Going Places: Tales from the road: Postcards from Africa

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
<%=[TAN_psinet_include "/includes/include_ad_goingplaces.html" ]%>
By Todd Krieger

August 3: Wakefield Estates, Zimbabwe

The morning's game drive has a purpose. The reserve is participating in an area-wide tic prevention program, pouring feed into a specially designed bin that has a long pole pointing straight into the sky. Dripping from the pole is anti-tic fluid. When game come to feed, they inadvertently rub against the pole and, voilà, are aided in the fight for health and hygiene.

Our first feeding produces the eeland, which appears to have waltzed straight out of mythology. Part cow and part horse (actually, it's an antelope), the eeland is surprisingly large but remarkably elegant. At the next feeding area, zebra come in close and snort derisively in my direction while a herd of sable circumnavigate the newly filled feed bin. They seem to be warily pondering the possibility of a hunger-crazed zebra kick.

Postcards from Africa
Dances with ostriches
The Ostrich Dance
Video: 740K .avi or 718K .mov

Over breakfast of kudu steaks--a horned beast I'm yet to see--we head off to see the ostriches. By itself, this bird is a funny enough creature, all neck, plumage, and slender legs. Funnier still are a couple dozen of these neck-craning, feather-flying, gallivanting goofballs all heated up and ready to breed. (You can tell when a male has got the itch; his beak and legs turn red.) But the highest of all ostrich comedy is the territory dance. One bird in particular was on stage for us all day, gyrating like a long-necked belly dancer on acid, moving his neck from side to side and beating his wings. It makes for an entrancing, ridiculous, and mildly threatening spectacle.

In the hatchery down the road we witness a chick further cracking through its thin shell slowly, slowly making its way. The baby bird is clearly between worlds, still at home in its warm shell warm, yet fighting to break out and stake its claim. It's an amazing sight. We then move next door to meet two newborn chicks, whose markings are entirely different than those of the adult. Beneath a loosely constructed shelter, a local woman serves as surrogate mother, stroking, nurturing, and feeding the chicks. Our aviary education comes full circle when, at the end of the tour, we are privy to two ostriches actually mating.

NEXT: Tracking down rhino at the Matobo National Park
Photograph by Monique Stauder
Video by Todd Krieger

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web