tracking safaris controversy

Sep 16th, 2007, 08:03 PM
  #21  
 
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While it is not possible to be sure of the distance from the photo, the image from Klaserie looks to me like the elies are closer than I would be comfortable with, especially with their ears raised like that.
tuckeg is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 08:06 PM
  #22  
 
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Leslie,

have a read of this, you might change your mind. This occurred near Mokoba lagoon, Selinda. The ellies bones are still there.... http://www.naturephotographers.net/ss0102-1.html

BTW... the two animals that scare me the most on walking safaris are buffalo (the lone old bulls & batchelor groups) & hippo.

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Sep 17th, 2007, 08:22 AM
  #23  
 
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Interesting article.

I think it is useful to know a little bit about the risks involved with these on-foot activities, just so that people take that risk into account and not think they're wandering around in a Disney World-like setting.

However, the risks seem very low. Fifteen people, over all of Africa, over the span of a decade?

I don't know for sure, but I would imagine that there have been close to 15 deaths/injuries associated with grizzly bear attacks in the lower 48 states of the U.S. in the past decade. People still wander around Yellowstone and Glacier Parks on-foot, unarmed all the time.

(Yes, I know that there are more types of animals in African parks that can harm you when compared to U.S. parks, but still, the casualty number is likely still the same when you compare the two environments.)
Gritty is offline  
Sep 17th, 2007, 09:37 AM
  #24  
 
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I seriously doubt any numbers or studies are available that could reliably be used to compare the risk of a walking versus game drives for both the animals and humans. My common sense “receptors” however, tell me that having some percentage of human interaction on safaris be done in a way that provides somewhat less ecological interference into the environment would be beneficial.

Is it risk free for humans and the animals? It appears not, but neither is childbirth and we must weigh the benefits versus the risks and realize some times “bad” outcomes do happen without anyone being at fault.

That being said the deaths that recently happened at “The Hide Lodge” in Zimbabwe gave me pause to think this over. After reading that account over several times from several sources, I concluded I would not go on any walks that only include one armed guide and no additional scouts. I believe having a separate pair of eyes in these crisis situations could make all the difference in the world in preventing tragic outcomes. The guide can focus on his clients safety and have a backup who can focus on spotting safe routes, firing warning shots and if need be at last resort firing direct shots.

On my Zambian walks, by law the walks must include an armed scout and an un-armed guide. In addition “walking” guides must attain an additional level of certification beyond what is required of guides that lead only vehicle led excursions.
GreenDrake is offline  
Sep 17th, 2007, 11:50 AM
  #25  
 
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Quote: “You will learn more about African game in one day on a walking/tracking safari (call it what you may) than you will sitting in a vehicle for two weeks.”

GeoffG , You will learn more about yourself, too!!

I share your passion for walking safaris; completed six-all in EA. Every walking safari I’ve been on has presented some breathtaking moments with chance encounters: warthog with piglets in an open glade, ele with her baby on the trail just ahead of us- separated from the herd on the hillside above, baboon troop nearby and too close for comfort, a herd of buff that had to be turned so their trajectory did not meet ours.

That said, so have there been opportunities for trouble at lodges, campsites, picnic areas, and quiet vista points while sitting in the Land Rover. That’s why I’ve always say the most important ingredient to my planning a safari is hiring the best and most qualified/experienced guide I can find and my reading a lot about animal behavior.
Khakif is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 04:58 AM
  #26  
 
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Thanks for the article, Geoff .... very interesting!!!
HariS is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 08:03 AM
  #27  
 
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My husband and I were on a walking safari at Chichele 2 years ago and were charged by a male hippo who ran up the river bank we were standing on. (We couldn't see him until we got on the riverbank).

We have never run so fast in our lives. The ridiculous thing was, the armed scout that was with us took off and ran ahead of us instead of bringing up the rear to fire a warning shot in the air if the hippo got too close. Honestly, I felt sorry for our guide who was running behind us as I am sure he could have outrun us all.

Would we do another walking/tracking/"I gotta walk off all this great food on foot safari"? Absolutely. Anything can happen out there - that is part of what makes Africa so exciting.
melissaom is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 01:47 PM
  #28  
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GeoffG,
Thanks for the link to the harrowing elephant stomping story. But I found it more than odd that the writer never mentions which safari camp he's at, the hospital where he was treated (or the doctors), not even the African country he was in. How do you know it was Selinda and why were there no details?

Melissaom, this is just waht I fear, a runaway scout who's supposed to protect you! Everybody says stand still when you're confronted, but as these two stories demonstrate, that's nearly impossible.
Leslie
LAleslie is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 05:22 PM
  #29  
 
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Why calling names and making bad propaganda? I would do it the same way...

Obviously this incident wasn't the fault of the guide. But if you publish the name of the camp, many people will only remember the camp's name combined with this bad story.
nyama is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 05:42 PM
  #30  
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Because if you have no facts you don't know whether the story is true. A story shouldn't be published without the who, what, when, where and why. Otherwise people would have no way of knowing whether it was made up. It's just this guy's word.
LAleslie is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 06:09 PM
  #31  
 
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So if it's a "good" story and you read the camp's and people's names, you always believe it's true?
nyama is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 07:24 PM
  #32  
 
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Nyama

Explain to me why this wasn't the guides fault! Or are you saying that it was the fault of the person writing the article - he doesn't really mention what the guide was telling them to do, other than he tried to get the ele's attention.

I am not sure by that story whose fault it was, but sure as hell the poor ele paid for their mistake! It seemed that they were all sitting and relaxing and not being at all aware of their surroundings.

Kind regards

Kaye
KayeN is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 07:34 PM
  #33  
 
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"So if it's a "good" story and you read the camp's and people's names, you always believe it's true?"
It is easier to substantiate the story if ALL the facts are presented. Names, dates, places etc.
Agree with Kaye. It is the guides responsibility to protect the guests, this guide failed in his duty and the elephant paid with it's life.

matnikstym is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 10:07 PM
  #34  
 
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No doubt it is a guide's responsibility to protect their clients and likewise avoid harm to wildlife as well. Good guides know what animals to avoid and the buffer distances that need to be maintained. However, it is imperative that everyone understand that even the best, most aware guides are going to have surprises with wildlife. These are species that have evolved to blend with their environment for eons while human senses have dulled to the wild -- no matter how careful and great a guide is there can be surprises. In these cases the best guides will know the correct way to react but that doesn't mean that they, you, or the animals are going to be safe. Sometimes there simply is not enough time to react and nature will play out with people included. Too many people gain a false sense of security due to firearms, when an animal is unexpectedly encountered at close range there may only be seconds to place a shot into a very small kill zone of an animal coming directly at a party at high speed.
Wounding them may make it worse. It is possible for a guide to do everything correctly and still have a fatality. Like most things in life you are choosing to take a risk when you walk in wildlife areas and the African bush may hold more dangers than most areas. All that said the statistics seem to suggest less than 2 tourists a year suffer an injury or fatality, seems like less of a risk than driving in the USA or lots of other daily things we choose to do. Active tracking can add to the danger by pursuing a dangerous animal but on the other hand I prefer to know where the animal is than happen upon it by surprise. I think it depends on how zealous the tracking is, it needs to be done very slowly with great caution.

As to different actions like taking the stand or running the rules are different for different species so that is not actually conflicting. With predators you have to take a stand, running often provokes the predatory response and encourages attack as well as making it eaiser for the predator by turning your defense mechanisms away from them. In the case of the hippo by the river that is his territory and he wants you out of it. Remaining in his territory by making a stand on a river bank could get someone killed while exiting the territory quickly gives him what he desired and hippos are uncomfortable out of the water so he is almost certainly not going to pursue far from the river. No reason for the guide or scout in such a case to stand nearby and shoot, simply exiting the situation quickly does the trick.

Personally I love to get my feet on the ground and it truly is a very different experience than doing a game drive. The purpose is certainly not a bravery or ego issue, it is a chance to fully feel the wilderness and re-kindle senses that have dulled in the tens of thousands of years since my ancestors exited Africa. The sense of smell, importance of hearing, and the lost sixth sense of anticipating your surroundings start to come back and the spoor, vegetation, wind all begin to matter. The perspective is more humbling and the attention to the small things becomes important. I love gamedrives for the close encounters and observation of relaxed behavior but walking provides a true feeling of being part of the system. I will continue to take the very small risk and enjoy the full experience of the African bush. In November I will walk in Moremi and other islands of the Delta with no guns, being bushwise will be critical. It will not be the animal or me, with care we can coexist. I will also walk with the bushmen in the Kalahari, benefiting from the ultimate teachers who never left the land.

As an aside, here in Colorado last week I was working at a site with high bear and mountain lion activity. On my first visit to the site I found tracks and sign of both and I kept on high alert all week. Even using lots of caution I still had a mama bear and two cubs come around a bend just 20 yards from where I was setting up a trail camera. Even though I was busy with the camera I stayed alert and actually saw them before they knew about me and I alerted them to my presence so we were not so close that the mother would have to charge. Instead she guided them up the hillside and they went around me. With the topography at this site I was certain that daily there had to be a mountain lion watching me and that I would never know it despite my vigiliant searching -- this is a very different environment than the open areas of Africa where walks generally take place. Sure enough at the end of the week when I checked my trail camera I had a brief video clip of a mountain lion at 8:30 a.m. I had been in this 1/2 mile stretch of creek 6 straight mornings from about 7 to 9:30 a.m.

PredatorBiologist is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 11:44 PM
  #35  
 
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To me, from reading that article, and the detail included was not great, I still believe that the tracker/ranger had the responsibility to be aware. They were more than surprised! From the article, no mention was made of nearby eles, only one on the horizon. It does not seem unreasonable, that a tracker/ranger should be aware of eles around - especially when they had been sitting down enjoying the surroundings.

For me, there is no safety with having someone with a gun walking behind me, in fact quite the opposite.

These people seemed to be clearly in this ele's space where she felt at risk, quite different from an animal watching you at a distance, where it did not feel threatened! Most animals seemed to want to disappear without being seen, this one seems to have felt that wasn't an option.

Kind regards

Kaye
KayeN is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 11:45 PM
  #36  
 
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The story Geoff linked to at naturephotographers.net was first told to me in 2000 by the guide who shot the elephant (the incident happened in 1999). The guide used the incident to reinforce the instructions he gave us about how we should try to behave in an emergency. Those instructions were almost exactly identical to those I was given on a previous walking/tracking safari in Zimbabwe (Geoff was with me on that occasion), so I had little difficulty accepting the wisdom behind them. At the same time, it's not hard to understand how difficult it might be to follow those instructions to the letter in such a crisis situation. I wouldn't blame the guide or the client. I am certain that the guide was placed in an impossible position in the 1999 incident.

Some time after hearing the guide's story, I read the account on naturephotographers.net, recognised the incident, and emailed the author to ask him where it occurred. He confirmed it was Selinda.

John

afrigalah is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 11:54 PM
  #37  
 
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Thank you PB for your insightful comments. I've done 3-4 walks and enjoy the sounds and smells and education the guides provide. It is a great experience and hopefully the attacks and deaths will not increase as more people opt to do a walk or track.
matnikstym is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 12:29 AM
  #38  
 
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"But he (Elmon) also tells many stories, of tracking animals and being charged by the unexpected."

"It does not seem unreasonable, that a tracker/ranger should be aware of eles around..."

Having a bit each way, Kaye? I think you should hear both sides of a story, as I have, before making an assessment.

John
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Sep 19th, 2007, 03:21 AM
  #39  
 
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Leslie,

Quote "How do you know it was Selinda and why were there no details?"

In 2000 whilst traveling outback Australia I met a South African guy who had managed one of the Kwando camps in the late 1990’s. He provided details of the incident. He knew a fair bit about it as Selinda had requested help to fly Stephen out.

I’ve been going to Selinda since 1998 and have kept in contact with guides/staff through letters and Email. I asked a few questions and details were provided.

Then in early 2002 John (Afrigalah) found the article on NPN & contacted Stephen.
John then notified me.

In 2002 I was doing Selinda’s monthly game count with Zane Volker (currently Selinda camp manager) and as we were driving along near Mokoba lagoon I mentioned the incident to him. Zane then drove off the road and pointed to the remains of the elephant.

As for why no more details were provided you will have to ask the victim that.

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 04:44 AM
  #40  
 
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John

Not at all! I doubt Elmon was ever surprised by ele and secondly, he never has a weapon with him and doesn't rely on anything other than his wits - leopard and lion have surprised him - a very experienced tracker.

I would be very pleased to hear both sides of the story, though to date, hasn't been an option! In fact I would love the guide/tracker/ranger to state what he believes the facts of this situation were, though does not change the fact that a female ele is still dead due to some human error and, certainly, she is not to blame!

Kind regards

Kaye
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