Day 10: This morning we witnessed three black-backed jackals hunt for a meal from among a large herd of impala. They attacked as one, choreographed, each from a different point of a triangle, diving into the herd. As one, the three quickly cut a mother and her young fawn from the protection of the group. Another female and two young male impalas ran after them all while the large, obviously dominant male remained behind, bellowing loudly to call the rest of the herd back together (I counted at least 20 other animals).
The jackals quickly got between the mother and her baby and soon disappeared, along with the fleeing fawn, deeper into the tall grasses and then the forest just beyond. The mother stopped at the edge of that forest, wandering up and down the line of its border of trees, pacing, braying loudly, and then more quietly, more quietly and more infrequently. The three other adults who followed her watched her as she watched the woods. There was no sign of the baby, at least none we could see, nor of the animals who had chased her. We did not see the kill, but I assume the baby's brief life ended this morning.
We softly said the words in Swahili we'd learned to tell our guide we were ready to move on, and so we drove off, the mother's bray now far less frequent, far more quiet. This is the sound of a mother mourning. Do not tell me that animals do not experience emotion, or I will know you to be a fool or completely unobservant of the world we share with others.
We drove off, passing dozens of well fed and fierce looking hyenas, all muscle, then crossed over the Mara River. A thousand Abdim's storks covered the shore, their purple-black heads and backs shining in the sun, along with dozens of hippos resting in the sand and one lone bull elephant standing, his reflection mirrored in the quiet water of the river. He is probably an old animal, one who has left the herd, no family close by.
The few people I know who had been so fortunate to come to Africa had all told me that their journeys here had changed their lives, although none of them could express very clearly in what way or ways it had done so. As I near the end of my own time here I can see that they are correct, and that I am going to stumble as much as they did with my own attempts to explain what I mean by that. Let me try.
I came here knowing full well that animals experience pain, love, happiness, sadness, mourning, but now I know it even better. I came here not knowing as well as I know now, or certainly not as aware as I am at this moment (being aware a different thing than knowing) that each of us is a scant individual in a much larger scheme. I will leave here hoping to hold onto all of that.