Hypothetical: You are in the middle of nowhere with a group of friends. You accidentally injure a wild animal. The animal doesn’t seem …

Answer by Rory Young:

You should report it to the "appropriate authority" or the police immediately or as soon as reasonably possible.

This especially applies to dangerous game and there are usually laws in most countries requiring that such incidents be reported. Although they vary from country to country the principle is the same.
The "appropriate authority" is  the person or organization that has legal authority over the land where the incident has occurred. It is their responsibility to take any action necessary for the safety of people in the area and to do whatever is necessary for the animal whether that be to humanely euthanize it or bring in a vet to treat it.

If you are not sure who the appropriate authority is then go straight to the police and report it to them.

I will explain what  can go wrong when people don't report such incidents by recounting an incident that occurred on the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe.

In 1997 I was running a canoe safari operation on the Lower Zambezi river. We did over three hundred trips a year of up to ten days. These were unsupported and went through Mana Pools National Park and the adjacent safari areas between Kariba and Kanyemba.

This stretch of the river has a very high concentration hippos and crocodiles. The negotiating of hippo pods is a science and an art and guides are required to do at least 2000 hours paddling on the river before sitting a series of written and practical examinations  and the examiners were ruthless in deciding who was capable conducting these trips.

My own guides were of course licensed but nearly all twelve of them had at least five years experience on the river as licensed guides. They took their jobs and in particular the safety aspect deadly seriously.

I already knew three guides who had been gored by hippos. You can read the account of one of them here: Experience: I was swallowed by a hippo We all knew these guides and what had happened to them and were determined to do everything in our power to avoid any similar accidents.

One day the call I hoped would never receive came in over the radio. It was from Ruckomechi Camp. One of our trips had been attacked and a client was missing.

A married man from New Zealand had been bitten by a hippo, dragged under and not seen again.

Ruckomechi Camp belonged to our organization and they were ten minutes from the site so they raced there. They found the clients safely sitting under a tree on the river bank. The guide Chris, was diving in the crocodile and hippo infested river trying to find the poor man.

Government teams tried for three days to find the body but nothing was ever found. The hippo had literally bitten him in the midsection, completely enveloping him its jaws. We knew that there was no hope. The government called of the search but we carried on for several more days in the hope of finding remains for the family.

The man was married with children and had gone on a dream adventure holiday on his own as his wife was not comfortable with the idea of paddling the Zambezi and the kids were too young.

I went through every detail of what happened with the guide and the clients. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and the police did the same. We all reached the same conclusions.

The group had come across the lone male hippo which had been in deep water. They guide decided quite correctly to move to the shallow water. This is the correct course of action as hippos will take refuge in deep water by moving away from shallow water.

The other means of retreat for a hippo is to exit the river. Therefore the guide had also taken this into account. The steep bank was next to the shallows and there was a low bank with signs of regular exit and entry by hippos on the other bank of the side channel. This meant there was absolutely no uncertainty as to where they should go.

The hippo would naturally want to go into the deep water but if it was still feeling scared could move out of the water on the far side of the deep.

As they moved along the steep bank in the shallow water they were a relatively long way from the hippo relative to many regular such passes.

To give you an idea in the Chifungulu channel on the Zambian side it was quite normal to pass a pod of several dozen hippos only fifteen metres from them and they would usually exist the water. This was a much easier and less threatening scenario and the guide was not in the least bit concerned.

As the came level with the hippo, they were in single file with the guide in the leading canoe. This was all correct. The guide could in this way easily direct the canoes and if there was any incident he only had to stop and the 5kph current would bring the group to him.

They all passed and then as the last canoe came abreast of the hippo it torpedoed across the deep water from close to the opposite bank into the shallow water (only a couple of feet deep) and then ran up to the canoe and bit it in half.

Safety briefings took place the day before the trip and on the morning of departure. Once on the river these safety procedures were further drummed into the clients.

The two people were thrown from the canoe as the hippo attacked and landed in the water. They immediately did what they had been instructed in case of such an incident, which was to keep the canoe between them and the hippo and move away. The did exactly that. As they were moving away, the hippo came around the canoe and after them.

It grabbed the man in its jaws and went back into the deep water with him.

Our conclusion after investigating carefully was that this hippo had broken every rule in the book. Therefore we suspected there was something wrong with the hippo.

National Parks and wildlife shot the animal and discovered deep wounds on its back. However, before that even happened we were informed by safari company in Zambia that they had been told that a boat carrying clients from a lodge had hit a hippo at that location shortly before the time of the attack.

The guide confirmed that shortly before the attack a speed boat had passed them.

If the boat had reported the incident to the canoe trip that was heading to the location where the hippo had been hit or if they had immediately made a report over the radio then in all likelihood the man would never have died. However, they made no attempt to report it to anybody.

The Zambezi is the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. At the time Zimbabwe had very strict and thorough laws relating to wildlife and safaris whilst Zambia had very basic ones and nothing requiring the reporting of injured dangerous game.

Therefore no charges could be brought against the boat driver or company that he worked for.

When I explained all this to my boss in Harare he instructed me to fire the guide, Chris Dzidzai.

I was stunned and explained that Chris had done everything correctly and had even risked his life in the water. Furthermore, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife and the Professional Hunters and Guides Association both commended him for his actions.

I refused and resigned my position shortly afterwards. I still feel like thumping my old boss.

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