Rango, like any other animated, or at least an animated film that reaches the big screen, the hero eventually conquers all, and gets the girl… Not this time.
Watching a “Kill” in person has always been an attraction for tourists to visit areas where the big game roam. Countless programs that sensationalize the hunt, the gore, and the drama. A program of this nature may feature a mere two minute scene of lions bringing down an unsuspecting zebra, or a cheetah tripping up an Impala. Little does the viewer realise that the scene put together is often from hundreds of hours of recording, weeks spent waiting, and often is a collage of pieces of unsuccessful hunts pieced together to create the breathtaking drama.
In reality, this is rarely the case… but such drama can occur.
This story is perhaps the more enthralling version of the famous “Battle for Kruger”.
Travelling between Pretoriuskop and Skukuza on a mild mid morning, Dominique noted a peculiar violent green creature bouncing back and forth on the road. As we approached it was revealed to be a chameleon, and a big one at that. On closer inspection I noted that he appeared to be bleeding from his belly and was clearly distressed.
Movement on the left of the road alerted us to the presence of the assassin; a very large boomslang (tree snake). The battle that was about to occur in front of us would be one of epic proportions worthy of Brave Heart.
The snake glided out of the grass and onto the road where it circled the chameleon. The chameleon swiveled to follow the snake’s large soulless eyes. The snake continued to circle, moving in closer and withdrawing again, toying with the already dying victim.
Boomslangs have hemotoxic venom, this prevents the bite victim’s blood from clotting. The snake is not renowned for biting people as its fangs are in the back of its mouth. The venom is relatively slow acting and victims may die from blood loss rather than the venom itself. This explains the blood on the chameleon, and why it was still standing after being bitten. It also explains the hunting method imposed by the snake as we watched.
The chameleon lunged at the snake with all its might, only to fall pitifully short. The act of desperation impressive for a brief moment, fell flat as the snake gently slid aside. The chameleon puffed himself up, hissed at the snake, and launched a second attack, a third attack, and an all out fourth lunge for its green enemy… all of which were simply thwarted by the snakes agility.
The tension had risen to unbearable levels in the car as we were both aware that now it was the snakes turn. Our hearts really reached out to the chameleon. We didn’t want to watch, but we had to. Two relatively small animals in a massive national park were engaged for the ultimate battle for survival, one hadn’t quite yet won, and for the other it was over.
Watching something like this can often lead to moments of introspection. In life all of us have fought a challenge that was imperative to our survival or perceived survival. We have all stood up to fight something that had taken us by surprise. We have fought tooth and nail, giving everything we had only to be completely demolished. Unlike the movies where good always triumphs, life can deal a deathly blow.
The snake struck with lightning speed just as the chameleon completed its assault. The snake pegged the chameleon to the tar around its soft belly. The bush fell into a deep silence, the chameleon let out a shriek, Dom a shriek, and I a gasp of horror. Our hearts sank. The snake let go and retreated slightly. The chameleon lay motionless, and then puffed itself up, stood up and faced the snake head on. It launched a whole-hearted assault. The snake and us shocked by the reaction retreated backwards.
The snake just slyly moved aside and began its circle of death once again. The chameleon clearly showing signs of slowing scraped its feet along the tar and heaved itself at the snake again only to land on its chin as the snake circled. Again and again the chameleon hissed and lunged, and again and again the snake effortlessly dodged the attack.
The snake hit again! Pressing the chameleon sideways on its belly along the tar as it released yet again more shrieks of terror.
By now I think Dom and I both had tears rolling down our cheeks at the sight, but we had to stay, we had to see what happened.
The snake struck again, and again, and again…
The chameleon, nothing.
Then, as before, puffed up and stood to face the serpent.
The snake hit a deathly blow to the throat of the chameleon, this time it didn’t let go. The chameleon thrashed about, but the snake remained resolute. It lifted the chameleon into the air by its throat and carried into the grass.
The chameleon had not yet given up, it thrashed and clawed at the snake. The snake released its grip and the chameleon dropped. The two engaged in yet another epic battle in the grass with the chameleon launching at the snake, and the snake landing its repeated strikes with increasing impatience. The chameleon fought its way back to the road to make its final stand. The snake whipped around our little hero, reared itself up in the air, and landed a forceful blow to the spine of the chameleon. Dragging it back to the grass the poison clearly reaching its purpose.
The snake let go, went up the nearest tree, and watched… The chameleon’s breath was shallow, and slowing. The snake waited. Rango made his final attempt, a desperate and futile one of climbing up a few shoots of grass, perhaps to see a view of the park one last time.
The battle was over, the snake came down and slowly slithered up to the chameleon, moved in behind him, flicking its forked tongue on the deceased.
The snake extended its jaw, grabbed the chameleon, and elevated back up the tree, the victor.