Days On The Savannah


Life as a forest ranger was challenging, stretching one to the limits. But Louie had a deep calling to be one with nature, in the midst of the Savannah driving for miles in the vast grassland trying to spot injured animals, or worse still, be on the lookout for poachers. He had to be vigilant every step of the way, and watch his back at all times.

Armed with a rifle and his most prized possession, a camera, to capture wildlife, he set off every morning. It was a taxing profession when he had to work night shifts on some days.

Of late, there had been a spate of killings for ivory and rhino horns. This distressed Louie to the point of breakdown. He felt incompetent at his job as he couldn’t save those innocent lives. He didn’t know where the next target would be and when. Something had to be done to bring the culprits to justice.

He drove down to the tribal village upon suggestion of Jabari, a team member and met with the chieftain. They had long meetings on how to curb these illegal activities. After consulting the village elders and asking a few people around, they couldn’t find any source who could point out to that one errant tourist.

This was going to be more difficult than he had thought. Jabari looked lost and defeated too but invited him home for lunch. The sun was high and the day was scorching. Louie had much respite upon entering the thatched hut. Jabari’s ten-year-old son Zuri took a fancy to the camera and Louie gladly gave it to him, after teaching him how to click pictures. With a wide grin, Zuri took it outside to click pictures of roosters and quails.

When it was time to leave, he showed Louie all the pictures. Something caught Louie’s attention in the background of one of the pictures. A group of tourists exchanging duffel bags and shaking hands with a shady looking man. It had to be an illegal deal happening not far from here. He could catch them red handed if he was quick enough.

Jabari brought out the jeep in a trice and Louie hopped, his mind racing. An enraged crowd from the village followed them closely. They finally caught sight of the group. Meanwhile, Louie had alerted the team on his radio and a team of forest officials was on standby.

They rounded up the tourists and their guide, recovering arms and weapons. Handcuffed and restrained, they were soon taken away. Zuri’s playful clicking had inadvertently captured the criminals. It was a godsent moment.

As the sun set in the horizon and painted the skies a fiery flame, Louie gazed heavenwards and offered a silent prayer of gratitude.

Sangeetha Kamath