Two sun-kissed friends

Two sun-kissed friends

He reached out for a juicy bunch of leaves with his long neck.  Usually, the thorns of the acacia tree proved no problem but this time a cleverly concealed thorn got stuck in the roof of his mouth.

 “Ouch”, he cried as he tried to push it out with his long tongue but it was firmly lodged.   How it hurt!  “What’s the matter?” asked a timid, squeaky voice.  Jabbar looked down to see a strange looking monkey squatting in the shade of the tree.  “Who are you?” asked Jabbar. “You don’t belong to this part of the world!”

 “I am Chiko the Chimpanzee.  I come from the mountains far away.  Some wicked men had captured me and were driving me across the country in their ramshackle van.  They drove over some rough, bumpy, terrain and the back door of the van burst open.  I took the opportunity and jumped out, without them realizing that I had escaped.”

 “Can you help remove the thorn from my mouth?” asked Jabbar.  “Sure”, said Chiko, “If you promise not to bite my hand”.  “Don’t be silly! I’m vegetarian” replied Jabbar.  He bent his neck real low and Chiko managed to pull out the stubborn thorn.

 “Oh no!” he cried, “It looks like your tongue has been poisoned – it looks bluish-black.”  “No my friend”, laughed Jabbar, “My tongue is always that color.  Since you are far from home, I will teach you the ways of my world; for now you must make this your home. 

Beware of the lions and crocodiles!  They are my worst enemies and tend to attack when I’m drinking at the watering holes. Although, one powerful kick of mine can kill even a lion.  Stick with me and I will try and protect you.”

 From that day on Chiko and Jabbar became the best of friends.  They went foraging together.  Often Chiko would jump off a tree and slide down Jabbar’s long graceful neck onto his back and thus they would roam the savannah.  If Chiko felt lazy to climb a tree Jabbar would reach up with his long neck and get Chiko the berry or nut he desired.

In return, Chiko would spend hours grooming Jabbar, removing mites and insects that bit him. When they drank at the watering holes each one would look out for crocodiles or other dangerous predators. Once during a period of drought, they came across a small puddle.  Jabbar said, “You drink Chiko or you’ll get dehydrated.  I can go; without water like a camel for almost a month, that’s why I was called Camel leopard at first by man. 

The leopard part must be because my coloring and spots resemble that of a leopard.”
 Many seasons passed.  In the rainy season the Savannah would turn into a carpet of lush green grass.  The other animals had grown to accept and respect the strange friendship between the giraffe and chimpanzee.

 One day, when they were all drinking at a large water hole, the birds sounded the alarm.  A gun shot rang out and the animals ran helter-skelter.  Herds of wildebeest and zebra took off in different directions as did the springbok and antelope.  The plains resounded with the pounding of galloping hooves.

 Jabbar and Chiko saw a hunter with his rifle raised coming towards them in a jeep.  Chiko hung onto Jabbar’s tail and quickly swung onto his back as they galloped towards the safety of the trees which were quite a distance away.  They were exposed on the open plain.  “Quick Bwana, shoot”, cried the driver.

 When the hunter saw the strange sight of the chimpanzee riding like a jockey on the giraffe’s back he couldn’t believe his eyes. 

He lowered his gun and took out his video camera and shot with that instead, saying, “This is something the world has to see”.  He filmed them till they reached the wooded clump of trees and were out of sight.  Jabbar ducked as low as he could. 

At last, they were safe.  They heaved a sigh of relief. This scene had a strange effect on the hunter - like the battle of Kalinga had on King Ashoka who gave up war.  His passion for wildlife continued; no longer as a hunter but as a wildlife photographer and conservationist.

Little did Jabbar and Chiko realize that the strange bond of friendship they had forged would have such an effect on the hunter. 

He had a complete change of heart and turned from foe to friend.  He became a famous photographer and found it far more rewarding to shoot animals with a camera than a gun.  His most prized picture remained that of Jabbar and Chiko.

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