Our Life In The First World: Part Two

The following is a true story.

I bought a bicycle.

I live in the Netherlands now, and “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, so I bought a bicycle.

I didn’t just buy any rusty old tingalingaling thing, I bought a mountain bike. Yes! I need to stay fit and strong because in the real world I’m an anti poaching ranger! I can’t let myself get all flabby and anaemic looking like some of the apparitions I have seen lurking around this place. I need to remain lean, agile, ready for action! I must buy a mountain bike ride it far, hard and fast, up and down as many dunes and dykes as possible. Through forests! Over streams! Through Amsterdam! (Well maybe not through Amsterdam, I’m not suicidal)

So, I was determined to put all my effort into getting from A to B as quickly as possible, on my basikoro, dressed to blend in with the natives, and determined to show them how a real man from Africa rides his bicycle. I really was sure that every self respecting bush cyclist back home would be suitably impressed with my efforts. I mean I’m not carrying double beds or entire banana plantations on the back like they like to do, but I have a good frown on my face, I go like dammit and I make sure I sweat like I would on a hot day in the Zambezi Valley.

And then despite all this effort, cost and psyching up, my whole dream soured and blackened into a sad and depressing nightmare. My vision was shredded by a cruel happening.

An old grey-haired man on what looked like a girl’s bike overtook me.
I drew on my reserves, pulling my spirit back from the great abyss and recovering from my shock. I would not let such a disaster happen to me. I changed gear, leaned forward, gritted my teeth, narrowed my eyes and went for broke…

I pedalled like the devil himself was on my tail. I tried harder and harder, peddling faster and faster, putting every last bead of sweat into catching him, my thighs aching with excruciating pain, the blood pounding in my ears, my breathing loud with the terrible effort I made. And still he moved further and further away.

I failed. I had let myself down. I let down the reputation of all African rangers with my pathetic performance. It was tragic. The old man slowly disappeared into the distance, sitting smartly upright, back perfectly straight, clearly putting in no effort whatsoever. And then to totally destroy whatever little pride I had left, I smelt the smoke from his pipe wafting in the air around me. He had been achieving this tremendous speed on a girl’s bike whilst smoking a pipe and expending no effort whatsoever.

I didn’t tell my wife. I didn’t share it with my children either. No one. It was to much.I kept this worrying secret to myself and instead lay awake at night wondering what had happened to me. How had I lost all strength in such a short time? How had I allowed these lanky, blonde-haired town-dwellers who live on cheese to sap my strength and destroy my self esteem. They had somehow shown how wrong my certain pride in myself and my kind had always been…

I could not give up. I would not give up. I reassured myself that my muscles had just not done such work for many years and I had probably not organized my equipment properly. I would return!

I raised my saddle, readjusted its angle and raised my handle bars too. Oil onto the chain, better clothes with more room for my legs to achieve a better range of movement, a high energy, low volume meal, and I set off once more. I would be fearless. I would give my all. I kissed my wife and my children goodbye, ignored their puzzled expressions and went once more unto the breach!
My pace was good. Humming a powerful martial tune helped as I was sure it would.

I passed a couple of teenagers with school bags, neatly zipping close by, my incredible speed apparent from the wind created by my passing. It was thrilling. I was back and I meant business…
I passed a group of pre-schoolers with teacher. They didn’t stand a chance. The power was mine!

I looked ahead for a worthy opponent. Maybe another man on a mountain bike or even someone on a racing bike, dressed in tight-fitting clothes. I would have my revenge and restore my honour!

And then it happened.

The sweet-looking, grey-haired old lady overtook me, flying past at a speed that I knew immediately I could never hope to match.

I was a broken man. Far from home. No pride. No more self respect…

I dismounted sadly and pushed my beautiful, shiny machine towards my destination, wondering what would become of me, a man with no more self respect, no strength, a man who could not even keep up with old women.

I pushed my bike into the line and squeezed it into the rack, realizing as I did so that the bike next to it was just like the one the elderly dear had been riding. I was amazed. It was massive. I mean massively made, an exceptionally heavily built frame and large chain and hubs. Strange, large hubs. A strange metal box under the carrier…

A battery!

Sweet mercies!

How important is it to save the world’s elephants?

Would you suffocate and starve your own children or let them be murdered?

That is exactly what you and I are doing by letting elephants and other “keystone” species race towards extinction.

I can certainly understand that many people wll imagine that I am exaggerating as this catastrophe is belived by pretty much everyone to be very distant.  I am not exaggerating at all and I will explain…

We need to stop this insanity now for the sake of our children and our children’s children. (Photo: Rory Young)

African, Asian and Forest Elephants are all amongst the most important “keystone species”. Their size and power combined with their eating habits mean that they literally shape their environment, “gardening” the forests and other habitats they live in, keeping the entire ecosystems healthy.

Forest elephants at Dzanga Baie in Central African Republic. (Photo: Rory Young)

These ecosystems, from the Congo Basin rain forests and the tropical and sub-tropical woodlands of Africa to the forests of South-East Asia are dependent on elephants “gardening” them.

Rain forests alone directly supply 28% of the world’s oxygen and are a key element in keeping our climate stable. They are only one of the habitats of which a large part are dependent on elephants to keep them healthy. Does anyone really believe our world could survive with a bit less oxygen in our atmosphere? Unfortunately not. Without healthy air we all, humans and animals alike, get sick and we die. Good luck trying to live a healthy life breathing even slightly polluted air.

Elephants are the largest frugivores on earth. Just as insects, bats and birds are critical to pollination, elephants are extremely critical to seed germination and dispersal. They have very poor digestive systems yet eat a huge variety of fruits and cover vast distances. The result is a major proportion of the different tree species having their seeds widely dispersed after being planted in a nice pile of elephant poo.

Other animals and plants are dependent on elephants opening up areas for them to access. I was recently in a park in West Africa where elephants are now extinct. The first thing that struck me was how impenetrable the forest now is. In a healthy forest ecosystem there is a maze of game trails and clearings where other animals and different species can move about, or young plants can gain a foothold…

All of this adds up. When we destroy the pillar of an ecosystem, we create a terrible domino effect.

There are now no elephants in 95% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s forests. The DRC has the bulk of the Congo Basin rain forest. Recent studies have revealed that the African rain forests are now “browning”. No one has the faintest clue how badly that could affect us. However, no one is denying that it is a disaster of giant proportions. No one amongst those who even know about it of course..

We are heading for catastrophe. Add up all of the other areas where elephants are key to a healthy ecosystem and the situation is chilling.

Non-elephant (Photo:Rory Young)

This is not even taken into account when it comes to discussions on the effects on climate of man’s “progress”. We have yet to discover what the results of this disgraceful and stupid failure on the part of Africa, Asia and the international community will be.

It doesn’t stop there. The disaster only begins with climate change. The effect on agriculture and the economies in Africa will be devastating. The Sahara is already moving South, causing starvation and inter-ethnic conflict never before seen on this scale.

People are on the move and every year the numbers living in extreme poverty are rocketing. Those desperate people are prime candidates for recruitment by the number of terrorist and rebel groups proliferating rapidly across the continent. These groups are getting stronger and more popular by the day.

Has everyone forgotten 9/11? Does everyone believe they can contain extremism militarily? I guarantee you that unless we put a stop to the unfolding chaos, it will become, over time, far, far worse than ever before. This really is a global village in every way.

Welcome to the future. (Photo: National Geographic)

These masses of hungry people are also driving the bushmeat trade. The unprecedented Ebola epidemic this year was only one aspect of a dire warning. There were outbreaks in three completely different parts of Africa; West Africa (Guinea etc.), Central Africa (D.R.Congo) and East Africa (Uganda). This is the habitat of elephants. As we are wiping them out and raping their habitat, we are releasing unknown biological weapons on ourselves.

Refugee family fleeing inter-ethnic killing in CAR (Photo: Rory Young)

We are in a total war against ourselves and have not yet realized it. The world’s response has been less than pathetic. We are trying to fix the problem as it was, not as it is, let alone what it could be.

Here is the key to the problem and the solution. We are not separate from or independent of our environment. We are a part of it and are dependent on it being healthy. The elephant’s decline is not just the loss of a beautiful species, it is a reflection of the loss of the elephant’s environment, and if we lose the elephant’s environment, we will lose our environment. We cannot fix the looming sixth extinction just recently prophesied by scientists (USA today article) once it has happened:

The loss and decline of animals around the world — caused by habitat loss and global climate disruption — mean we’re in the midst of a sixth “mass extinction” of life on Earth, according to several studies out Thursday in the journal Science.
One study found that although human population has doubled in the past 35 years, the number of invertebrate animals – such as beetles, butterflies, spiders and worms – has decreased by 45% during that same period.
“We were shocked to find similar losses in invertebrates as with larger animals, as we previously thought invertebrates to be more resilient.” said Ben Collen of the U.K.’s University College London, one of the study authors.
Although big, photogenic species, such as tigers, rhinos and pandas, get the bulk of the attention, researchers say it’s clear that even the disappearance of the tiniest beetle can significantly change the various ecosystems on which humans depend.
“We tend to think about extinction as loss of a species from the face of Earth, and that’s very important, but there’s a loss of critical ecosystem functioning in which animals play a central role that we need to pay attention to as well,” said lead author Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University.
“Habitat destruction will facilitate hunting and poaching, and species will have difficulty in finding refuge given land use change and climatic disruption,” added Dirzo.

We cannot live without healthy wild areas. The cities we live in are not isolated little bubbles that exist without dependence on the rest of the world, they depend entirely on the supply of food and other resources that originate in the warzone that are our last wild places. Instead of interacting in harmony with the environment they need to sustain themselves, they are becoming out of control monsters, with ravenous appetites, sucking up resources and the sucking up of those resources is . The loss of the elephant will signal the beginning of the irreversible loss of our world.

This is not something I have heard or read about. I have seen all this happening with my own eyes. In the last year alone I have seen the inter-ethnic butchery in Central Africa on two separate trips there. I have spent six weeks in Guinea at the height of the Ebola outbreak. I have seen the slaughter of elephants with my own eyes over and over and over, all over the continent. I have watched the forests change over my entire life time. It is all very personal and in my face for me right now, and it is going to all get very personal and in your face for everyone else’s too, very soon.

If we cannot save the elephant then we cannot save ourselves.
If you are interested in avoiding the creation of hell on earth then please visit Take a Stand for African Elephants and Rhinos  or  Chengeta Wildlife or  Quorans For A Cause

Rory Young
12/01/15
http://www.quora.com/Rory-Young-1

How To Catch Poachers (in a nutshell).

How To Catch Poachers (in a nutshell).
In order to bring poaching under control, it needs to be tackled at the market, in transit, and on the ground. I will focus here on the problem of tackling the poaching on the ground.

“We want to raise funds for a drone”, the well-meaning head of an NGO tells me with excitement in her voice.

“What do you need a drone for?”, I ask. I admire her enthusiasm, but my frustration has also clearly shown in my voice, despite my best efforts.

“For anti-poaching of course”, comes the confused and slightly irritated reply.

“Which part of your strategy requires drones, what type of drone, to do which particular job, and how much will the drone cost”? I ask.

The lady flushes, “Well, we are working with [famous former military officer now selling hardware] so-and-so who knows all about them”, she answers, now clearly irritated.

This is a very common scenario. Involved individuals, governments and NGOs are usually unclear as to how and what exactly they need to do to slow the massive poaching onslaught. They have no comprehensive doctrine/strategy/tactics/you-name-it for dealing with poaching.

Right now organizations often end up latching onto some expensive technology or some super-warrior as the magic formula. Generally, the feeling is that soldiers are the people for the job and the troops are being sent in more and more. There are also many programs where serving and former foreign military men train rangers and scouts in weapons handling and battle tactics. This is just not the answer.

Most of these troops who go in cannot find the “enemy”, they are conventionally trained. They patrol round and round without ever even seeing a poacher.  Poachers, although often skilled fighters, are not conducting a military campaign, and they are past masters at not being found. It is a game of cat and mouse and it needs the right cats!

What is really missing and is really needed in this struggle is a comprehensive, intelligent and pragmatic doctrine that addresses all the problems and offers objective and inexpensive solutions, preferably using existing local resources and personnel. 

I am absolutely certain that this is possible and that the right doctrine, with the necessary training and implementation will work. I am certain of this because I have, together with others involved in wildlife protection, developed a doctrine and implemented it successfully. 

Firstly, three problems have to be solved. The first problem is where to look for the poachers. Sending in assault troops or game rangers to figure this out is a waste of time unless they have been trained in pro-active investigation. Expert investigators are needed. 

Investigations can be both pro-active and reactive. Pro-active investigations go hand in hand with working to benefit people who are extremely important to the effectiveness of the wildlife protection operation; the community. The community has to be engaged to assist in efforts and must if at all possible benefit from the tourism and other revenue and prestige earning and job-creating activities. If this is done, they will invariably assist and that assistance is key to determining where to look for the poachers.  

To access a wildlife area requires passing through the adjacent areas, usually on foot. Poachers usually also require the assistance of neighboring communities for caching weapons, transporting food, water, and equipment, and of course for carrying ivory and other spoils. The eyes and ears of the community are an invaluable and effective means of gathering information on poachers’ movements into and out of wildlife areas, and in the case of community wildlife areas, within the areas as well. Investigators or scouts /rangers trained in pro-active investigation gather information from the communities, previous poaching activity from the field provided by tracking teams, other organizations and captured poachers and build up a detailed picture of poacher movements. 

I have been working with Jacob Alekseyev, a former Major in the USAF and Federal Agent in the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations who has been developing this part of our doctrine and a genius in this field. He has many years experience and the best education and training available for such investigations and his knowledge has been very much missing from the mix.. till now..

These movements once learned and understood seldom vary to a large degree because they are based on necessity. For example, where to find water or where a cliff cannot be climbed or a croc-infested river cannot be crossed and so on. This narrows down the search area considerably, thus requiring less “boots on the ground”.

The second problem is how to find the poachers once their movements, area of operations and modus operandi are understood. This requires both surveillance and the world’s oldest science; tracking.

Children in rural villages in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa grow up tracking goats and cattle and even wild animals. They have highly developed skills of observation and an innate ability to read sign. This does not mean other people can’t do it. It is just like reading, even an adult can learn to do it, but a person who has done it from early childhood will always be more able to become expert at it.

During the Colonial and other wars in Africa during the last century, tracking was used as an effective means of finding and following insurgents and anti or counter tracking was used to hide one’s presence in an area from casual observers. In fact, it was by far the most successful method of locating unconventional enemy forces and was used on all sides of all conflicts to one degree or another. 

There is absolutely no difference between the locating of poachers in a wildlife area and the locating of guerrilla fighters in any area. Together with cleverly located observation posts, this is the only really successful way of finding a poacher. Aircraft do not help in this role as poachers are well known to just stand behind a tree and avoid them. There are of course silent, high altitude drones out there and of course they can play a clear role in surveillance, assuming they can do a better job than the equivalent cost number of highly trained and well equipped trackers, but Africa can’t afford thousands of them and and they scare the hell out of our governments, so let’s not go there..

People who have never seen an expert tracker at work do not usually realize how good they are at it. Imagine a person being able to follow someone’s trail with their eyes the way a bloodhound can follow a man’s scent trail with his nose. Many can do it at a run with hardly a glance at the ground every once in a while. These people can be trained and their skills developed to a phenomenal degree to the point where they can follow one man’s trail into a busy village and out the other side before continuing for days on end. 

This is my specialty, I have been doing it since I was a little kid and I have been doing it professionally for the last twenty five or so years. I trained as a professional guide under the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management and over the years I have developed my skills tracking both animals and poachers and have also taken a different approach by collecting and studying scientific papers on everything from anthropology to podiatry to forensic science in order to bring my skills into the twenty first century. I have been putting together this part of the doctrine as well as implementing our ideas in the field. 

The third problem is how to arrest them. It is both hard and dangerous for the trackers to do because when following someone it is always the follower who is at a disadvantage. The poachers can either try to out-pace you, slow you down by counter-tracking (hiding or disguising spoor) or they can ambush you. The job of the trackers therefore is to locate, follow and thereafter monitor the movements of the poachers and pass this to the coordinator of the operation.

To apprehend the poachers requires a different set of skills to the investigation and the tracking/surveillance teams. The rapid response team needs to get ahead of the poachers. They need more tactical and special weapons skills. Getting ahead of the poachers can mean parachuting in, helicoptering in, boating or driving or, more often these days, running for a position where the poachers are likely to pass, and where they can be surprised. 

Jacob and I are working with a third writer for this part of the doctrine.  Our third contributor has both a background in special forces in the military, and a SWAT background in law-enforcement, but is still working and so chooses to remain anonymous for the security of his family. We believe our combined skills, knowledge and experience put into writing and taught to wildlife protection personnel all over the continent will make a major difference.

Our work is well-advanced and we are almost finished writing a “Field Manual For Anti-Poaching Operations”. Once published we plan to get as many copies as possible into as many hands as possible of people involved in all parts of wildlife protection, in government, NGOs and as many different parts of Africa.

I have been training anti-poaching teams in this doctrine and this has been funded recently by Chengeta Wildlife – We train wildlife protection teams. If you can, please spread the word about their efforts to publicize and raise funds for wildlife protection training – Poachers Are Targeting Africa’s Elephants

What is Nelson Mandela’s legacy?

Answer by Rory Young:

Peace, hope and dignity.

Stanley M made it clear to me that he hated me and all white Africans. We were sitting in a tent and had just heard about Nelson Mandela’s release. Stanley was a former Zimbabwean ZANLA guerilla fighter. He told me that payback time was now coming to white South Africans and they would get what they deserved.

I thought back to the year I had spent at boarding school in Kimberley in South Africa in 1985 as a 12-13 year old. I remembered a pleasant evening walk from a church service back to school. My friend and I were strolling along a small street lined with pretty colonial bungalows, all with lovely little gardens. It was sunset and we were enjoying the walk and laughing at some silly stories we were telling each other. We were interrupted by a voice from one of the verandahs.

Kaffir“, it said.
[Edit: Kaiffir is the most derogatory word for a black person]

I turned and saw a family sitting in silence with cold faces staring at us. I looked to my friend. His name was Hilton and he was black. He was small and harmless and a good boy. He now had a look of fear on his face; a look also of sadness, disappointment and frustration. He searched my face, waiting for my own reaction. I smiled pathetically and tried to make light of it. I failed.

“Hey kaffir boetie, voetsek!” This was from the verandah of the next house along. Again, cold stares. We ignored it and continued.
[Edit: “boetie” literally means little brother, but is meant sarcastically and “voetsek” means roughly “piss off”.]

As we approached the next house, I heard in English, “Get that little kaffir out of here soutpiel!” We walked half a kilometre along the row of houses and, every step of the way, both he and I were insulted; he for being black and me for simply walking with him.
[Edit: “soutpiel” is a derogatory name used by Afrikaners for Anglo-Africans. It literally means “salt prick”, implying that Anglo-Africans have one foot in Europe and one in Africa and that their penis hangs in the ocean becaue they are not truly from Africa]

Our school was a private one and thus could admit black kids, unlike the government schools which were all strictly segregated. We had been walking through a white area where any black would have required a special pass to enter. It was a huge shock and a lesson to me. I was struck not only by the laws, but by the real hatred of this whole street towards my friend simply because he was black.

I came back to the present. I was worried. Stanley was right, white South Africans would be wiped out, murdered on the streets. I had absolutely no doubts about it.

I had of course heard of Nelson Mandela. I had heard that he had been a “terrorist”, as some called him, or a “freedom fighter” as others called him. I expected a man like Samora Machel or Robert Mugabe. I certainly didn’t expect the Nelson Mandela we would all learn to respect and love. African leaders had always been a disappointment to me. They had been hugely consistent in their ability to mismanage, steal from their people and of course butcher their enemies.

I couldn’t imagine the Afrikaners letting themselves be governed by a black man and an ANC government. On the news I saw Eugene Terblanche rallying the AWB to fight when the inevitable black revenge came. It would of course spill over into Zimbabwe, Namibia and other African countries and it would descend into bloody civil war. Those of us in the middle would be forced into one group or another, as always happens. My own family had been divided during the war in Rhodesia. Would I end up fighting my own?

It never happened. Nelson Mandela not only became the great example of a leader that Africa needed, he became a unique and wonderful example to the whole world. He also became a personal example to me. If he could go against the flow and stand alone in order to do the right thing, then so could we all. Not just South Africans, but Africans of all nationalities, colours and creeds. Nelson Mandela became a greater leader than any white leader. He was a man who could be respected, admired and loved more than any other politician, and he was black! What a gift to mankind.

Nelson Mandela flew so high above the ideals and actions of any other man of his generation that he changed my little world and the greater world I live in forever, giving me and all Africans, both black and white an ideal to live by and a future to believe in.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy is peace in South Africa for the last twenty years, hope for the future and dignity for himself, his people, his country and his continent.

Without his amazing personal leadership and ability to inspire people to forgive and reconcile there would have been a very different outcome and no matter who leads his country in the future, they will always have to live in his moral shadow. He has shown us the way.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is our conscience.

View Answer on Quora

 

 

Training Anti-Poaching Trackers in Zimbabwe

With trackers from the Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit at the end of a recent training exercise. 

Man-tracking is completely indispensable the anti-poaching. The better the tracker the easier it is to find and follow the poachers. The poachers know this of course and practice “anti-tracking” or “counter-tracking”measures to try and conceal their tracks or avoid leaving sign.

I watched a documentary on television recently where some well meaning former special forces soldiers were attempting to locate poachers by all means except cross graining for tracks in areas most likely to be traversed by poachers and of course failing.

Poachers are not stupid. Most of them were either guerilla fighters or counterinsurgency fighters or were taught by such experts who fought in the many bush wars in Southern and Central Africa. They know how to simply stand behind a tree trunk to conceal oneself from aircraft.

They also know they shouldn’t go near water points during the dry season as there will probably be observation posts set up to monitor them and so they carry large amounts of water, even if it means it will be backbreaking work and will slow them down.. They are patient determined and skilled.

Overcoming these tricks requires well developed tracking skills and a thorough understanding of counter tracking techniques.

Together with an expert tracker from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority I spent some time training the Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit trackers in the Omay area in Zimbabwe in advanced tactical tracking techniques.

Important lessons included:

Gender
This is quite easy to determine once one knows how. Women point their  toes more inward and most important the straddle (the width between the line of tracks on the right and left feet) is much narrower than a man’s.  In other words men walk with their feet further apart whilst women walk with them closer together or even overlapping (picture a catwalk model walking down the ramp and a wrestler strutting in the ring).

Determining Stature
The height of a person is directly proportional to their foot length. Roughly 6.5 the length of a bare foot will give the height. This varies according to ethnicity and other factors.

Determining Weight
The width of the heel is greater proportionally to the length of the foot the heavier the individual. The thinner the heel then the skinnier the owner and the thicker the heel then the heavier the owner of the track.

Determining Whether Loads are Being Carried
When someone carries a heavy load they take shorter steps, they point their toes more outward and their straddle widens (they walk with their feet further apart). Furthermore packs and other luggage will often be put down when resting and the sign left can tell what it is, i.e. box, water container, backpack, etc.

BHAPU trackers learning how to tell the difference between the tracks of someone walking unburdened and someone carrying a load. Leading up to the man piggybacking his comrade are his tracks. To the right are the tracks of the same man walking unburdened. Knowing how heavily burden a tracker is and what they are carrying can tell how slow or fast they are able to travel, whether they will need to find water or not and much else.

Ascertaining the weaponry being carried.
This   Knowing what weapons and how many of them a group of poachers is crucial information. A couple of trackers can’t take on a large group armed with AK47s and RPG7s. As with other burdens they will invariably rest the butts of their weapons on the ground when stopped. Every weapon is different and this mark left on the ground indicates what weapon left it. A well organized and experienced group of professional poachers will often have one heavy calibre sporting rifle for shooting the elephants and any number of assault rifles for use against wildlife protection personnel.

A heavy calibre  .458 bolt-action rifle designed to be used on big game such as elephant and smaller calibre fully-automatic  AK47 designed for warfare. Between and slightly above them can be seen the marks left by their butts when p 

Determining the Number of Poachers
This is relatively simple. Once the direction of travel is determined two lines are drawn between the tracks furthest apart from each other. The number of people can easily be determined within the sectioned area.

Breaking Down the Group.
Once the number of people is determined the trackers will assess the tracks of each individual thereby building up a picture of the make up of the group and what equipment and supplies they have. For example, “serious” groups coming from across the border in Zambia will travel in large, well-armed groups (they bring their own porters for the ivory), weartakkies” (canvas plimsoles), carry all their water so that they do not have to go near the watering holes and typically move faster. Local poachers on the other hand typically travel is small groups because they can call on porters from local villages, wearmanyatellas” (homemade shoes made from car tyres and tubes which leave very faint tracks) or go barefoot, travel slowly and carefully counter-tracking to avoid detection. These groups often know where and when scouts will be and therefore are less concerned about approaching water but will counter-track when doing so.

A Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority Scout explaining what information can be gleaned from the footwear of poachers. 

Basic Tactics
The advantage is with the poachers if they know they are being tracked as they can easily lay an ambush on their own trail. Therefore tracking unit tries to follow without alerting the poachers that they are being followed.

The usual formation is a tracker with an armed scout oneach of his flanks and moving ahead of him. While the tracker focuses on following the tracks, the scouts focus on protecting against any threat from dangerous animals or ambush by the poachers being followed.

I would rather not reveal the tactics used to arrest/engage the poachers. Suffice to say stop-groups and/or air support are preferably used whilst the tracking group focuses on “shadowing” the poachers and keeping track of their location.

In terms of picking up tracks in the first place patrols will”cross-grain” areas where it is difficult to conceal tracks but necessary to cross, such as dry riverbeds, game trails, “capped” areas, watering holes and other sources of water.

Counter-Tracking and Anti-Tracking
Experienced poaching groups use many methods to conceal their tracks or not leave any. Commonly this is done by not walking on ground that will leave tracks, such as stepping on stones, approaching roads, dry river beds and large game trails at a 45 degree angle and then leaving it at a different angle after crossing, walking backwards across roads on one’s toes and many other tricks.

This is just a taste of what an anti-poaching tracker knows and does. If there is interest in the subject I will happily post more.

 

Lifting Snares and Dodging Charging Buffaloes in The Omay Area of Zimbabwe.

I hate wire. Whilst it may look like a harmless barrier for most people, to many of us it represents pain, death and the desperation of hunger and poverty.Whilst elephants and rhinos are usually poached using guns, more animals as a whole die horrible deaths from snares made from plain old fencing wire.These are typically set, often in lines, along game trails frequented by the targeted species of animal or even any animal. The intention is usually for the poor victim to be caught round the neck and strangled. Such a death is slow and agonizing, usually lasting days.Anti-poaching teams spend a lot of times searching for and removing these snares.

A Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit Scout Holds Up a Wire Snare Removed from The Omay

Sadly, many other animals, including elephants and other big game get limbs caught in snares and end up dying just as miserably and even more slowly.

Remains of a buffalo killed slowly by a snare which can still be seen wrapped around the face.

With the economic crisis many poor people in Zimbabwe have turned to snaring, hunting with dogs and other forms of poaching as a way to supplement their meager diets with some real protein. Even worse, some unscrupulous individuals have turned this into an industry, snaring on an industrial scale so as to sell the meat for financial gain.

Whilst I was working with the Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit recently we received information that this was taking place in a neighbouring concession. The team of poachers would sneak in, lay snare-lines, scare a herd of buffalo into running through it, kill and butcher any caught and then lift the snares and go, leaving little trace.

Reports came in of lots of cheap buffalo meat being secretly sold in nearby villages. In the space of two weeks four buffaloes were also found wandering around with snares attached to them. Although the nooses had tightened the buffaloes had broken the wires free from their attachments to trees or even torn the tree out of the ground.

One morning, just as I was about to set off on a training patrol with the anti-poaching team, word came in of a buffalo with a snare around its leg in a nearby area. Andries Scholtz was on his way by boat from Kariba to dart it and remove the snare.

Andries holds a dangerous drugs license from the veterinary department which authorizes him to purchase and handle dangerous narcotics and to dart animals.

We offered to assist and joined up with Andries by boat. The young female buffalo was lying next to the shore near a gulley shielded by bushes.

Unfortunately for us she moved into the gulley. This would make the approach to dart her and the four minute period before the drugs took effect much more dangerous.

We moved along the shoreline and around a “point” and moored the boats there. It was far enough away to be out of earshot from the buff and downwind from where the buffalo was hiding in her gulley, so a good place to begin the approach. Andries began preparing the drugs and dart gun.

Someone would have to “back up”. This means shoot the animal if things go wrong and it charges. Mitch Riley and I and I are both licensed for this work. As I had a video camera we agreed that we would both go in with Andries but Mitch would back up and I would record the event.

I admit to being nervous about this. I have followed up and shot many wounded buffalo and checked out many but rarely without a heavy calibre rifle in my hand and never whilst looking through a viewfinder. I would have to trust Mitch to make the right call and do what would have to be done if it became necessary. Zimbabwe is well known to have the most difficult and rigorous licensing system in the world for Professional Guides and Hunters. An important part of the training is the shooting of dangerous animals that have to be put down at close range. The experience and training are so hard that very, very few ever make the grade.

Once Andries had his dart-gun ready we discussed the approach. Andries would go in first, followed by Mitch and then myself. Any trouble and Andries would drop back and Mitch would take over. I would keep filming as long as possible.

We set off upwind towards the buffalo’s hide-out. The mopani scrub gave us enough cover but we had to step carefully as the ground was littered with dry leaves which made a loud noise when stepped on. We hoped that she would still be in her gulley and not on the top of the bank.

We crept up and found her wedged into her hiding-place.

Andries fired the dart which sounded like a champagne cork popping whilst Mitch kept his rifle trained on her. She burst up the bank through the bushes and bolted away from us. Now the race was on to find her. The drugs would take effect in four minutes. We began to track her.

After four minutes we hadn’t yet caught up with her. Andries called in all the helpers to spread out and search quickly rather than track now that she was unlikely to be on her feet. Within a minute someone found her. Everyone raced to where she lay and got busy.

Andrews daughter Kylie brought his drugs and he began monitoring the buffalo and getting the antidote ready while Kylie’s friend Dean began cutting off the wire wrapped tightly round the animal’s ankle.

Although the wire had not broken the skin because it is so thick (much, much thicker than a cow’s-more like an elephant in fact) it had obviously stopped the blood flow. It was also still attached to the stump which had been torn out of the ground making it even more difficult for the buff to walk.

Just when the wire had been taken off and things were looking good, she stopped breathing. Andries immediately gave her some of the antidote and told everyone to get ready. He couldn’t wait any longer. She was not responding well and her breathing was stopping and starting. He had to revive her immediately.

Everyone picked up the equipment as Andries injected the rest of the antidote into her. Most of the group were sent well back whilst Andries, Mitch and I waited with Dean to see whether she would be okay. She got up. She looked at us. She was not happy. I decided to keep filming as long as possible.

Andries told us to get ready to run. I looked back for a suitable tree to go up and saw none. Oh dear. She charged.

Initially she headed for me but then veered towards Mitch who was over to my right. I waited for the rifle shot.

Nothing happened. Another split second passed.

The buff is on the left now and you can see Mitch’s arm on the right. Bear in mind that this is all happening in split seconds. 

Still he didn’t shoot.

Closing in..

By now I’m wondering what he is planning as he hasn’t raised his rifle. I would have shot it by now.

Mitch begins to side step her as I turn to run:

You can just see him starting some sort of matador move as she turns past him. Riley is as Irish as a name can get. I didn’t know they were part Spanish though..

Unfortunately I was no longer thinking about filming but instead about saving my skin so didn’t get much on camera after this.

Having missed Mitch she swerved my way. Dean threw his pack at her, which is the blue thing in the following picture, just as I began to do a neat turn into a sprint. She ignored the pack completely.

The view from the camera of Dean throwing his pack just as I begin to destroy Usain Bolt’s best time.

She turned away and having made her feelings known she headed off. None of us were hurt and thanks to Mitch’s judgement she is still alive and kicking.. Or charging rather..

After she went past him he aimed to shoot if she didn’t turn away and looked about to gore someone.

Laughing and letting off steam after the adrenaline rush!

Andries and his family do this work for free and never turn down a call out. Very often they also cover all the costs of the exercise out of their own pockets. This amounts to many animals a month. I feel honoured to know these people. It is thanks to all the efforts and sacrifices of people like them that there is still hope for Africa’s wildlife. And if this war that is being fought to save the animals is ever one it will be thanks to the efforts of the “small”, great people like Andries and his good family.

Thank you family Scholtz!

What corruption have you experienced in your life?

[Groan] I have lived with different types of corruption in Africa for many years and have seen it grow steadily worse.

Along with poor governance, poverty and HIV/AIDS it has devastated and continues to devastate Africa.

There are many different types of corruption at play. I won’t go into embezzlement and others that haven’t affected me so much personally and directly. I will look at those that have really been “in my face” and how I have dealt with them.

Let’s look at extortion first.

The mild form is where a government official will want payment for doing his job. They will refuse to do anything until they get money or they will slow the whole process and demand payment to speed it up.

There are also much nastier forms. A number of foreigners in a certain town I used to live in were accused of drug-dealing. The police drug officers would plant drugs in the victim’s vehicle and then come and search the vehicle “after receiving an anonymous tip”. The witless “drug-dealer” is then arrested.

A series shakedowns will then begin. These include prison officers getting food and other necessities to the victim, lawyers and magistrates/judges handling the case, journalists and politicians can also jump on the band wagon by demanding money for taking sides in the case.

Usually there will be an acquittal or large fine after a suitable bribe has been arranged.

Understanding the law, protocols and culture all play a part in preventing and dealing with this and other forms of corruption.

Here is an example. I once returned to my office on a Friday to find a British manager who worked for me sitting at my desk behind which (in my chair!) sat two ladies from immigration. They were new in town and didn’t know me..

I immediately greeted them politely and respectfully. They ignored me.

I smiled to myself as I knew what they were up to and in their arrogance they had made some really silly mistakes. I then asked them what they wanted. I was told to keep quiet as they would be asking questions.

I told them to get out of my chairs, out of my office and off the property extremely fast or they would be physically removed.

Of course they were taken completely by surprise, became very upset and shouted that they were from immigration and would have me arrested. I motioned to get a rope and made a big to do of planning to tie them up and remove them. They ran away.

I then sat down and started making calls. The British manager by this time as freaking out and thought I had lost my mind. Foreigners quite understandably usually kow-tow and try to appease and invariably end up in a cell on trumped up charges. Dealing with this stuff requires knowledge, which I have found usually gives one the confidence needed to make the right decisions.

I called the heads of the police and immigration and the District Commissioner and informed them that I had just chased off two fake immigration officers. Of course I knew that they were real immigration officers and the police and immigration chiefs knew that I knew that.

They asked me how I knew they were fake and I told them how they had not followed any legal protocols/procedures. I explained carefully how they had not reported to and  informed the “appropriate authority” (me) who they were and what the purpose of their visit was, they were not wearing their uniforms and had not informed me they were from immigration when directly asked. Most importantly (culturally), I also mentioned how they had refused to return my greeting.

Not returning a greeting in many parts of Africa is considered shockingly aggressive behaviour and is considered totally unacceptable.

Later I received a polite phone request for the DC to come to immigration for a meeting as a complaint had been made against me by two immigration officers.

I went to the meeting with two truckloads of forestry workers as witnesses (60+ wild looking men who were very loyal to me and the company) .

The chief of immigration met us at the entrance, rolled his eyes of course and suggested I leave my entourage outside. (we both knew a game was being played out). Of course, I graciously obliged. We then went into the meeting.

I was treated like a VIP and offered a choice of refreshments. The only question discussed was whether the women officers had been on duty or not. I agreed that they had probably been on duty (to the great relief of everyone there) as that would mean they wouldn’t be charged with a crime but only reprimanded.

Finally the immigration officer said that he had a problem as the officers were saying I had been rude and that I must apologize or “they would take me to court” and would I kindly do so, so as to avoid any more hassle for everyone.

Of course couldn’t do that as they would then certainly “take me to court” and treat an apology as both weakness and admission of guilt.

After some consideration I refused and demanded an apology from them and a chicken.

A chicken is the traditional means of showing apology for a wrong. Everyone laughed and we all went home.

The status-quo was resumed and no one ever came near the property again to bother my ex-patriot managers.

By the way, Fridays are the favourite day to arrest ex-pat managers for trumped up immigration charges as they can’t get out till Monday at the soonest so will by that stage pay anything not to have to endure another second of an African jail.

The next popular form of corruption is bribery. I don’t mean where the bribe has been demanded by an official but rather is offered by a businessman, for example, in return for favours. This has been very destructive in my part of Africa.

It is just too easy to offer a poor official two years salary or even twenty years salary in return for either turning a blind eye or even actively breaking the law to make sure said “businessman” gets what he wants.

Here is an example of how bad this can get. A few years ago I applied for some prospecting licenses together with an “indigenous” partner.

We put together all the required documentation and then employed twelve men from our chiefdom to “walk it through”.

I don’t mean officials and I don’t mean we bribed anyone. We did everything above board. The twelve individuals were paid to guard our files.

Corruption had become so bad at the ministry of mines that some officials would be paid huge sums to copy every bit of correspondence onto someone else’s letterheads and swap it all for yours in return for a tidy sum from a mining company.

The first you would know that this had happened would be when you discovered that the license was issued to someone else and no record existed of your application and work!

The other common types of corruption are less insidious. One is closely related to cultural practices. This involves “gifts”.

Traditionally, you never visit a chief without taking a gift. In some tribes the chief must always give a gift too although this will always be significantly smaller than what you give him. This has carried over to modern government. When you visit someone important you are expected to give them a gift just for seeing you.

Sometimes the corruption is not really initiated by either party and is more of a dirty partnership. A government official and a business person will often collude to develop something and then to share it between them. The official effectively “moonlights” and partners with the businessman, sharing inside knowledge. This is rarely considered corrupt.

Often an official will help someone, expecting a “gift” at the end, usually the price of a beer or two. When not asked for up front it is rarely considered corruption. It is regarded as a thank you and builds a longer-term bond.

In Central Africa kinship is paramount. The closer you are related to someone the more taboos there are against ripping them off. If you are completely unrelated in terms of family, clan, tribe, nationality, race or personal friendship then you are fair game. It is always important to establish and enhance whatever ties exist in order to avoid being a target for corruption. The closer the kinship the less chance of having a problem.

If closely related then one is expected to treat the other as “a brother” and buy lunch or help in some way. This again is rarely considered corruption even though it may well be so legally.

Very often this means simply befriending everyone and becoming “part of the landscape”. Friendship is highly prized in Africa and will very often be put before money.

My personal way round potential problems is to get to know everyone I can in a government department before approaching the issue at hand. I seldom encounter problems. If I do have a problem I would call sinister then I will usually find something to throw back at the individual concerned. Sound nasty but it is self-defense. A recording device can come in very handy.

I have experienced some really difficult and dangerous situations relating to corruption in parts of Africa and will save most of these for later. However, one that is particularly pertinent comes to mind.

In 1997/98 I was in the DR Congo, on my way to Lubumbashi from the Zambian border.

I was accompanied by a Congolese and an indigenous Zimbabwean. I asked the Congolese what the accepted rate was for roadblocks. He explained that it was three Congolese francs for each  officer and one franc for each soldier.

At the time the Congo was experiencing the bloodiest war in the history of Africa and it was very, very dangerous. There were 23 road blocks to get through in just 90 kilometers. Therefore you had to get it right.

We proceeded well, knowing and agreeing what to pay at each roadblock. That was until someone decided to break the rules.

Having just paid, a young idiot with an AK decided to try and rob us. This is a disastrous situation as once the status-quo has been broken it can all spiral out of control.

He openly stuck his hand into one of the packs to help himself to something. If we didn’t do something ourselves we could end up dead in the bush because the unwritten rules that develop naturally in these situations had gone. We had to re-establish them.

Therefore my Zim colleague and I agreed on a course of action immediately. He grabbed the guy’s arms. I took his weapon.  I kept the AK held up and announced that he had robbed us when we had already paid.

The result was not what someone would expect if they were not used to these places and these systems but definitely to someone who has been there.

The other soldiers and officer left us alone and instead laid into their comrade with rifle butts and boots.

I handed over the weapon to the officer who smiled and told us we could go and that that fellow was a fool.

My point is that sometimes the “corrupt” system becomes the only system and people will usually gravitate to such a system of “parallel law” (for want of a better term). These soldiers knew too that it was either no system or protect the system they had even though it was not “lawful”.

I don’t believe the rest of the world differs much. People everywhere have a notion of fair play and also like to agree on a system whereby it governs their world, even if it is “parallel” to the official system.

This corruption, such as what I experienced in the Congo is not the same as other forms and to me is just a reality of life. It is unavoidable and IS the system. To fix it requires starting at the top and changing everyone’s attitude and thinking all the way down the ranks. That is an almost impossible task.

There are very grey areas and fine lines in such places. However, as the late pragmatic Zambian president Levy Mwanawasa, the only African leader I have seen actually reverse corruption, said, “It mustn’t stink!”

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Would less than lethal rounds have any affect on an elephant?

Answer by Rory Young:

Yes. They would enrage the animal. There are much better ways to deter elephants which I will explain further on.

This is what you have coming at you if you piss him off!

I was just recently looking into a story about three people who were killed fairly recently in Kazungula in Zambia (Elephant kills 3 people in Kazungula) and subsequently discovered that it had been shot with bird-shot from a shot-gun the night before.

This sort of scenario is quite common with elephants. In a misguided attempt to deter them from crops people end up making them dangerous and this often ends in tragedy.

There are better ways to deter them such as hot pepper plants for example. Have a look at Elephant Pepper They can be planted or the pepper mixed with old engine oil and smeared on twine which is then strung around areas that need to be protected.

Elephants hate these!

Electric fences are popular but elephants often quickly learn how to break them without being shocked.

Chillies can also be mixed with green vegetation or dung and burnt. The smoke is a deterrent to elephants.

Burning a mixture of elephant dung and chillies.

Elephants don’t like noise so banging pots helps. However, this should be done from a good distance and preferably indoors as from close by it can cause the elephants to charge. Shots fired can also work but of course one should never fire a shot into the air (what goes up must come down) so blank cartridges are best.

Bright and flashing lights are also useful but again not from anywhere near the elephant/s as these can also cause them to attack.

All in all, chillies and other such “passive” deterrents are the safest methods for all concerned.

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How smart are elephants?

Answer by Rory Young:

“The animal which surpasses all others in wit and mind”, said Aristotle.

Mature Female African Elephant

Since Aristotle and long before, people who have been privileged to spend time observing and interacting with elephants have expressed similar sentiments.

They have been trained for thousands of years to do everything from play soccer to destroy the enemy on the battlefield. They were the tanks of the ancient world and the front end loaders and the tractors.. Their size and strength are of course second to none.

There are many tales and legends told about elephants both long ago and today in many different languages and among very different cultures. What is so telling about these stories is that they don’t usually go on about their incredible size and strength because that is obvious. What they all eagerly tell is of the great intelligence, formidable memories and complex nature of these gentle giants.

Now I have to be honest and say that when people ask me how clever a particular animal such as a lion for example is I usually say, “a lion is a genius at being an lion”. What I am trying to say by this is that every animal has evolved to perfectly fit its niche and may be very dumb and doing what doesn’t benefit it and very clever at doing what does.

However, when someone asks me about Elephants, I get very excited and my little story about all animals being geniuses goes out the window. I immediately start comparing them to us. Here is why.

Like us elephants are self-awareThis has been proven scientifically through a number of recent studies. In one study an elephant called Happy would touch a white cross painted on her forehead, a test used to test self-awareness in children. She could only see it in the mirror:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/61004…

Elephants practice altruism. There is a now famous story of an Indian elephant called Chadrasekhan who was working lifting poles off a truck as it moved along and placing them in holes dug in the ground. When Chandrasekhan came to one hole he refused to put the log in. Eventually the Mahout checked and discovered a dog sleeping in it. Only when the dog was gone would Chandrasekhan put the pole in. This sort of behaviour is typical of elephants.

Elephants really do have long memories. Elephants eat an incredible variety of foods and need to cover large distances to  get it. They need to know where to go at what time of year. They learn this and remember it. They also have complex communication and societies and so need to remember all the different individuals’ voices and smells so as to be socially adept. The result is they have incredibly good memories.

This is also shown in the size and development of their brains which are proportionally 0.08 percent of their body-weight while that of a horse is 0.02 percent of its body weight. This was all figured out be a scientist called Herbert Haug. He also discovered that the brains of elephant and humans are both highly convoluted, which increases the surface area of the brain.

I once had a love hate relationship with an elephant at Fothergill Island in about 1991. Every day I would drive out the front gate and a bull elephant we called Left Hook (he had extra curve to his left tusk) would charge my vehicle. And every day I would rev my engine and bang the door and tell him to sod off and then we would go our separate ways. Every single day this happened without fail. If other vehicles came and went he would ignore them and then go for mine.

One day I went out in a different vehicle, stopped nearby and watched for a while. The wind changed, he caught my scent and of course we went through the whole noisy rigmarole again before I was allowed to leave with my by now completely traumatized tourists.

More recently it has been found that spindle neurons play an important role in the development of intelligent behaviour. Spindle neurons are found in the brains of humans, great apes, dolphins and elephants.

There are many other behaviours exhibited by elephants such as grieving (see my answer to What non-human animals grieve?), playing, mimicking  producing art and using tools, all of which serve to show their flexible and powerful minds.

Elephant painting in thailand.

However, what I found most amazing is their problem-solving ability. To illustrate this, and because I risk happily waffling on forever, I will leave you with one last story:

Working Asian elephants sometimes wear wooden bells. The young elephants will deliberately stuff them with clay so that they can sneak into banana groves without being heard in order to steal as much as possible!

A wild bull elephant “playing” with legendary Zimbabwean game ranger Willie De Beer. The bull could kill him in an instant if it wanted to..

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What experience have you had/watched with wild animals that has touched you?

Answer by Rory Young:

Stumpy and Patches were two elephants that used to hang around camp on an almost full time basis. It was as though they knew they were safer from poachers there.

Both were large bulls in their prime. Patches got his name from pale discolourations on his skin. He was unusually tall for the area, with a perfect set of evenly matched tusks. Stumpy was named from his stocky build and short thick tusks.

Patches was a menace. He would insist on staying close to man yet would charge anyone at the slightest scent or sound of someone passing nearby.

Had these charges been mild mock charges it wouldn’t have been too much of a problem. Instead though, he would fly into a screaming and trumpeting rage every time and charge like a runaway train. Scouts and workers became adept at sprinting for the cover of buildings and on a couple of occasions were forced to jump into the crocodile infested Zambezi. Fortunately no one was trampled, gored or eaten by crocodiles.

Stumpy on the other hand was a much more laid back chap. He enjoyed his food just like any other elephant and more. We spent large amounts of time trying to keep him out of the vegetable garden. In the end the only thing that worked was posting a game scout on permanent duty to fire a shot in the air if he came to close. If the game scout wen away for a minute then Stumpy would be in the veges in second. Unfortunately he knocked down the kitchen trying to get at marula fruits that had fallen through the windows, but that was just clumsiness not malicious at all..

Patches and Stumpy were best friends. They were nearly always together. It did make it easier to notice when they were around because between them they made quite a racket breaking branches and knocking over trees.. and Kitchens of course..

Stumpy was wonderful. I used to sit for whenever I had a chance just watching him and talking in a low, soft voice. Eventually  I could walk right by him or stop and watch him for a while.

One day he approached me, waggled his head and then stretched it down and forwards towards me with his trunk wrapped over his tusk. I was dumbstruck.  Elephants do this to other elephants to invite them to play. He wanted to play!

I couldn’t exactly go and wrestle with him, so I made some noise and threw some dust in a mock display and he happily joined in. Thereafter, when I saw him he would waggle his head in invitation and kick or throw dust or sticks at me and I would do the same.

The most amazing thing happened when I had a bad dose of malaria (we used to get it regularly in those days) and was asleep on a mat in the shade of a large tree in the middle of the camp. It was an ideal spot as the breeze off the river and the shade of the enormous tree combined to bring the oven-like temperature down a notch at least.

No one had noticed Stumpy had wandered in to feed on the same tree. When they did it was too late. Unbeknownst to me he was feeding whilst standing over me. He had literally walked carefully over me and then stood happily reaching up to pluck leaves while I snored away under his belly.

There was a bit of a panic. No one could do anything as they were afraid to scare him in case he stood on me. So they waited and eventually he finished his sampling, put his trunk down, sniffed my face all over and then stepped his back feet over me and wandered off. I was still none the wiser.

My relationship with Patches was a whole different story.

We did not get on at all. He would wait outside my hut and charge as soon as I came to the door. There was nothing friendly or fun about it.These were extremely aggressive and close to full charges.

We had some really close calls. He almost squashed a Singaporean visitor who decided not to wait for the obligatory  escort and decided to stroll from his hut to the dining area. Patches missed him by inches. Fortunately this fellow turned into a really good sprinter at really short notice and made it into a building just in time. There were many close calls with the workers and there were more and more calls to have him put down.

Eventually Patches almost got me.

I was at a different camp a couple of kilometers downstream collecting supplies. walked out of the warehouse and didn’t notice Patches standing quietly nearby. Once I did it was too late.

He had been next to the building and then walked in between the building and me before charging. I couldn’t run back into the building and it was too far to the river. I was stuck and he was coming at me like a giant cannon ball.

Something clicked in my head and I let him have it. I screamed the most foul abusive stream of the most vile and filthy language at him and told him exactly what I thought of him. At the same time I walked towards him.

I have stood down many, many mock charges from elephants and have learned in detail the art of interacting with them. However, this was different, it was what anyone would only describe as a full charge. His ears were back, his head was down, his trunk was curled and i was unarmed.

I usually always had a side arm for emergencies and when out in the bush always carried a rifle. However, right now I had nothing. I actually had no choice really so I just had to call his bluff and otherwise hope I would go quickly.

He stopped about ten meters away from me just as the last, most disgusting insult came out of my mouth. Then he raised his head, shook it, spraying me with snot and then walked away slowly at an angle keeping one eye on me.

I walked back to the warehouse. My friend and colleague Rolf Niemeijer was standing there with a bunch of workers.

“Young”, he said, “you are completely and utterly insane” and then turned and walked away. Right then found it difficult to argue with that. At least there was method in my madness I suppose. Anyway, it worked.

Not too long after I returned from time off to be told by Lew Games, my boss, that I needed to shoot an elephant.

“What’s the story?”, I asked.

“A bull has a cable-snare round his leg. Probably meant for kudu, but it went bad. ZAWA called in a vet but it took three days for them to get him here. It was already too far gone then, now the poor bugger is on his last legs and in agony.The vet just confirmed he needs to be put down asap. ZAWA asked if you could do it.”

I didn’t have much time to think about which bull it might be and never considered for a moment that it might be Patches. There were hundreds of elephants around and it was unlikely to be those chaps as they were always close to camp not areas where the poachers tended to place snares.

I set of with a couple of scouts from ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) and a colleague called Peter Caborn who had asked if he could tag along.

It was no great hunting expedition. The poor old fellow was only a kilometer from the camp. When elephants injure a foot they can’t go anywhere and quickly starve as they cannot get the variety of nutrients they need in such a confined area.

His foot was swollen literally to the shape of a football. He was emaciated and clearly on his last legs, poison coursing through him. It was stumpy.

Patches was standing quietly nearby.

I put all thoughts and emotions out of my mind. The kindest thing I could do for him was to take away his pain as quickly as possible.

I shot stumpy through the brain.

Patches continued to stick around but although he continued to be aggressive to everybody else he never charged me again. I would often see him from a distance standing at the spot where I shot Stumpy. Elephants do visit the remains of dead elephants. They are also believed to be self-aware like we are.

I never went back to that place until recently, so about seventeen years later. It felt like it was yesterday and I can still remember clear as day those bulls.

I didn’t ask anyone if there was an elephant with whitish patches on his body and a really bad attitude. I didn’t want to know if something bad had happened to him. I like to imagine that Patches is still charging around causing havoc and from time to time visits the remains of his old friend Stumpy.

Who are some well known African economists?

Answer by Rory Young:

I think the most well known and fascinating African economist (yes I am definitely biased too because she is a fellow Zambian) is Dambisa Moyo.

She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Dead_Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way For Africa (2009) and How The West Was Lost. Her new book is  Winner Take All.

She holds a Doctorate (D.Phil.) in Economics from St Anthony’s College, Oxford.

She earned a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government

She also earned an M.B.A. in Finance and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Chemistry from American University in Washington D.C.

In 2009, Moyo was honoured by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Leaders.

In 2009 TIME Magazine named Moyo as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

In September 2009 Moyo was featured in Oprah Winfrey‘s power list of 20 remarkable visionaries.

She is a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times as well as numerous other publications.

She has appeared as a guest on numerous networks including CNN.

She is also well known to be a very kind, decent and generous person.

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Why is it safe to go on safari in an open vehicle?

Answer by Rory Young:

It is not necessarily safe in the slightest! It depends entirely on your guide!

Elephants can pulverise a vehicle whether it is a sedan or a specially adapted safari 4×4. This is the recent result of an elephant’s annoyance in Kruger National Park in South Africa:

Lions will leave you alone if you remain seated. However, if the guide doesn’t tell his clients or if they don’t follow safety instructions and stand up then they are no longer “a part” of the big-noisy-monster-thing and can be seen as individuals. They can go for you. Kids are a huge problem.

Here’s a little secret, I can call lions out of the bush. How do I do it? I use make a noise like a baby crying! Kid’s voices + lions = immediate interest, vehicle or no vehicle.

One of George Adamson’s lions from “Born Free” went in through the vehicle window of w a Park Warden and tried to get his baby. (The same lion later killed the gardener but that is another story).

I know of one incident of a leopard going over the bonnet of an open landrover and having a go at the driver. That though was an extreme situation and an exception to the rule.

Regarding guides and what makes a good one, here is an excellent article by Dick Pitman, a conservationist I am honoured to have known for many years: HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

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What did you see as a child that affected you for the rest of your life?

Answer by Rory Young:

When I was eleven years old I saw something that changed me forever. I have never spoken about it since just after it happened and then only to my family. I think it is about time I did.

I was in Blantyre in Malawi where we lived. My mother and step-father were in a restaurant. I had finished eating and had been allowed to go for a walk while they relaxed and chatted over their meal.

As I was walking across a small park a man appeared. He was tall and thin and his clothes were torn. He was carrying something in his hand and he was sprinting towards me.

Behind him was a group of men. They were shouting and trying to catch him. Further back was a larger group, mostly men but also women and children.

As they came close they caught up to him and knocked him down. I realized his clothes had been torn by the crowd and I knew exactly what was going on.

I had seen thieves chased and caught at a distance before. Someone would  shout “kabulala” (crook) and everyone would run after and try to catch the accused person. I had also already seen things a child should not see. What was about to happen though was far worse than anything I had seen or any child or adult should see.

The mob began to beat him viciously. They were not trying to drag him off to the police. They were kicking him beating him with sticks. Then some began jumping onto him with all their weight and strength. I could hear the sounds of the impacts.

The man was crying and screaming and begging for mercy. I could clearly see the terror in his face. There was pink blood frothing out of his mouth. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t move or look away. I was frozen in place. Many of the people were laughing. No one was trying to stop it.

A couple of men picked up a large rock and carried it through the crowd. They dropped it on his head. He went quiet but his eyes and mouth were wide open but there was no scream. Then they picked it up again and brought it down on his head with full force.

Immediately afterwards the crowd dispersed and I was still in the same spot looking at the scene. I can still picture it in crystal clear detail, including the item on the floor that the man had been carrying. It was a crushed packet of biscuits.

My step-father found me sitting on the ground shaking and hyperventilating.I don’t recall that or how long I was there. I do know that he carried me away before the police came.

He was a former professional soldier in the Rhodesian Army and his “cure” was to tell me I had to be a man and now I knew what life was all about. I suppose that was harsh but true. Either way I never looked at the world the same way again.

I still see the laughing faces and I can still see his face. For a long time I would see the faces of that crowd reflected in the those of people I met. I would be become immediately cold towards them regardless of who they were or what the consequences. This later developed into a greater problem but that is another story.

Something that has haunted me ever since is that I had in my pocket, as an eleven year old, enough money to have bought five packets of those biscuits.

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What has been the most embarrassing moment of your life?

I was once running a wildlife sanctuary and safari operation in the Zambezi Valley. During the wet season the area was inaccessible by road and therefore very few people came to visit.

We spent most of our time at this time of year doing anti-poaching work. Two other camps from which ant-poaching patrols had also been active had been attacked shortly before this time.

Due to the possibility of an attack on our camp I used to sleep in a different empty room or tent every night. I always kept a loaded rifle next to the bed.

One night I awoke to a sound of voices whispering.

I rolled off my mattress and picked up the rifle and torch I had ready and quietly approached the gauze window. I peered out. There was quite a bit of moonlight and I could make out several figures moving along a path towards the main building. They had one small torch.

I had no doubts. There had been no sound of a vehicle or boat. My own team would not risk being shot by walking around the camp at night without giving verbal warning first. I steeled myself for a fight.

I knew the paths of course and as I was barefoot was able to quietly sneak up on them. There were four of the bastards.

A few feet behind them I raised my rifle and switched on the torch, which I held under the barrel, at the same time shouting in the local Goba language, “IWE MIRAI!!”. They froze and two of them screamed.

Two elderly European couples stood in front of me with shock on their faces. They had turned around and were also shining their one torch at me.

I cleared my throat and said, “sorry, I thought your were poachers”.

They said nothing and even more strangely the two women were looking everywhere except at me whilst the chap with the torch was now pointing it behind him.

It slowly dawned on me.. I was stark naked.

There was nothing for it but to behave perfectly naturally so I said, “how can I help you folks”? I casually slung my rifle over my shoulder and put one hand on my hip trying to somehow look normal.

After a long pause one of the men said, “our boat hit a sandbar this afternoon and we have been stuck most of the night on the river”. “Eventually we managed to push it off but we couldn’t get it started and paddled downstream till we saw the light by your jetty”.

I directed them to the dining area, casually excused myself and nonchalantly walked off to get some clothes on. I later fed them and organized rooms for them and the next day got to know them. They were farmers from one of the tobacco growing areas. Everyone was polite enough not to mention my “commando outfit” of the previous evening and I naively thought that was the end of the story..

A couple of months later I was in a completely different country and met a couple who also farmed tobacco. They had never even been to the country where I worked. They asked me what I did and where I was based. I told them.

There was silence and I wondered what I had said wrong. Then the woman said to me, “are you the guy who runs around naked in the bush at night hunting poachers”?

 

How do you deal with animal poachers?

Answer by Rory Young:

WARNING! This contains graphic images. It is not for children!

WARNING! This contains graphic images and is not for children!

There are two types of poachers.

Meat poachers poach mainly plains game to sell the meat or to eat themselves.
They are best dealt with by “normal” methods of law-enforcement, education, poverty alleviation and even integration into the wildlife management system.

These people are for the most part hungry and this type of poaching can be brought under control to the extent of game populations and biodiversity not being threatened. However, as in the case of the DR Congo and many West African countries, the bush-meat trade can get out of control. This is in large part due to a lack of will, effort and/or ability of the governments concerned to limit and regulate the practice.
Meat poaching is also tied to the poaching of gorillas for “muti” (traditional medicine). In the case of the mountain gorillas, the problem is more akin to the elephant and rhino poaching, requiring similar strategies and tactics to combat it.

 The bodies of four mountain gorillas killed in the Virunga National Park July, 2007

Rhino and elephant poachers hunt for the rhino horn and ivory to sell on the international black market. The ivory goes to the Far East and is used for trinkets and jewellery. The rhino horn goes either to Yemen to be used to make handles for traditional daggers (relatively small quantities) or to the Far East be used in traditional medicines (large quantities).

Rhino poached and butchered in 2011 in South Africa with her calf. (http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/south-africa-poaching.html#cr)

These poachers are usually ex-guerilla fighters or the like and are well equipped with fully automatic weapons, heavy calibre hunting rifles and at times even rocket propelled grenades. The RPGs and fully automatic assault rifles are not suitable for hunting and invariably wound, maim and cause suffering long drawn-out death due to infection and blood loss. (I have just written an article for African Expedition Magazine about what it is like to have to go and put down such animals. I will post the link on my Blog as soon as it is up). 

Increasingly White South African poachers with a background in wildlife, using helicopters, have been encountered.

The purpose of fully automatic assault rifles and RPGs is of course also for use against Parks rangers and scouts, army, police or anyone else that may try to stop them.

The policy of African countries has either been to:

1. Try and arrest the poachers. This is usually impossible and results in the scouts and rangers losing morale and and avoiding confrontations. The reason is that when tracking a group of poachers the advantage is all with the poachers as they simply have to lay an ambush on their own tracks. Walking along for long periods knowing that the enemy is directly in front of you and can easily open fire at any time really frays your nerves.

The only way round this problem really is to have helicopter and other air support and to “leap-frog” with an airborne tracking team and stop group who move ahead and cross-grain at potential sites, thus narrowing down the location and eventually cornering them. The poachers of course have counter-tactics such as splitting up and each going in a different direction.

Zimbabwe Airforce Chopper and crew.

Such air support is expensive and invariably provided by the military who are usually not brought in to arrest people. 

It is no coincidence that the countries that follow this policy of only arresting poachers also have the biggest poaching problem.

2. Shoot on sight. Zimbabwe was most famous for this policy and the military has been used to provide air and ground support for anti-poaching operations. It is no coincidence that the countries that follow this policy have had the most success in curbing rhino horn and ivory poaching. There are increasing calls for other African countries to adopt such a position. See: Minister calls for shoot to kill policy in Botswana

Dead Poacher

Now here is my own two cents worth. If groups of criminals crossing into your country, armed to the teeth and with a tendency to fight rather than surrender and if that is leading to the extinction of a species and increased lawlessness then shoot them on sight.

The problem has to be treated as a priority and a threat to “homeland security” and all branches of the armed services in the affected countries must be directed to support the Parks officers. It is a war and needs to be fought as a war.

I have answered this specifically as asked, i.e. dealing with the poachers. I answered another question separately about dealing with the problem of Elephant poaching in Africa in general: https://youngrory.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/what-would-effectively-stop-elephant-poaching-in-africa/

How does one stop a charging buffalo?

English: The African buffalo, affalo, M'bogo o...

English: The African buffalo, affalo, M’bogo or Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a large African bovine. Photo taken in Tanzania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Answer by Rory Young:

I will give the answer in terms of self defense against a charging Cape Buffalo. This assumes there is no option but to shoot as the animal is in a full charge and that you are armed with a .375 H&H or larger and there is no good tree next to you.

The Cape Buffalo kills more people in Africa than any other mammal after hippos.
It charges at approximately 56km/h.
Shooting it through the heart in a full charge will not necessarily stop it in time.
I have seen a buffalo that run 80 meters after being shot through the heart. (see Problem Buffalo Article).
Therefore the only way to stop it dead is to shoot it in the brain.
The brain is 12cm in diameter.

Because it is moving towards you at 56km/h, the brain is only 12cm in diameter and the head is moving up and down, it is best to wait until it gets very close and drops its head to gore you. This is usually 10 to 20 meters away.
The best way to visualize the correct shot placement is to imagine a line from one ear to the opposing eye and for the other eye and ear. Where these two lines cross is the brain no matter what the position of the head is.

You need to hold your nerve and shot perfectly accurately because if you miss you are dead. If you turn and run you are dead.

Unfortunately for me I had to do this twice in one day in 1993.
I was together with another ranger-guide, Jesse Zvikonyuakwa. We were investigating reports of two “problem” buffalo in one of the CAMPFIRE areas near Matusadona National Park and had been warned that they were injured and had chased a couple of people up trees.

Unfortunately for us they had moved into Jess Bush, a type of very thick thorny vegetation. It is a common tactic for injured buffalos to take refuge in dense bush and it is extremely dangerous to pursue them in such areas as they are extremely aggressive, have acute senses, are very cunning and it is almost impossible to move quietly through Jess (it often involves crawling).

However, it was our job and we had no choice but to go after them so in we went.

The first one came flying at us through the Jess and came out into a small clearing about twenty meters from me. It dropped its head to hit me at about fifteen meters at which point I shot it.

We found the second one about 5 hours later in a much bigger clearing.He was on the other side of a small valley, about 80 meters away. This is far to shoot with a heavy calibre rifle and open sites and normally would not be done because of the chance of wounding. I gave the go ahead to Jesse to shoot though because the animal was already injured (meat poachers had tried to kill both animals causing the wounds), dangerous to the local population and surrounded by Jess bush, where it would be more difficult and dangerous to find him.

Jesse fired and the bull took off for the thick bush heading diagonally away from us. I sprinted after it because I really didn’t want it going into that Jess.

The bull caught my movement and veered round to charge at me. I stopped and prepared to shoot once it got close and dropped its head.

Instead, it fell to the ground about twenty meters from me. I lowered my rifle and just then Jess fired another round to make sure it was dead. Instead it got up again and came at me a second time. By the time I raised my rifled and aimed it was only 7 or 8 meters away so when I fired, even though my shot placement was spot on, the momentum of the charge carried it several more meters and it literally ended up at my feet.

I never had to shoot a buffalo before or after that day in self defense and ever since have not followed buffalo, wounded or healthy into Jess bush.

I reckon, if I do it might be third time lucky for the buffaloes.

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What would effectively stop elephant poaching in Africa?

Answer by Rory Young:

I mulled over how to answer this for some time because there are just so many things that can and must be done, I decided to look at the broader picture because no matter the effort of the brave few on the ground, without the will of the world’s nations to put an end to ivory and other poaching it is a losing battle.

There is currently a struggle between two very polarized groups of African countries (and their corners) on how to deal with the problem.

Firstly it is important to look at the three links in the ivory supply chain. These are the poachers, the traffickers and the consumers.

Firstly with regards to the consumers.
There are two approaches to the problem.

The first approach, promoted mostly by Kenya, focuses on ending the international legal trade in ivory.This ivory is from legally culled or hunted elephants in countries with large populations. It is believed that by doing so demand will dramatically reduce or dry up altogether.Those who support the theory believe that demand will dry up and their will therefore be no more demand.

The argument against this approach is that the demand will always be there and that the supply of legal ivory should be carefully controlled and funds funneled into wildlife management.

To give some context to these different approaches we also need to look at the different situations between these groups of countries. Zimbabwe for example has over 80’000 elephants and the population increases at about 3% per annum. Zimbabwe is in favour of limited trade in legal ivory. Kenya on the other hand has around 12’000 elephants, the population is decreasing rapidly and the Kenyan government is totally against any trade.

Where both groups agree is that the countries where this illegal ivory is going are not doing enough to discourage its sale.

Next we need to look at the traffickers. These are smugglers of just the same ilk as drug or blood diamond traffickers. However, their are much fewer controls and and because many of the States these traffickers come from have a very disinterested views of wildlife conservation, they are much more easily able to collude with the authorities in the countries they are shipping to. Like any illicit product, it is relatively easy to get it out. Controls and checks are usually at ports of entry not exit and as a result the methods, systems and infrastructure are not in place to stop exports.

The big problem again is the lack of will to get tough at the countries where the ivory is going. The customs departments are just not motivated to arrest and charge traffickers.

Thirdly we need to look at the poaching itself. The approach to stopping the poaching again differs tremendously between the two groups of countries mentioned before. In Kenya an ivory poacher will likely get off with a fine. In Zimbabwe he could be shot if he doesn’t surrender immediately contact is made with him and then he will face up to 7 years in prison (typically 5).

As you can imagine the group of countries with the vast majority of elephants also has the toughest policies for dealing with poaching. Most of them also support limited trade in ivory.

Whether supporting this is right or wrong, it will be impossible for the Kenya group to convince the others to change this until Kenya itself shows that they are really doing what needs to be done to fight the poaching itself. Iain Douglas-Hamilton recently said that Kenya is all that is standing between the poachers and the large Southern African populations. If that is true then God help us because if Kenya’s way of fighting poaching is with fines then they will have no elephants left soon.

Now to answer your question. I believe that Kenya has held an idealistic policy that has also not been supported by tough action. Realistic pragmatism is needed and a will to save what is left.

There needs to be an all out war on poachers in East Africa, supported by the African Union, as it is a cross border problem with harsh penalties imposed.

There needs to be international pressure and action against the traffickers and the nations that allow them to ply their trade.

With regards the consumers, the ivory itself needs to be made untouchable, taboo, illegal or dangerous. That can only happen if the governments of those buying get serious. Whether or not the trade should be banned, there should only be allowed a tiny amount of extremely expensive legal ivory sold to these countries. Any revenue should be proven to have been channeled back into anti poaching and other conservation efforts.

It is possible to win this war. I mentioned that Zimbabwe has 80’000+ elephants. Well, in 1900 there were less than 500 left.

The white rhino was reintroduced into Zimbabwe from South Africa after being wiped out completely and the Black Rhino was reintroduced into South Africa from Zimbabwe after being wiped out.

So, this war can be won but to win it needs money will and champions. All are in
short supply. What it doesn’t need is procrastination, half-hearted effort, hesitation or denial. It is a war just like any other war, it needs action and massive support to win it.

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HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

EVERY GUIDE Should Read This..

Thank you to Dick Pitman for kindly allowing me to post the following Excellent article.

 

HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING?

 We’re pottering around – say – Mana Pools in our Land Cruiser, and someone coming the other way pulls up beside us, brandishing a hugely expensive camera. We exchange greetings. Then –
“Have you seen anything?” the driver says.I ponder for a moment. “Yes, indeed. There’s an ele mum back there with a really tiny calf. A group of absolutely superb kudu bulls. A civet, a bit earlier. Couple of impala rams sparring, really interesting to watch. Lovely light through the albidas.”My interlocutor looks a bit uncomfortable. “Yes, but have you seen…umm…something?

Something

I’m determined to drag it out of him. “What do you mean by something?”

“Well…er…you know, lions. The Dogs”.

As a matter of fact we did see ‘something’, yesterday. I give him some inspired misdirection and off he goes, wheels virtually spinning, until he vanishes in a cloud of dust.

This happens to us all the time. Our National Parks are full of vehicles hurtling around in search of this something. To them, everything else isnothing. Well, to me, this nothing is in fact everything. The wild dogs and lions – good though it is to see them – are just one part of the richly-textured tapestry of our wild places. We have ourselves had enquiries asking for “guaranteed” predator sightings. There’s only one answer to this: if you want is to see lions and wild dogs on demand, matey, go to a zoo.

Nothing?

You have to take wilderness as it comes and, if experience in recent years is anything to go by, fewer and fewer people are happy to do that.

Why?

Is the current ‘sensational predator photography cult’ a reflection of a society that has in itself become predatory? Is it the fault of an increasingly sensationalist media? Or is it the paradigm of instant gratification, ceaseless motion and search for novelty prevalent in today’s world?

A combination of all three, maybe, but I favour the latter – and probably simplest – explanation.This is borne out by what happens when one does actually put people in front of  a pride of lions.

Excitement turns to boredom in about ten minutes flat, when, as is their wont during daytime – the lions just lie around doing nothing at all or – the worst-case scenario! – all go to sleep. It takes on average about ten  minutes before boredom – signified by an insidious outbreak of foot-shuffling andsotto voce conversation – sets in. Finally, some bold spirit pipes up – “Well. Nothing much happening, then.” And so resting lions and wild dogs also get consigned to the great vacuum of nothingness with which the Park is apparently filled.

Mana lions, doing what they like most. Let them sleep!

Well, sorry for that, everyone, but this variety of “nothing” is what most predators do, most of the time. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough for the hordes of so-called “wildlife photographers”, that have invaded Parks like Mana Pools recently. Wild dogs must be persuaded to come trotting up and shove their noses into the business end of the telephoto lens. Lions that would far rather lie around sleeping must be provoked into making mock charges instead.

While writing this post, my attention was drawn to an excellent piece by Gerry van der Walt at http://photography.wild-eye.co.za/ethics-in-wildlife-photography/. Really, he says it all, but I’ll add my 0.05cents-worth while I’m at it.

At a purely personal level I couldn’t give a damn if some lunatic macho-man (or woman) gets themselves killed by a  deliberately-provoked “mock charge” that turns nasty. Unfortunately, though, there could be other outcomes as well.

For starters, a lot more visitors with little or no bush experience who see these photos all over the web may be infected by the “zoo mentality” and try the same thing, with disastrous results. Furthermore, guides and operators may be faced with immense pressure from guests to create similarly artificial photo opportunities, and risk getting labelled as cissies or worse if they refuse.

Worst of all, intrusive behaviour can have a profound impact on wildlife. Wild dog packs may be forced to move away from denning sites by constant, close-quarters intrusion. We’ve also seen tragedies that almost certainly resulted from lion becoming over-habituated to humans. And where potentially dangerous species are involved, something’s quite likely to get shot, either by a guide or by the Parks Authority, and sadly it’s not usually the offending visitor.

Meanwhile, for many, the idea of actually sitting still beside a pan for a day, just waiting and observing what goes on, what comes to drink, listening to the chorus of birdsong, absorbing the immutable peace of wilderness – in other words just being –  has become an absurdity. It seems that wild nature must increasingly be viewed through the lens of sensationalism.

 Dick Pitman Dick’s Blog: http://zim4x4.blogspot.com/

12 DECEMBER 2012

If I got lost on an African safari and came face-to-face with a growling lion, what should I do to garner the best chance of survival?

Rory’s answer to:

Answer by Rory Young:

The first thing you do when coming across a “growling lion” is freeze and avert your eyes. You also do not point at it.

If a lion is not habituated to man it will most likely run. The danger arises with lions that are more used to people.

Look at the animal’s tail. When a lion is angry or feeling threatened it will sweep its tail from side to side. If it is hunting it will keep its tail stiff and twitch it from time to time.

It is much more serious if it is actively hunting you.

If you see stalking indications then raise your arms above your head and wave them and most importantly SHOUT YOUR HEAD OFF.

If you have something in your hand then throw it at the lion.

Even if the lion charges you do not run. Believe me this can be extremely intimidating. They charge at 65km per hour and the roaring is deafening.

If you have frozen and then lion is not approaching but not leaving either then start to back slowly away. If it starts to move then freeze immediately. If you have frozen and then lion is not approaching but not leaving either then start to back slowly away. If it starts to move then freeze immediately.

Night time encounters are another story. I was once doing problem animal control in Gache Gache in Zimbabwe, trying to bait and shoot a lion that had killed several people and the night before had almost succeeded in breaking into Chief Mangare’s hut.

It was dark but moonlit and I was lying on the ground, carefully backed into a euphorbia hedge along with two game scouts and a fellow ranger.

I heard a very faint noise behind me and the lion was crawl-stalking me and just 10 foot back! He had actually carefully crawled through the dense hedging to sneak up on us. He was too close for me to be able to turn and shoot. However, I turned on the torch in my hand and shone it in his face. He ran off.

So, if you are walking in the bush at night (it happens in safari camps especially) and come across lions, keep your beam in their eyes and back away.

One of the biggest myths is fire. Lions are not afraid of campfires and will often walk round them and see what’s happening. However, keeping a fire between you and a lion is probably better than nothing!

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What are some unusual animals eaten in Africa?

Africa

Answer by Rory Young:

In Zambia and other African countries some tribes are very keen on mice. Bon apetit!

Mopani worms ( type of caterpillar) are very popular in Central and Southern Africa.

TheArmoured ground cricket is eaten by the Goba and Soli in the Zambezi Valley  The brown (females) one are eaten but not the (green) males and have to be boiled in clean water, the water thrown out and then repeated otherwise the eater will not be able to urinate for an extended period and can end up hospitalized.

 

Locusts and grass hoppers. My son used to catch these in the garden with the maid and then she would fry them up for lunch!
locust

 

“Flying Ants” (Termites)
When the first rains arrive in Southern and Central Africa the termites fly out of their mounds there is much excitement as people rush around in the rain with buckets trying to collect as many as possible. They are great to eat!

formosan-termite-swarmers-alates_367x493

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Is there evidence that early humans hunted by running in packs over long distances to wear out their food?

Answer by Rory Young:

This is known as persistence hunting and I have done it. The most important evidence that humans persistence hunted in the past is the fact that we can do so today…The ability to long distance persistence hunt or even run really long distance is not a common one. The only African predators that do so (other than man) are African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus or Painted Wolves)

It is almost certain to have been used by early humans and is a theory for our having evolved the ability to run long distance.

I have hunted Impala in this manner some years ago. I noticed that when spooked they would not run far. I had also seen a tame Impala that sometimes walked with us on anti-poaching patrols had absolutely no stamina or endurance. Clearly they have evolved to quickly outrun predators and then recover.

One day I had to kill an impala for the pot and so instead of the usual bullet a game scout and I ran one down. It was not that difficult.

The San people of the Kalahari still persistence hunt to this day. They will often combine endurance running, tiring out an animal, with stalking after leaving it to settle once it is exhausted.

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What are some extinct species found?

Answer by Rory Young:

The Coelacanth, known only from fossils and believed to have been extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period (around 66 million years ago), was rediscovered off the East coast of South Africa in 1938.  The fish was caught by Captain Hendrick Goosen and identified Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer.

This would be the equivalent of bumping into a dinosaur while looking for deer in a park.

Here is a great link: http://www.dinofish.com/

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What animal(s) kills the most humans per year?

Answer by Rory Young:

The Hippopotamus kills more people than any other mammal every year. You could say that it has been unintentionally provoked as they are so touchy that they are easy to upset. They are extremely aggressive and will often attack boats and dug out canoes as well as people on land. Very often the cause of death is drowning

The most deadly animal on the planet by far and causing unprovoked deaths is the Anopheles Mosquito which carries the Malaria Plasmodium . In 2010 between 660,000 and 1.2 million people died from malaria.

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What is the best way to defend yourself against a large cat attack?

Answer by Rory Young:

There are many accounts of people not only surviving lion attacks but killing the lion (with something other than a gun).

One of the techniques recorded as used by the the Maasai and other African tribes hunt lions was to provoke a charge; covering themselves with their shield and wedging the butt of their spear against the ground and letting the animal impale itself.

One of the most amazing stories of bravery I have ever  read was recorded by the explorer Frederick Courtney Selous.

Two Matabele (Ndebele) boys who had a cow in their care killed by a lion. Determined to redeem their honour and the cow, they set off with one shield and one Assegai. They provoked the lion to charge by approaching it while it was feeding.

The intention was for one of them to let the lion attack, while protecting himself with the shield. This would distract the lion, allowing the second chap to spear it. This is clever and shows they understood lion behaviour. A lion that attacks more than one person will usually stay on that one individual.

The first boy did hold the shield and let the lion attack him whilst covering himself with the shield and the second did spear the lion and kill it.

Unfortunately the boy who held the shield was killed by the lion and the second boy was mauled but survived. The cow was retrieved.

              Matabele Warrior

Then there is the amazing story of game ranger Harry  Wolhuter who was attacked by two lions while riding a horse in the Kruger Park in 1904.

One of the lions grabbed him in its mouth by his shoulder and dragged him off to eat him.

Somehow he managed to draw his sheath knife knife and stab the lion, mortally wounding it.

Harry Wolhuter

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Why do zebras have stripes? It’s not as if they are even camouflage colors!

There are two reasons for Zebras to have evolved stripes.

The first is concealment from and avoidance of predators. Zebras stripes do this in two ways.

Disruptment Camouflage. Normal camouflage works by blending in with or copying the colours and patterns of the surrounds. Obviously the stripes don’t copy the surroundings. Disruptment camouflage works by breaking up the outline of something making it harder to distinguish and therefore identify clearly. See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cam…

Personally I found Zebras one of the more difficult animals to learn to distinguish at very long distance when I first began to work in the bush. From very far they can even look like lions with the naked eye. It can also be hard to distinguish one from another when they are in a herd and running.

They other way they work to confound predators is by the use of Motion Dazzle. This works by distorting predator’s ability to effectively judge the animal’s movements and speeds and therefore making it more difficult to catch. See:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cam…

The second reason that Zebras have evolved stripes is to protect themselves from Parasitic Flies, especially the Tsetse Fly. The biting  tsetse fly carries trypanosomes which cause  animal trypanosomiasis.

Although there has been much hype recently studies showing that flies might struggle to see Zebra stripes, it was actually well clearly established by the Zimbabwe Veterinary Department decades ago in the work of a man called Ted Davidson.

This is how they discovered it. They were trying to discover what colours would work best for tsetse fly traps  (see here tsetse) and tried all sorts of things eventually finding out that the best colour to attract them was electric blue whilst the best colour for them to land on was black. They also tried different patterns and colour combinations and found that weren’t attracted to and didn’t land on Zebra stripes!

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Do wild animals, once captive, retain their wild habits?

Answer by Rory Young:

If you do as you have described a lion will still know how to hunt but may have some difficulty at first and I will explain why.

Firstly. They have a hunting instinct. They are pure killer. They have evolved to kill. They enjoy it. It is fun for them and they get excited by it. I can’t bear the Hollywood bs of lions only killing just what they need. It is so untrue. They are well known to kill more than one animal and even go on killing sprees as do other cats and hyaenas.

Secondly. When a lion gets hungry it gets nasty.You may have heard the saying “a hungry man is an angry man”. Lions are the same.  When they get hungry they don’t just want to eat they want to KILL!

This strong urge to kill, just as powerful as their hunger, does not go until their belly is full. This is why killing sprees happen. They may kill one animal and then, before eating properly and satiating themselves, come across another opportunity and then kill again.

This is common with other cats too. There are numerous accounts of leopards getting into livestock and killing one animal after another. I remember an description from the book Smithers and Skinners Mammals of the Southern African Sub Continent of one leopard that killed 39 lambs in one attack. There is no way it was going to eat 39 lambs. Maybe two or even three but not 39! Simba would be horrified!!

Thirdly. There are also learned hunting and kills that they gain from experience and those do not go away. If your lion had never been in the wild these skills would not have been well developed and the released lion would then have problems feeding itself.

Lastly. Fitness! Just like one of us they can get fat and lazy getting too much food and not enough exercise. This is why I said they may have some difficulty at first. Not too much though! The instinct will still take over..

I love lions they are truly awe-inspiring animals! Seeing them hunt is one of the most incredible things you can ever see.

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How do you track a leopard, or any other wild animal?

Answer by Rory Young:

I’ll focus on leopard specifically..
All cats have three “lobes” on the base of the “Pad”.
Four toes show in the tracks of the front and back feet.
Aside from Cheetah, all cats keep their claws sheathed when walking.
So, three lobes on pad + no claw marks = cat.
Next, the size of an animal’s footprint is proportional to the size of the animal. Big track=big animal and of course big cat track = big cat.
What big cats are there aside from leopards sharing the same habitats?
Well, in Sub-Saharan Africa where the largest populations exist, lions are also found.
We have already established that big cat track = big cat so how big are leopards compared to lions?
Lions are a lot bigger! The average leopard in the Cape area of South Africa is only (male) 28kgs and 58kg in the Hwange National Park area of South Africa. The average male lion on the other hand ways around 200kg, depending on the area.
An average large male leopard of around 50kg will have a track length (the track being the paw impression not the stride length!) of around 90mm whilst a a lion of around 225kg will have a track length of around 180mm.
The fact that the tracks are so different different doesn’t mean the two species can’t be confused. For example a lion cub track can be the same size as a leopard track. The difference is that front lion tracks especially are “messy” and more elongated; not neatly rounded in shape and symmetric as in the case of leopards.
To tell the whether it is a male or female leopard look at the straddle. The straddle is how widely or narrowly a human or animal places their feet when walking. This is usually measured by drawing a line from the heel of the right fore foot track to the heel of the right rear foot track and doing the same with the  left feet. The distance between the two lines is the straddle.
A male leopard has a wider straddle than a female leopard. Imagine a fashion model walking down the ramp placing her feet in front of each other and compare that to a big guy walking along with his thighs and crotch area getting in the way…
Now look down at your own feet. Notice how your toes are pointing in the same direction that you are pointing? Well the same applies to leopards. The pad points to the rear and the toes point to the front, so, unless the animal is walking, backwards moves in the direction its toes are pointing.

You can also tell whether a leopard is walking forwards, backwards or sideways, the height and weight, condition, speed, how long ago it was there and many other details.

I won’t go into that now. I am busy writing a book on the subject of tracking men and animals and how to determine or estimate all these different facts with real accuracy.

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