Yet that’s exactly what hubby decided to do at Halali camp in Etosha National Park.
Ratels regularly come into the camp at night to see what food they can scavenge from the bins. It’s a common problem in parks all over the world; animals see the garbage humans generate as easy pickings so they become lazy, returning again and again.
That night, this particular ratel must have liked the smell of our bin. The first hint of trouble was a loud crash as he knocked it over and spilled its contents onto the ground. With his stocky build and short legs, this made everything easier to get at. Now, instead of digging up mice, scorpions, spiders, lizards and snakes, or even grubs and bee larvae, which are his normal diet, he was combing through our wilted lettuce and butternut peelings.
Ratels are expert diggers that can burrow themselves into sandy ground in about two minutes. They’re rare through most of their range, so it was a privilege to see one under any circumstances.
But for me, seeing them in the wild without the human influence of garbage is first prize, so I was thrilled to come across another near Namutoni camp a few days later.
It was late afternoon, about half an hour before the sun set. It was trotting pigeon-toed down the road, its body appearing loose inside its skin, nothing to fear. We followed it at a discreet distance for about 500 metres as it sniffed every game trail that strayed from the road into the bush.
Eventually the ratel found a trail it felt like following in search of food and veered off at a brisk, no-nonsense trot, soon disappearing from sight among the long grass.
Now that’s what ratels should be doing.
Question: Have you ever had an encounter with a wild animal inside a game park camp? Share your experience in the comments below.
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