Of Creatures Great & Small
Updated: Apr 28
There are beasts large and small that walk the Kalahari Desert. The large are generally seen regularly and are known by most, but in local folklore it is often the small creatures that play significant roles. There is a story about a duiker, one of the smallest antelope found in Africa. The tale places this antelope amongst the most noble in African tradition. The duiker is found throughout the Kalahari. Its close cousin the Steenbok carries the same rank of nobility in Botswana and is generally seen more regularly. The story goes like this;
One day the great army of Chief Khama III of the Bamangwato tribe, with hundreds of glistening spears and cowhide shields was turned and defeated by the marauding warriors of the Matabele. As his forces were routed Chief Khama was forced to flee in the hope of one day again reuniting his people.
After days of running without stop, under the scorching sun, through bush and sand and always with the shrieks of the pursuing Matabele warriors growing louder, the chief could run no more. He hit the ground and crawled into a dense thicket of acacia, the thorns tearing gashes in his skin. He huddled there, shivering in the heat with sweat and blood blurring his vision. He became aware that he was not the only hideaway in the acacia thicket, his eyes locked with those of a little Duiker, not two meters from him. Chief and antelope stared at each other as time froze.
Khama was very aware that if the small creature bolted from cover, it would alert the chasing warriors and give away his position. He exhaled gently as he realized he was sharing a moment of understanding with the little Duiker, its large innocent eyes and button nose seemed to communicate with him, to reassure him. Then a footstep nearby, followed by hushed voices as the excited warriors searched and probed the bush around him. A foot appeared in a gap near his face as the owner craned to look into the dense thorns Khama was hiding in. He looked back at the Duiker, realizing his time was up. Suddenly, the small animal darted from its refuge next to the king, it ran straight past the startled warrior and into the open where one of the Matabele hit it with a spear. Ending its life in a flurry of dust and legs.
Chief Khama had not moved a muscle. He heard the shout of the closest warrior to his companions, claiming that no Duiker would allow a man into its refuge without fleeing. So their quarry cant be hiding here, they must move on and keep looking. The voices faded into the bush as they continued searching and a very grateful king emerged on bloodied knees from his hiding place. The legend of the Duiker that saved the chief was spread far and wide and great reverence was bestowed upon the brave little beast. The Duiker become the totem animal of the Bamangwato tribe and the small, shy creature found itself lifted into the legend of folklore where it has remained ever since.
Daniel Crous has been lucky enough to call Botswana home for his entire life. His folks ran safari camps in the 80's and his early childhood was spent in the heart of the Okavango Delta. Life outdoors has always been his calling, safaris in Botswana are one of the purest forms of such a life. His Dad handed him his old film camera when he was about 12, documenting the wilderness around him has grown from passion to profession. He is equally passionate about the conservation of the land we live in and all of its creatures, including its people. He now takes extreme pleasure in leading others to some of the incredible experiences available here.