If you visit the bush often you are bound to return with interesting stories. One of my stories: the time a wild animal got stuck under my car in the Camdeboo National Park in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. This story is also an excellent example of why you need to check underneath your car in the heat of summer. Wildlife loves shade, especially when the temperatures rise.
I was a journalist for the SANParks Times back then and visited the park for work. My day was filled with appointments, but I had a few hours free before my afternoon meetings. Instead of heading to my accommodation, I found a quiet spot in the park to sit down and catch up on my emails. I chose the Kwelimanzi bird hide as I could sit and work, and keep an eye on the birds and wildlife at the same time.
After almost an hour at the hide, I decided to head out for a quick lunch. The town of Graaff-Reinet is literally a short drive from the park’s entry gate as Camdeboo National Park surrounds the town. It was the heat of the day and extremely warm, a proper Karoo summer’s day. As I walked to the car, I noticed a strange shape under the vehicle. I immediately started wondering what it might be. It was the bush after all, and one never knows whether this animal would feel threatened with my sudden appearance. It could be one of many things. My mind quickly ran through the most dangerous animals in the park, of which there were not too many luckily. Carnivores in the park included caracal, African wild cat, bat-eared fox, and black-backed jackal to name just a few. I walked very slowly not to scare the creature.
I got closer and noticed the shape of a tortoise. Luckily there was no chance of a predator with long teeth attacking me due to surprise. I noticed that the tortoise could not get out from underneath the car – it was stuck. The tortoise got trapped at the section where the exhaust pipe was lower, completely wedged into the spot. I lied down on my stomach and tried pulling it out, but it would not move at all. It was wet underneath its eyes, almost as if it was crying. The tortoise was probably completely stressed because of the situation.
There were one of two options. The first option would have been to call the reception office and ask for help, but then I would still have to wait for someone to arrive. The second choice would be to use the jack to raise the vehicle and remove the tortoise. I chose the second option. The car’s instruction manual showed me exactly where the jack had to go. After some sweating in the scorching sun, the tortoise made its way back into the bush. This experience is definitely not unusual and the same can happen to you.
How to avoid this situation
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to prevent wildlife from finding the shade created by your vehicle attractive. When you visit places in the heat of summer, always check the bottom of your car before driving off. Tortoises especially love seeking shade under vehicles. I was lucky as I saw the tortoise from a distance, but imagine if I just drove off with the tortoise stuck under my car. I am not sure what type of damage it could have caused. In places like the Kalahari, lions will often find comfort from the heat by lying down under picnic tables, or even next to your tent.
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Let us know in the comment section.
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