It Could Only Happen In Africa

Beryl Trebble

© Copyright 2023 by Beryl Trebble

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I love animal stories and the stranger the better, especially if they are related to people I know, and of course having lived in Africa, most of them have a twist in the “tail.”

My son went to pick up a girl on their first date. He was a little daunted by the luxurious grounds and the big mansion at the end of the driveway. Two huge pillars were on either side of the steps leading to the impressive front door and circling the pillars were very large concrete flowerpots filled with exotic flowers and foliage. As he walked up the steps, he heard a noise and turned to see an enormous Warthog come bounding round the side of the house and heading straight for him. Now Warthogs are not animals to mess with so from a standing start my son leapt onto one of the flowerpots and clung to the pillar. At that moment the door opened, and to my son’s humiliation, the girl’s father appeared. He burst out laughing and told my mortified son it was quite safe to come down. He gingerly did so and the Hog moved in to make friends. From then on whenever my son visited they had a great time chasing each other round the grounds. The Warthog’s name was Oitjie (Onions?) and had been rescued as a very young animal. He was now fully grown, and a well loved, very large and delightfully ugly part of the family. He did have a problem though. He was epileptic and had to have daily medication and could never be released back into the wild. He loved going in the car and would sit with his head hanging out of the window which caused much consternation to the passers-by, especially in the supermarket car park.

The next tale also involves a porker. My grandson’s girlfriend had a so-called “miniature” pig that had grown into an enormous sow called Matilda. Intruders never bothered the household as she was an intimidating beast when she rushed to the gate grunting ferociously like a watch dog. She was welcome to go in and out of the house and was very gentle and loving to the cat, dog and ducks and chickens but she did damage the garden with her rooting about. My grandson taught her to roll over on her back and she would lie there with much grunting, eyes closed and a smile on her face for as long as he scratched her stomach.

Time for a touch of monkey business in Capetown. My daughter went to the beach to pick up her husband who had been surfing. She had made and lavishly iced a cake for her mother-in-law’s birthday and had it safely on the floor of her open topped car. Suddenly a huge baboon leaped onto the seat beside her, picked up the cake put it on his lap and started to eat it. Terrified, she screamed and leaped out of the car almost as quick as he had got in. When the surfers came to see what the commotion was about the baboon calmly held onto the plate, jumped out of the car and headed into the nearby bushes.

My daughter is an interior decorator and had another surreal happening when she was refurbishing a judge’s office situated on the third floor of an office block. On the day the very large and expensive furniture arrived they realized it would not fit in the lift, nor could they get it up the twisted staircase. The only alternative was to haul it up on the outside of the building. This meant they had to first get it over the wall of a locked enclosed courtyard. After this anxious moment the Cape Coloured gentleman in charge assured her the rest would go well. With her heart in her mouth, she watched from upstairs as the three men beside her prepared to start hauling and saw the main man below also being pulled up as he hung onto the furniture to stop it banging into the wall. She had visions of the men being overcome by the heavy furniture together with the added weight of the man and either letting go or being pulled through the window to the ground below. It didn’t bear thinking about. The man had risen about ten feet off the ground when suddenly the enclosure gate flew open and two fully grown lions bounded into the yard. Oh boy! She realized she was not insured for such an occurrence. The terrified man dangling below yelled for them to pull harder and they soon had him out of the lions’ reach. My daughter was dying a thousand deaths. The man now seemed totally unconcerned about the lions prowling below as they inched him up the side of the building. It seemed to take ages to get him to the window and safety. Apparently, a film crew were going to do an advertising photo shoot with the lions and had no idea there was a dangling man in the yard when they released the animals into the enclosure. All ended well and the furniture was not damaged or scratched and the judge – blissfully unaware of the exciting events – was delighted with his new office.

My next little story has a happy/sad note. I lived in a very remote part of Kenya and had to go 2OO miles to Nairobi give birth to my daughter. While I was away one of our tractor drivers was sent on a mission through the dense forest and up a rocky track to a place called Equator. A fully grown leopard jumped out of the bush and fell in front of him. Quick as a flash the driver pulled out a spanner and killed it. Bringing it back to the estate he salted the skin and pegged it out to dry. Now here is the twist in the tale. Instead of removing a small bush he twisted its tail around it and it dried with a kink. So from henceforth it was known as a Siamese Leopard. On my return from hospital I felt very honoured when he presented it to me and my baby girl. I had this very large and handsome skin on my lounge floor for years. Unfortunately, when we sailed for South Africa, our luggage was damaged by sea water and the leopard’s fur fell out. Sadly, because the skin had been home cured, the Insurance Company would not buy me another one and so a little bit of history was lost.

Another leopard story but with money at the end of the day. We had a policeman friend living in Songhor, a very hot dry area at the bottom of the Nandi Hills. He was asked if he could kill a leopard that had been taking goats from the local farmers. After many frustrating months he shot it. It was a magnificent young animal with a beautiful coat. He took the pelt to Nairobi to be cured and then on to one of the many leather workers who turned the skin, with added leather, into many, very delicate belts. The design was economical with the fur so he had dozens of belts to sell in the curio shops in Nairobi and I had one for years – until I grew out of it!

One day this same policeman friend rounded a bend in the road to come across a very fat python stretched from one side to the other with both ends hidden in the grass. He was going too fast to put brakes on and avoid running over the slow moving serpent.
With a bump- bump, bump- bump he went over it. The poor thing was not dead and he took out his revolver and finished off, Once again the skin was cured in Nairobi and the leather man was given another lucrative job of turning python skin and leather into many, many, fashionable belts - and our friend made a small fortune selling them in the tourist shops in Nairobi. With hindsight I should have kept both of mine for my daughters and their willowy figures as something like that never goes out of fashion.


I write for my great grandchildren but would like to see my stories either published or printed for posterity.  I am 85, lived the last 20 years in England but prior to that left UK when I was 2 and lived in Kenya and South Africa all my life.

I married young and became a tea planters wife in a totally remote and uncivilized part of Kenya.  I lived in a rain forest with 120 inches+ a year and access was almost non-existent as roads were mere tracks and full of mud.  When I was pregnant the doctor was miles/hours away in Nairobi and I had only  4 neighbours and they were all super eccentric and all over 75.  This period was during the Mau Mau and it was a harrowing time being so isolated.

I have always been creative and even now I make and sell hand painted cards.

Wildlife has always been part  of my background – but I have one regret – despite many visits to game reserves I have never seen a live leopard in the wild.  I have heard them, seen pug marks and even stood beneath a kill hauled into tree.  I have friends with amazing stories and even my great grandson at the tender age of 7 has seen more than he can count  - plus he has seen a kill, cubs  playing , and really close encounters every time they go to the many Reserves in South Africa which he loves. I was seconds away from a kill close to our accommodation the last time I went to a reserve but a miss is as good as a mile..... and l am now past such adventures sadly.

I would dearly love to feel at least one of my stories (and I have many and varied) won a small recognition and made my family proud that I am still doing something productive!

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