In the Zimbabwe bush, game scouts employed by the Turgwe Hippo Trust make daily patrols to collect snares set by poachers in hopes of staying one step ahead of tragedy. But the other day, one of the scouts named Herbert (pictured below) returned to Hippo Haven with bad news.
“He told me that he had found a snared male waterbuck,” said the Trust’s Founder Karen Paolillo. “He said it was dead so I didn’t go with him but I sent him to the safari camp opposite to get their manager and some staff to go there and pick up the animal.”
Six men returned to the site and all stood in silence as the most remarkable thing happened. As they approached the dead waterbuck whose body was on the ground with legs in the air, suddenly the animal began to stir. It rose to its feet and Herbert and the others wrestled with anxiety as now they were no longer facing a recovery effort, but instead a dangerous rescue of a powerful horned animal. They’d taken no more than another step towards the animal when the most amazing thing happened. The wire snare broke, right at the noose and opened up. The waterbuck was not only alive, but also free.
“It jumped and ran and ran,” Karen explained. “Part of the wire snare was still attached to the tree and there was blood, but not blood that kills, just a small amount from the wire cutting the animal’s neck.”
If the scouts had not gone to retrieve the “dead” waterbuck, they never would have known it was alive. It was actually fear of the approaching humans that saved the waterbuck as he suddenly summoned the strength to return to his feet and run from the men he thought had arrived to hurt him.
“If the poachers had gotten there first, they would have killed him by cutting his feet or using bows and arrows or spears,” Karen explained while considering just how incredible the discovery was in the first place. “Don’t forget that the area that Herbert and the others were patrolling that day is three miles long by about two miles wide with heavily densed bush and trees. Snares could be anywhere.”
Herbert is very proud of his job and of playing such an unusual role in saving the waterbuck, but he credits a higher power for this golden moment.
“If God had not been working with us, this rescue would not have been possible,” Herbert said to Karen. “He told you where to send me that day and together we saved a life.”
And by the way, later that day Karen asked Herbert to return to the site to check for more snares and he found a huge four loop device that could have easily claimed one of the young hippos.
Yes, this was a good day in the African wilderness. A very good day indeed. See more of the Trust’s work here.
Brought to you by the Harmony Fund international animal rescue network.