It was late afternoon at Ngala Private Game Reserve, when Alex Tanet and her partner, Victor, set off on an unforgettable game drive.
“Lee-Anne and Richard, our ranger and tracker, told us that an impala had been spotted stuck in the mud by a couple of other rangers,” said Alex. “They asked if we wanted to check it out, to see if they could help.”
The Kruger National Park area is experiencing a bad drought at the moment, and many of the waterholes have dried up. The impala might just have chosen the wrong path to the waterhole, desperate with thirst, and stumbled into the mud.
A few other Ngala rangers were on the scene when Alex arrived, looking out at the struggling impala and deciding what to do next. After some deliberations, Allyn (one of the rangers) agreed to wade out into the mud to try and free the poor antelope.
“A pod of hippos were wallowing in the same waterhole not far from the impala,” said Alex, “which made the rescue attempt quite intense to watch.”
“Allyn managed to cross 7 to 8 meters of mud towards the impala, and at one point he was in as deep as his waist. We were all sitting on the edge of our seats watching what the hippos would do next.”
As the ranger got closer, the impala started to panic and tried to run free, but this just aggravated the situation and it seemed like he was sinking deeper into the mud.
The ranger got close enough to lasso the impala’s horns with a rope, and began to pull. To no avail. The poor animal was stuck fast.He put in all his strength to free the animal from the glue-like mud, but its head was sinking below the surface.
After an ultimate effort, he succeeded to free the animal and drag it across the waterhole and onto the shore.
But the impala lay motionless, still covered in mud.
The rangers rushed to clean its face with clear water, and with the last splash, the impala jumped up and started to run away.
“It was all very emotional,” said Alex. “With the danger of the hippos, and the thought that the impala might have died, everyone was quite tense. Then there was just relief as he ran off into the bush to continue his life.”
“It was touching to see the rangers so concerned about the well-being of a common old impala. And their happiness when he survived to live another day.”