African Wild Cats by Ellie Liota
When we collected our camera trap from Collin Springs for the last time, Bekah came across the dried up and very dead carcass of some creature behind a bush. Vehi insisted that it was a bat-eared fox, though the dead thing had cat written all over its face. The poor animal was curled and flattened into a spiral of dried up, furry body parts, and whether it had just sunk into the ground after roasting in the sun for days or had been trampled by something, we weren’t sure. We studied it for a while, respectively poking it with a stick, until we decided to move on.
We skimmed through the millions of photos the trap took which, aside from zebra, oryx, kudu and springbok, included a black rhino who made it his business to rub all up on our camera, and a fantastic picture of a brown hyena.
As we neared the end of the film, a picture came up that made us stop. In silence, we studied the image before us: a little African wild cat sitting before the spring, staring intently into the bushes in front of it. It looked as though it was pondering something.
I looked at the date, marked two weeks before, and I had the obvious realization that this cat right here was the very one we had found dead that day. That warm little thing sitting upright and proper was now laying motionless, dried up in the dirt, its bones appearing through the shedding fur that dropped from its body. The desert of Namibia is filled with so many bones, and so many carcasses of animals, but this was the first time I had seen a live creature before it died. Surely, there was a sad twinge in my heart for this little cat, but I was also fascinated. I wondered what it was thinking of while he was sitting there in his last moments. How long did he sit there until he moved to his final resting place? I don’t know why, but the image of the cat sitting there so peacefully didn’t leave my mind for days. And it made me think about the prospect of life.
In this place, the songs of chirping birds bring with them the morning. The sun glaring right above our heads in the afternoon urges the bees and flies to buzz and gather up food for the day. As the sun sets, shadows stretch the landscape and the motion of life slows down. The shining stars beckon the reflective gleaming eyes of creatures that howl and roar and stomp throughout the night.
Everything is alive- even the things that are not. Even the wind that brings with it the dust that coats our tables, shelves and chairs. Even the footprints we find etched into the ground, the empty shells of beetles or the berries that have dropped from the trees around us has a story. Even the bones of that little cat sitting by the spring. And here we are, just as much a part of all of this life. Namibia is so alive. And we all have it in our bones.