Dangerous Game: African Buffalo
The African Buffalo has often been referred to as the most dangerous of all African wildlife. It’s not for nothing that Robert Ruark, famous author and big game hunter, once wrote, “They look at you as if you owe them money.” In 1990, on the Nyalaland Wilderness Trail in the far north of the Kruger National Park, I had the privilege of working with an assistant trails ranger named Daniel Makuleke.
We were heading down the track next to the Matsaringwa River, with the trail group seated troopy style on bench seats on either side of the vehicle. I saw a large buffalo bull lying under a tree about 30 metres from the track, and stopped to have a look. One of the trail group asked a question, and I turned round in my chair to answer. Halfway through my explanation, there was a collective gasp from everyone: “He’s coming”! I spun round to see the buffalo bull in full charge, about to slam side-on into the Cruiser. Fortunately, the engine was still idling with the vehicle in first gear, and I had my left foot on the clutch. I revved the engine and dropped the clutch, lurching forward just before the buffalo hit the vehicle. It ran after the vehicle for a short way, and then disappeared into the thick bush. I had noticed that the right front leg was badly injured, but this didn’t seem to stop it from charging. I had never seen such blatant aggression from a buffalo.
The buffalo was somewhere in the bush 200 metres from our position. I radioed through to the regional ranger at Shingwedzi and explained the situation to him. As the Regional Ranger gave me his instructions, my heart sank. I had been half-expecting him to say that I should take the trail group to another location, but instead he said that I had to track down the injured buffalo immediately and put it out of its misery. The Park authorities didn’t want to take the chance of having an injured buffalo ambush an unsuspecting trails group, quite possibly causing grievous bodily harm or even death.
I left the trails group sitting on the Cruiser roofrack, with my wife in attendance, and started walking back to where we had last seen the buffalo disappear into the thick bush. Daniel and I were both carrying BRNO 458 Win. Mag. bolt action rifles with magazines carrying five rounds of 475 grain ammunition, and another 10 rounds in a leather pouch on our belts. The buffalo’s tracks were easy to follow at first, but then we got into some rocky ground and it took intense concentration to stay on the trail...
To read this article in full, buy this issue from selected stores or you can also subscribe here.