BUSH WALK DANGERS ON SAFARI

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Mar 11th, 2004, 07:20 PM
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BUSH WALK DANGERS ON SAFARI

SKUKUZA - The swift reactions of two field guides saved the lives of British tourist, Mr John Anslow and his fellow visitors on a day-walk in the Kruger National Park (KNP) on Tuesday morning.

The group, predominantly foreign tourists, was walking on the banks of the N?waswi-tshaka River about 15km from Skukuza. "It was a normal walk," said Mr Gordon Ramsden, one of the guides. "I briefed my guests completely and started to walk in a northerly direction when I saw a breeding herd of elephant fairly nearby."

To be on the safe side, Gordon and his back-up guide, Mr Mphadeni Nthangeni, re-briefed the tourists on elephant behaviour and requested that they remain close to the guides. The group was then able to view the herd for about five minutes before it moved on.

"I was telling the guests about elephant behaviour when, out of nowhere, one charged us from behind. The group split up and six of the tourists came with me while the rest went with Mphandeni. The elephant came past me and brushed two of the tourists before turning on one of the tourists," Ramsden explained.

"At that moment, I thought I was dead," said Anslow, from Stafford, United Kingdom. "I was lying on the ground with the elephant virtually on top of me when I heard shots and it slumped to the ground on my right." A bullet from one of the guides? rifles penetrated the brain, killing the pachyderm instantly, before it could kill Anslow.

"I owe my life to the quick actions of the KNP guides and am relieved that they are so well trained," he commented. He was taken to the doctor shortly after the incident, but was discharged as his injuries were very slight.

Dr Freek Venter, HOD conservation services for the park, said, "This is a reminder of the necessity for our field guides? training and competency in the field." KNP has conducted wilderness trails for the past 26 years and there has never been an incident in which a tourist has been seriously or fatally injured.

The guides are extensively trained in rifle handling, animal behaviour and other bush skills before they are allowed to take guests into the bush.

Although it is currently not clear why the elephant attacked the group, it is believed that the lactating cow might recently have lost her calf. KNP rangers and officials inspected the site after the incident and all that remained was the elephant carcass and a peeked cap left by one of the tourists with the inscription, "USS Kitty Hawk - Don?t Tread on Me".

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Mar 11th, 2004, 07:39 PM
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MATSULU - A leopard that escaped from the Kruger National Park caused havoc among residents of Matsulu near Nelspruit yesterday morning when it killed a dog and started feeding on the animal.

Mr John Phangiza, who lived about 800 metres from the fence between Matsulu and KNP, got the fright of his life when he woke up yesterday morning, walked outside and bumped into the leopard lying right in front of the door, feeding on his dog.

When the animal saw Phangisa, it stormed him, Inspector Enoch Mdluli of the Matsulu police said. Phangiza threw stones and even a chair at it in an effort to chase it away. When the police arrived on the scene, the leopard was trapped in the corner of the yard. They fired shots at it but it managed to escape into the next stand.

The leopard tried to slip into one the open doors of a neighbouring house but the owner managed to slam the door shut before it could get in. The police say the animal then apparently pushed against the door, trying to open it. The two police officers chased it for about 500 metres before they managed to trap it in a small cane field. They climbed onto the roof of a house to have a better view of the animal. It was hiding in a ditch in the cane field and they managed to shoot and kill it

Members of KNP were called out, who then removed the leopard?s carcass.

* Twice this year, leopards in KNP have attacked humans. A while back a nine-year-old boy, Tshikani Nobela, was fatally attacked in Skukuza while he was walking home from school.

* A tour guide of Safari Direct, Mr Henry van Eck, was attacked in the presence of tourists while he was sitting behind the steering wheel of his vehicle. The leopard bit him on his leg. In both instances the animals were tracked down and shot
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Mar 11th, 2004, 09:29 PM
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Thanks for the posting, safarinut. I must say that I didn't feel very secure on our 4 day walking safari in Zambia!
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Mar 12th, 2004, 05:50 AM
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I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see a leopard, but better not to have seen one than to see it attack our guide!

Always interesting to read about these situations -- it's wildlife, not Disney. However attacks and fatalities are very, very few and far between.
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Mar 12th, 2004, 06:22 AM
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And on the flip side...

I went on a couple game walks last year in South Luangwa while at Kafunta. I was accompanied by my guide at Kafunta, Rocky, and our assigned armed national park ranger, Danger. The guides at the game lodges are not allowed to carry firearms and a national park ranger is assigned each time there is a game walk.

While the bush walks offered a different perspective, I never felt at danger and was actually sometimes frustrated that we were not able to get very close at all to any animals, as each time we were even within a couple hundred meters, they were gone.

It actually seemed a lot safer than the times during game drives that I have actually been within a couple meters of a leopard, within possibly four meters from a full grown lioness and within ten meters of an elephant bull, all while the rifle in the vehicle (if there even was a rifle in the vehicle, as this is not the case in Zambia) remained in its rifle rack.

At least on a game walk, there is a ranger with a rifle in hand, as was the case in this story and the reason that the British tourist escaped with his life.

Personally, I think the most dangerous activity that I will engage in during my next visit will be canoeing, followed by microlighting, then by game drives and in a distant fourth place, bush walks.

Let's face it...we are not going to Disneyworld, and it is this danger that makes that much more exciting. On the other hand, what we are doing is not nearly as dangerous as deep sea fishing, rock climbing/mountain climbing, skiing, or a variety of other activities done that are for the most part considered safe.

In any event, I look forward to the bush walks, as well as the canoeing, microlighting and game drives in which I will partake this year. Accidents will happen, but for the most part, each of these activities are 99.9% free of incident.
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Mar 12th, 2004, 07:23 PM
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I read about the animal attacks with great interest. In 2002, my ranger and I were mock charged by a bull elephant while on bush walk. No rifle shot was necessary, just a 10-minute stand-off as the elephant threw sand at us. To be honest, it was one of most exhilarating experiences ever; although I realize it could have ended badly for either the elephant or us. Clearly, we were the trespassers, not the elephant.
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Apr 16th, 2004, 09:07 PM
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KNP RHINOS INJURE TWO PEOPLE
Two people were seriously injured when a group of three white rhinos attacked a group of people on a morning walk in the Kruger National Park this morning.

Both men, a KNP guide Mr Elias Chauke and a guest from Vereeniging were part of a group of five tourists and two guides who were on a morning walk from Biyamiti Bush Camp when the incident happened.

?The rhinos burst onto us as we approached the river bed and caught Elias who tried firing his rifle to no avail. I was not in a good position to fire my rifle but managed to hit the rhino with the butt of my rifle and it dropped Elias and ran off,? explained KNP field guide Mr Dumisani Zwane.

Mr Chauke suffered serious injuries to his back, chest and arms. Another rhino charged through the site and mauled the guest - who has requested that his name is not mentioned - in the buttocks.

According to Mr Zwane, the rhinos then fled the scene.

A doctor from Skukuza, Dr Russouw Ferreira, was airlifted to the scene and stabilised both men before they could be airlifted to nearby Afsaal Picnic Spot where an ambulance rushed them to Nelspruit Medi Clinic.

The group was then safely escorted back to Biyamiti Bush Camp.

The incident happened at around 08:30 near a tributary of the Biyamiti River in the Southern Region of the Kruger National Park.

It is believed that the rhinos attacked the group as they were boxed in between the people and a relatively steep riverbank.

Kruger National Park management expressed its sympathy towards the tourist and to Mr Chauke.

? Ends
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Apr 17th, 2004, 06:50 PM
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safarinut: Thanks for posting the story on the rhino attack. It is an important reminder to all of us that even thought the game appears habituated to tourists, they are still wild. Also, I have often wondered how proficient my walking guides actually were with their rifles. Relieved to read that neither rhino or human were killed.
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Apr 18th, 2004, 05:39 AM
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Yes - as people have said - remember always that the animals are wild and it's their world you impinge on.

I've seen people do the daftest things.
Me - was just following the rules and had an experience like that of the visitor mentioned by the OP.

Take care, all.

From an elephant attack survivor (scars but fortunately not visible unless to my nearest and dearest).
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Apr 18th, 2004, 02:30 PM
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Alice, you must tell more about your attack.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 05:08 AM
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Clematis - you asked so here it is - I have never written this down before, and if I had a personal web site I'd post it there and leave a link - but I don't.

it's a bit long - so anyone who finds it boring - whizz down to the end for the reason I posted in the first place.

FOLLOWS ...

Well, it happened at Mana Pools in Zimbabwe in 1991. I was staying there with some recently made friends at the campground (only 36 sites and bring everything you need as the only item available there is firewood). It's a wonderful place - no shops, no restaurant, no swimming pool - just the land, the wildlife and the river. We were on our second walk with an armed ranger - booked the day before at the Park Office - our last activity before packing up and heading back to Harare.

We were heading back to camp through thornbush scrub when we suddently emerged into a small clearing. On the opposite side about 30m away, behind a tree, was an elephant. There were six of us including the guide. We probably made our first mistake in standing to either side of the guide in a small arc. With hindsight this may have been similar to the behaviour of poachers. And poaching was only just beginning to be brought under control. The second mistake was not realising that she had a calf - we never saw it, but I'm sure she did.

It was August and although some 2 months before the rains, already very dry. So the drought, the poaching, and the calf all contributed to what happened. I can't be sure now how long we stood there. We obviously couldn't go forward; we had to go back. The elephant flapped her ears; and again; and again, and was obviously agitated. Some group basic instinct must have said run - or maybe the guide suddenly said 'run'. I don't think using the gun was an option as he didn't have clear sight of her (I know nothing about shooting).

So we ran. I was furthest away from the guide on the right and last through the gap in the trees that we'd come through. A thorn branch snagged my shirt and by the time I got free and turned to look, the elephant was right in front of me and travelling. I don't know why, but what went through my mind was what I'd heard about what you're supposed to do if you meet a bear. Play dead. So I threw myself to the ground and rolled up into as small a ball as I could.

I can only say that what happened next was like being inside a tumble drier. I was rolled along the ground, round and round, waiting, I guess, to be tusked or stamped on. Next thing I'm in the air. Land on my back. Hear elephant going away "trump, trump". Winded, but trying hard not to breathe in case she came back.

She didn't. I opened my eyes and saw blue sky. I wiggled my toes. So, I remember thinking, I haven't broken my back then. I started to call out and was found. My companions had been joined by a large group who had seen the elephant leave and had stopped their car.

The story of how I got from there to Harare is a long one involving my original friends, my newer friends, the Zimbabwean army medical corps, a small group of which were at the park office at the time; the pilot of a small plane who was flying into Chikwenya (the nearest airstrip, 30km away) with a tour group, I guess, and flew me to Kariba. The wonderful woman there at the hospital (Morag) who said I had to go to Harare and I could fly or she would drive me! A total stranger - it's a 6-7 hour drive! Bless her, and all of them. I flew - Morag organised it. Peter from NZ flew with me and got me to the hospital in Harare.

The nurses at the Parenyatwa Public Hospital in Harare; the surgeon (thank you). My original friends were all travellers and just passing through - an Australian; a Kiwi; a Basque; and one more - all men - so it was my new friends who came to visit. They brought books, and nibbles, and conversation. And roped in family, and friends of friends, to make sure I was OK. And they called my family in the UK and when it came time to leave, collected me from the hospital, took me home, and later, to the airport where I boarded a BA. flight (Business Class for the first, and to date, last time) catheter bag and all. LOL.

I was in Parenyatwas for a month and Mt Vernon Hospital outside London for skin grafts for another 10 days. And I learned, at the age of 39, what it must be like to no longer be able to take things like crossing the road for granted.

I believe what saved my life was doing the "bear thing" though experts may disagree. Maybe I should have torn myself free and kept on running. But I figured it would be worse to be caught out in the open; and I have since discovered that elephants can reach 30kmp so there's no way I could have outrun her. The other thing was that I was wearing a very dark brown long sleeved t-shirt and a very bright pair of Zimbabalooba pants. I think the elephant could see the pants and not the top, and so went for the legs not the torso. These clothes were, of course, ripped to shreads. The OM2 around my neck was totally mangled. I kept it for a while but eventually threw it away.

Done a lot of travelling since - even been back to Mana Pools. But on one journey I was with a group in a 4wd on a country road - not a gamepark - and an elephant was sighted a little way off in the bush. We stopped to look - and some of them jumped out with their cameras and headed off in the direction of the elephant to get a better photo.

If any of you have read this far - that's why I posted in the first place. I don't suppose a Fodorite would be so daft. But if you ever see anyone else being - you have a cautionary tale to tell them.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 05:35 AM
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Thank you very much Alice. Your words will not be lost on me as I head to Zambia next month for an 11 night safari that will include a fair amount of bush walks (as well as game drives).

On bush walks it is easy to become complacent and want a close encounter, but your precautionary words will be remembered on my each and every step during these walks.
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Apr 20th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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Alice - Thanks for sharing your story. What a horrible, horrible nightmare you have lived through - but I guess you know that better than anyone!

I have read another story amazingly similar to yours. It can be read here: http://www.naturephotographers.net/ss0102-1.html

My personal opinion is that being safe on a walking safari is just the luck of the draw. If you walk up on a wild animal, whether on purpose or accidentally, you could die. I don't think there is any animal or snake that a person could outrun. There isn't any "precaution" you can take unless maybe you could learn to fly or become invisible.

So good luck to all of you taking walking safaris!


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Apr 20th, 2004, 07:11 AM
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I wonder if this is why Botswana doesn't allow game walks. We actually did walk around a little bit on an island in the Delta (which we reached by boat) and encountered two bull elephants feeding and a rock python to boot. We stayed really quiet and pretty far away, and the elephants stayed calm, but being near them on foot was really incredible. The area was heavily forested, so I don't know what would have happened if one of them had gotten irritated.
The rock python was slithering away as fast as it could go and bit our guide as he captured it to show us!
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Apr 20th, 2004, 09:47 PM
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Alice, many thanks for reliving your story to share it with us here. It was quite moving.

I'm not sure what Zimbabalooba pants are, but I take it they are colorful (another reason we are told to wear bush colors?). And OM2... I am not sure what that is?

Thank you, thank you. This may help some people.
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Apr 21st, 2004, 07:12 PM
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Alice,
So glad you survived (!) and are well and can even go back and enjoy Africa.

These animals are wild and unpredictable, and certainly can be dangerous. There is no assurance that a walk--or a game drive-- is going to be safe.

But then we get into our cars several times a day, and I still believe that statistically, this is the most dangerous thing any of us do. (Assuming we don't smoke...drink and drive...etc.) Traffic accidents and fatalities are so common, they hardly get reported anymore.

So if I am going to take any risks, I'd rather take the ones that lead to profound joy...A car trip to work, the mall or a restaurant involves some real risk of injury or death, but we just don't think about it at all! Somehow we have the illusion that we control the car , but of course we don't have any real control over the other drivers and vehicles on the road....
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Apr 21st, 2004, 09:01 PM
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Tashak, good point of putting this into perspective. I should also mention that I've done a 4 hour walk with (tame, rescue) elephants and a savvy team in Botswana. It was one of the highlights of my trip and I was so enthralled with the eles that I never felt afraid.
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