The rains have already washed your footprints away. The dung beetles rolled the last of your dung away- dung ball by dung ball. All we have left of you now are the pictures we took and the memories- precious memories of a gentle giant that was always there- somewhere at camp or close by. I will always remember you and I will tell your stories- though there are so much that I didn’t know about you- like how you lost your eye or what you thought about us. Did you ever think about us at all? At least I know you felt safe with us and that is a great honor you bestowed upon us. How did you know you could trust me even so many years ago when I found you laying outside my tent one moonlit night? You gave me such a great fright then and I know now that it was I who had to learn to trust you. I remember the unreal days when you made yourself at home in the main camp’s bathroom- even with guests there- you went and laid down in the middle of the bathroom- stretched out on one side and took your afternoon nap. Bewildered that there was a huge buffalo occupying the toilet, the guests just had to go and use another loo. They could scarcely believe their eyes and with such amazing stories and experiences the stories of you have gone to the four corners of the world. I remember the many nights your grazed outside my tent. I remember the night you came and laid down against the tent and nearly pushed the heavy wooden desk on the inside away from the tent wall almost knocking everything off the desk! I remember Corneli and I lying awake and listening to your heavy breathing and you chewing the cud. It made me feel at peace, deeply contented and unmeasurably happy. In the morning at dawn when I got up to make coffee I always had to first check and see if you had gone before I went to the kitchen. I never knew what would happen if I accidentally startled you, though I knew well you knew we were there. You were like a large grey ghost moving through the bush slowly and quietly. Sometimes you surprised us and we would find your huge hulk of a body standing there in the bush nearby us like a granite boulder or statue- quietly staring at us. Then as subtly as you appeared you would disappear again. Did you feel a sense of belonging with us the way we felt with you when you were close by? In all the 10 plus years I have known you- you’ve never shown aggression to anybody or harmed anybody. Yet you so frequently had spear wounds on your body from people who tried to kill you when you went to raid vegetable gardens in the community. You never knew that the sweet maize was not for you. You thought it was something everyone should share. There were times when you were heavily wounded and you came to stay at camp to heal and still you never became aggressive to any of us, quietly going about your way.
I know that by writing this I have broken all the rules of not personalizing wild animals- but for you I will do it because you are a legend and no one can explain the mystery behind you. You were wild, rogue, dangerous and unpredictable at every level- one of Africa’s most dangerous animals- and yet I saw within you gentleness, kindness and yes friendship. You never hated me for what others did to you and you accepted me in your home. You never betrayed me even though your were here first. I have learned so many life lessons from you and I will forever be grateful for the brief moment in time I had the privilege of knowing you. Some say you were my guardian angel- will I ever be safe without you? In our memories and hearts you will forever remain- the Watchman.
For those who knew the buffalo at Olkoroi Camp called the Watchman- he was killed by a wire snare a few days ago when he went to some of the vegetable gardens in the community. We greatly morn his loss and we feel a great sense of void here at camp. We will all miss him dearly. We continue our endeavor to protect the wildlife and environment in and around the Olkoroi Camp and continue to make it a safe haven for the animals.