For the past 10 weeks of filming, the animals that I have been able to document in Matusadona have taken on new meaning. It is only after spending time that this new meaning begins to come through. For some of the more individually distinguishable animals such as elephants, lion, cheetah, one cant help but get into their mindset. It is easy to get lost in the events that we witness these creatures involved in, and not help but think how this would impact their behaviors moving forward. Does that elephant with the floppy ear remember me? Does she recognize the car? I hope she realizes I am not here to harm her. It is hard not to anthropomorphize these amazing creatures, and to liken some of their behaviors to ours. We begin to want to see them succeed, for them to succeed it taking down prey, finding a mate, and procreating to sustain and even strengthen the fragile populations of wildlife that exist in Africa. If they do not survive, let it not be for man’s heavy footprint, and simply for the ebb and flow of Mother Nature.
Two days ago, the dominant male of Matusadona National Park, Shepherd, was shot by a hunter. Working closely with the researcher at the park, it became clear of the past 10 weeks that Shepherd controlled a large part of the park, and was the alpha for two separate prides. The age of his eldest offspring would indicate he maintained this control for possibly up to 5 years, an amazing feat for a pride male. Attaching a VHF collar only enhanced the research being done, providing more precise readings of his whereabouts, which would facilitate more in-depth exploration into his behavior. Recently we began to see a coalition of 3 younger males coming into his territory, and indicating clearly that they were ready to take over.
Shepherd was killed much further east than the route of his usual patrols around the park would indicate. I can only hope that his tenure of Matusadona was in fact over, and the 3 males overthrew him through the natural proceedings of evolution. Mother Nature can appear brutal and vicious, but I can take comfort in her honesty and that over time, her process yields balance and equality.