Long ago in Africa, in a slower, quieter time, where animals roamed the plains and valleys now festering with cities and squatter camps, roamed a lone wild dog. Now, to the average reader this may not seem out of the ordinary, but it was. You see, wild dogs are traditionally “team players”. They live and hunt in packs, ranging from 4 to 20 or more.
The advantage of this “solo” approach was that our wild dog did not have to share his kill. The obvious disadvantage was that he had to be content with much smaller prey. While his peers were feasting on impala and sometimes even zebra, our friend had to be satisfied with rabbits, baby warthogs, and sometimes the occasional duiker.
One day while padding along a flat plateau, he spotted a lone elephant grazing in a clearing about a mile away. It was an old bull who had taken leave of his herd and had been roaming alone for years. The carnivore immediately processed the information at hand, and although he had never tasted elephant meat, he instinctively knew that it was good, but that it was impossible to hunt, and the only chance of a taste was after the lions and hyenas had had their fill in the prescribed African pecking order.
He also knew that elephants were very dangerous, and fast over short distances. Of the elephant kills he has seen, all had been instigated by large prides of lions and had normally been a very old or injured animal. The only hunter the old animal feared was thus a lion.
Wild dogs communicate with each other with chirping, squeaking sounds in order to co-ordinate a hunt, but our friend had fine-tuned these vocal skills in the many hours he spent roaming alone, to learn to mimic other animals, from bird calls to even the snorting noise made by a zebra. A lion roar however was slightly out of his vocal range. Although he managed the sound, he certainly lacked the volume and resonance.
Suddenly an idea dawned on him. The old elephant was starting to make his way slowly and painfully down a narrow path at the edge of the plateau towards a spring right at the bottom in the valley. Our little wild dog knew that near the bottom of this path was a large abandoned cave. He darted off at an angle, raced along the edge and down another path and into the cave just as the elephant came slowly around a bend in the path.
As the elephant drew closer, the little wild dog took an enormous breath of air and let out his very best lion impersonation, the sound echoing and resonating on the cave walls. The elephant being old and slightly deaf, mistaking the roar for the real thing, lurched back and tumbled off of the path and down the cliff to his death.
The obvious predicament facing the wild dog now was what to do with all of this meat. The pack, if alerted could be there within an hour, but what advantage would accrue to our little friend? A simple, “thanks mate” and then they’d just tuck in. No, this massive kill required a bigger reward, one with long-term advantage. An ingenious, but dangerous plan formed in his mind. He darted off and after about an hour came to lion territory. From a distance he called to a juvenile who he had known as a cub and outlined his “deal”.
“I have meat“, he said, “plenty of it, and if a deal can be made, I’ll share it.” “What deal?” said the lion,” flicking his tail irritably. “I’ll share this kill with you if I can join your pride.” The deal was put to the alpha male and accepted, and from that day on the little wild dog ran with the lions, and many fine kills were planned and executed by our friend.
THE MORALS OF THIS STORY
- Act like a lion, and you MAY be mistaken for a lion.
- IF you are mistaken for a lion, be prepared to deal with lions to push home the advantage.
- You can be a loner in your peer group, but once you step up a rung, you WILL need a partner or two.