The Ghost of Chobe Park
The Ghost of Chobe Park
BY LAWRENCE ALROY
During visits to the Chobe National Park in the ‘90s I shared many peaceful moments with my favourite antelope, the kudu, as they browsed unobtrusively on acacia bushes, the whorled horns of the males tucked neatly along their backs, or raised proudly aloft whenever they chose to look about them.
One evening I was startled by the sudden appearance of a large, chalky-white kudu bull, his milky colouring in marked contrast to the grey presence of his companions as they crossed in front of my vehicle and melted into the bush. That sighting etched itself in my memory forever.
I spotted him again, and when I made enquiries I received mixed reactions - “Are you sure he wasn’t pink?” being one of them. Those who did acknowledge his existence raised two issues: firstly, was he a ‘genuine’ albino or not, as naturally white specimens do occur. Secondly, why was he accepted by the herd, which is not usually the case with lighter-coloured animals in other circumstances?
A local pilot then informed me that the white kudu had been killed in a fight with a rival bull, and that he himself had flown the remains to Maun, where taxidermists were instructed to reconstruct The Ghost for all to see. The Department of Wildlife & National Parks was true to its word, and he now poses proudly in the foyer of their Kasane office - proof positive that he transcended the stigma that plagues many of those who suffer from a lack of natural pigmentation.
In 2012 a sequel was provided by Johan Bruwer of Chobe Game Lodge, when he photographed an almost all-white young kudu within a herd of normal-coloured brethren. This calf was seen regularly over a one-week period and then vanished. Was it killed by a predator, or driven from the herd, an outcast because of its different hue? Why did its head and neck appear more grey than white? Was it a throw-back descendant of The Ghost himself? My curiosity has opened a Pandora’s Box of permutations and I am not qualified to pass judgement. Are there any scientific Ghostbusters out there who could provide some answers?
Meanwhile I shall continue to scrutinise my well-preserved friend whenever I visit the Park’s HQ, hoping to find an answer within those deep brown eyes that gaze infinitely into the distance, oblivious of my inquisitive presence.
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