One evening, I stayed at the staff lodgings of a sport hunting camp. The camp was by a river, with the northern Cameroon savannah lying before it. This is where wild animals such as lions and elephants are hunted for sport and recreation. Some people from the village I am researching are employed as porters at the camp, so they both live and work there. I was visiting the camp to observe them at work. That evening, they shared their kob (a species of antelope) soup with me, and we slept side by side in lodgings made of straw and earth.
It was before dawn, but I suddenly found myself awake, probably because it was a little cold. A little while after waking up, I heard a deep, low and resonating sound: “Roar… Roar…” It appeared to originate from somewhere nearby and was the sound of a lion, the “King of the Beasts.” As I walked the premises with a camp employee the next morning, we came across some large footprints in the sandy soil – left by the source of those roars. There were two sets of footprints, that of a parent and a child. They appeared to have been after the chickens being raised at the camp, and there were footprints encircling the chicken shed. They seemed to have eventually given up on the sturdy shed, however, and retreated to the bush.
I left the camp around noon and returned to the village about 9-km away where I was conducting my research. When I told the villagers about what had happened at dawn, it appeared that they had heard it, too – the roar of the King.
There’s a Somali (eastern African) saying that goes, “Those valiant are surprised by the lion three times – once by their footprints, once by their roar, and once when they confront each other.” I hope that third time doesn’t come.