The Steenbok That Got Away
By Awake! correspondent in South Africa
BY INSTINCT the steenbok, a small African antelope, sets a wonderful example in hygiene. “A characteristic of steenbok,” explains Professor John Skinner in the book South African Animals in the Wild, “is that before they defecate or urinate, they first clear a spot with their front hooves and then, afterwards, carefully cover the contents by scraping soil over the spot.” Yes, this little creature goes beyond the law given to Israelite soldiers. (Deuteronomy 5:1; 23:13, 14) It even covers its urine.
The steenbok’s fastidious toilet habits match its graceful looks. “For me the steenbuck has always been one of the loveliest and most lovable of African buck,” wrote Laurens van der Post. In his book The Heart of the Hunter, van der Post describes how he tried to shoot a steenbok for a party of famished Bushmen in Africa’s Kalahari Desert. “His delicate ears,” wrote the explorer, “were pointed in my direction, his great purple eyes wide open, utterly without fear and shining only with the wonder of seeing so strange a sight at this remote back door of life. . . . I shot quickly before he should get alarmed or the sight of his gentle being weaken me. I would not have thought it possible I could miss at so short a distance. Yet I did. My shot merely made the little buck shake his delicate head vigorously to rid his ears of the tingle of the shock of the explosion from my heavy gun.”
After several more shots, the little fellow decided that human company was dangerous and fled. Though deprived of a needed meal, the hungry Bushmen companions of van der Post were delighted. Why? Bushmen have high regard for the steenbok’s ways, and this one lived up to their expectations. “Throughout the long hot day,” adds van der Post, “my mind returned to the vision of that gentle little buck standing untroubled amid blast after blast from my gun.”