven kilometres away from a water source.

Sable are reported to be quite aggressive towards other species at waterholes and are able to displace other antelope, zebra and even buffalo cows – so maybe the rhinos were just getting their own back on behalf of other animals.

Jenny Hishin
By Jenny Hishin
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