Stories and Traveltips

ID #5144

Impala at PMC, Phalaborwa, Lowveld, Limpopo Province, South Africa.

In the mid-80’s I worked at Fedmis Phalaborwa, a fertilizer factory. A game fence had been erected between the golf course and Phalaborwa Mining Company (PMC), a giant copper mine on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park. To prevent game from passing through the fence, it was almost 8 feet high and barbless wire strands were tightly strung approximately 6 inches apart from top to bottom. An access road had been built adjacent to the fence. 

At the time, I owned a pair of Border Collies, Bolty and Nutty. Full of energy, they were frustrated by life in our small garden. To relieve their frustration, I searched for a suitable place to give them some exercise. Eventually I discovered the boundary fence. I would command them to jump into the boot of my car, drive them to the start of the fence and then allow them to run along the fence while I followed behind. Because of their athleticism, we generally drove at a speed of about 40 km per hour.

This arrangement worked well for several months. The dogs would run along the length of the fence and back again, by which time they were tired. I would then drive them back home for a rest after a drink of water. Occasionally we would spot various types of game near the fence, such as buffalo, impala and mongoose but the collies paid them no notice.

On one occasion, a small herd of impala was on the road adjacent to the fence. When they saw us coming they slowly cantered down the road ahead us. I imagine they thought we were trying to catch them and so stayed well in front of the car and the dogs. Even at 40 km per hour they were just cantering along and had no difficulty in keeping ahead of us.

Suddenly something unexpected happened. One of the impala sprang, horns and head first towards the fence like an Olympic high jumper doing a Fosbury Flop. It placed its horns between the strands, and, quick as a wink, opened the strands and passed sideways through the fence. At first I did not believe my eyes. Then a second did the same thing. Then a third and a fourth. There is no doubt that they could easily have jumped over the fence. But they seemed to prefer the challenge of going through the fence instead.  Had I not personally witnessed this feat I would have said that the fence was impenetrable to all types of large mammals with the possible exception of elephant.

Alan McIver

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Last update: 2014-05-14 14:07
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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