A most unusual occurrence!

By Cobus Greyling, Reserve Compliance Officer

Recently,  a radio call was received from a guide on game drive that there were two tsessebe with their horns entangled near Tsessebe Drive. The Conservation Officer Samuel Davidson-Phillips and myself set off to investigate and see what, if anything, could be done to assist these animals.

The interlocking of antelope horns of the same species does happen on an infrequent basis, occurring mostly during serious fighting, but even more rarely are they so locked that a death  of one or both participants occurs. The best known depiction of this phenomenon is probably the bronze statue by Hendrik Potgieter of two kudu bulls in Skukuza rest camp, Kruger National Park. Another such incident involved two buffalo bulls both of which succumbed in the Mountain Zebra National Park as seen on the right.

The hartebeest bull was exhausted, with evidence in the surrounding area showing that the struggle most probably commenced the day before.  Weighing up our limited options to “free” the red hartebeest we were concerned that there was a serious risk for injury as even exhausted animals are quite capable of inflicting serious wounds when cornered. It was therefore decided to attempt something a little less traditional.

Manoeuvring the vehicle into a better vantage point, we proceeded to shoot the deceased tsessebes’ horn off in an attempt to free the red hartebeest. As soon as the red hartebeest felt the lessening in pressure it immediately got up and dashed off to freedom with such speed that photos were hardly possible. It was most relieving to see that he had no serious  injuries and probably only an incredulous story to tell his companions.