Kruger Park Stories

Wolhuter trail – a bushveld story

By Melina Lewis

Picture taken by Monique Lister

Once upon a time in the bushveld in Africa, there lived a leopard. He was a wise old leopard and the animals who congregated at his watering hole called him Mo. Now Mo the leopard had been managing the water hole for many years and he knew that soon he would have to hand over to his younger trainee. This animal was called Moomoo and he was a honey badger.

You may think it is strange for a leopard – a large cat – to hand over the management of the waterhole to a honey badger, rather than another leopard, but it had been foretold that this was indeed the way it was to be. When Moomoo was born, his father, the brave and daring Mzilikazi had bitten the furry testicles of a dagga bull (buffalo) so hard that he had yelled ‘moo moo’ and then run from the valley never to return again.

This was a good outcome because the buffalo had been causing problems at the water hole and making unnecessary mud pools that no one else wanted to drink in. So, when Mzilikazi had driven the buffalo away single handedly, it became obvious that Moomoo, born on that very day, would be the next caretaker of the waterhole.

Moomoo was a young and ambitious honey badger, and he respected Mo and followed all his teachings. Yet Mo was a little unsure. Despite feeling that Moomoo was the right animal for the job of managing the waterhole, he wondered if he had taught him everything he would need to know. Was he possibly too young and inexperienced?

Mo therefore decided to call all the animals of the waterhole to a meeting. And so they came…

There was Deborah the zebra who trotted in on her hooves and smiled, jigging her wiry main. Deborah was always joyous and particularly loved a waterhole meeting. With her came her most loyal admirer, Horny the wild pig. Strong and stout, yet slightly grumpy, the wild pig snorted and snuffled through the leaves as he walked, as he was always hungry and looking for grubs.

The delicate duikers, Mick and Lick peeped their heads around the great rock upon which Mo sat, looking over the watering hole. The duikers knew Mo looked after them, but he was a big scary cat and could eat them in two bites.

Down the big Marula tree came the praying mantises. Mona, the female, walked elegantly, her hands raised up against her chest, her loyal admirer and wannabe mate – Lesster – walked behind her, ever careful not to annoy her, in case she decided to mate him and eat his head.

Mo looked around him,

‘Where is Trello?’ he asked frowning, his tail swishing around his paws.

‘I’ll wake him’ peeped Lesster and he scuttled past Mona, down the tree, over Horny’s nose and down a hole. Soon a snort and chortle was followed by the appearance of a snout and wide black eyes. Trello the anteater bear appeared, blinking as it wasn’t quite after sunset yet.

‘Morning everyone’ yawned Trello, Lesster sitting on his snout proudly.  Mo shook his head and stopped flicking his tail.

‘Right. Let’s begin’ he growled gently.

‘As you all know, soon it will come my time to join the stars in the night sky. I must therefore ensure that the watering hole is well cared for and managed. It was foretold that our brave Moomoo would be the manager – a great responsibility. We must therefore ensure, as users of the hole, that Moomoo is prepared for his role. I have therefore decided to test Moomoo on his abilities required to manage the hole.

There was a rumbling amongst the animals and Lesster scuttled back to Mona, worried he had annoyed her by not being by her side when this very important news was announced.

‘I would like to ask you to suggest ways in which we can test the strength of Moomoo’ and  Mo, stuck out his nails from his fluffy paws, to show he meant real strength, ‘ and his smarts’ Mo’s eyes glistened, ‘Social skills’ the wise old cat continued grinning, making all the females swoon and of course ‘friendship’, Mo jumped off the rock and began purring loudly, the warm sound rumbling and vibrating through the animals, ensuring they knew, he was truly their friend.

Mick and Lick, the delicate duikers looked at one another, knowing what the other was thinking ‘How could Moomoo ever be as good a leader as Mo?’

A snort from the antbear jerked everyone from their concerned thoughts.

‘Well, may I speak Mo?’ asked the antbear, he was ever so polite and cordial.

‘Of course,’ nodded Mo, ‘perhaps we could test Moomoo like this – Deborah and Horny can test Moomoo’s strength, I can test his smarts, Mona and Lesster can test his social skills and Mick and Lick can test his friendship skills?’

The crowd was quiet as they thought through Trello’s suggestion. Mona raised her one arm higher, ‘We agree’ she announced. As did the whole water hole. It was a good plan.

Moomoo had been standing quietly below the Marula tree all this time – unusual for him as he liked to be busy and, on the move, looking and learning, making sure everything was as it should be. But this was an important meeting and he had needed to make sure he listened carefully so he would know what to do.

The animals agreed to begin the tests the very next day – there was no time to lose, anything could happen in the bushveld – like the time the giraffes had formed a hunting herd…but that was another story.

Deborah the zebra and Horny the bush pig were first. In order to test Moomoo’s strength they found a rope made from the vines of the creeper and Moomoo would have to tug one end and Horny the other. Horny was a very strong pig and was certain he would win the tug of war, but alas, it was not to be. Moomoo’s determination and inherent strength were too much for Horny, despite the encouragement he received from his beautiful zebra. Poor Deborah, she felt conflicted as she wanted to support Horny but knew that it was important for Moomoo to win and so she pranced between the two until finally, with one final tug, his feet gripping the ground, Moomoo yanked Horny and he landed snout first, into the red sand.

For his second test, Moomoo was invited to Mona and Lessters sacred place. This was in an ancient cave that the humans had long ago drawn pictures on the rocks. Here Mona served Moomoo the sacred truth serum of the ancients. Moomoo felt a little dizzy, but he was able to answer all of Mona’s prying questions correctly. He was a little concerned that he had spoken badly of the buffalo, but Mona said it wasn’t a problem, especially seeing as the buffalo was an unruly problem and no one really liked them. Mona and dependable Lesster gave Moomoo full marks for his honesty, a key indicator of good social skills.

For his third test, the antbear was tasked with checking that Moomoo wasn’t all brawn and no brains. This test had to take place at night to ensure the antbear was wide awake. Trello was at the appointed anthill and on seeing Moomoo approach he quickly began digging in the anthill, causing a flood of ants to erupt.

‘Quickly Moomoo,’ he shouted, ‘count the number of ants in the ant hill’

Moomoo did as he was told.

‘Four billion, one hundred and seventy-five’ he eventually announced.

‘Correct!’ exclaimed Trello the antbear – for he knew exactly how many ants were in each ant hill. Then he lay on his back and told Moomoo to join him. Together they looked up at the night sky and Trello asked Moomoo a number of questions about the stars and the weather and if he knew how to spot changing weather patterns. Moomoo did indeed.

‘Aah’ said Trello, ‘I can see that Mo has taught you well’.

The very next day, for his final test and to determine if he truly was the one to take over the care of the waterhole, Moomoo went to see Mick and Lick. The two delicate duikers were waiting for him on a boulder at the koppie whose shadow cloaked the waterhole.

‘Hello Mick and Lick, I’ve come for my final challenge. How are we going to test me on ‘Friendship’?’ asked Moomoo.

Lick blinked her beautiful big eyes and looked cautiously at Mick. He twitched his nose and spoke very slowly,

‘Moomoo, something is going to happen, and you will be forced to make a decision. This will be your test’.

Moomoo kicked up a cloud of sand around him. This was a very cryptic statement and made no good sense, but before he could ask any questions, Mo appeared above him. The leopard flicked his tail and lifted his top lip to show his enormous fangs.

‘If you are a true friend, save the duikers before I eat them’.

Mo pounced from one rock to the next, scattering the duikers in two opposite directions.

‘No Mo! What is this?’ shouted Moomoo and he scrambled up the rocks after them, barking and hissing at Mo to stop what he was doing. But it was useless. The duikers hopped wildly to and fro, Lick scrambling on a precipice as Mo cornered her. Moomoo had to do something fast. He stopped in his tracks, took a deep breath and then he knew.

‘Ow, oh no. Ow, ow, ow!’ he cried, ‘My leg, I’ve hurt my leg’ he wailed and dragged his foot. Quickly Mo turned, his instincts driving him towards the injured animal. He bounded towards Moomoo.

As soon as Mo turned his back on the duikers, the clever honey badger yelled ‘Run duikers run!’ and as Mo landed in front of him, Moomoo righted his leg, crouched down and growled viciously at Mo. The leopard opened his mouth into a wide grin and roared with laughter,

‘Well done my boy!’ he chuckled, ‘you are a true friend and you sacrificed yourself to allow the duikers to escape. You are indeed the right animal to look after our waterhole.’

So it came to pass that when Mo the leopard settled with the stars in the night sky, that Moomoo, the honeybadger, as brave and clever as his father, took over the care of the waterhole in the bushveld.

The moral of the story is:

  • If you are strong, you may still not be the strongest, but you may be very loved
  • If you are honest and sociable, you don’t have to like everyone.
  • Even if you are good at maths, you don’t know everything.
  • Good friends give you the freedom to be you and they will fight for you no matter what!

The End

Join Melina on the 25th October for a wine tasting and book chat: more information here