tracking safaris controversy

Sep 19th, 2007, 10:26 AM
  #41  
 
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Last year, during a bush walk in North Luangwa, we nearly ran into a hippo and had to make a very hasty retreat. "We" means: one of the most experienced guide in the Valley, a ZAWA scout and three clients, each of them with the experience of a dozen safaris or more. None of these 10 experienced eyes saw the animal until we were already by far too near.

Such situations can happen, and most of them have a lucky outcome. But sometimes it all ends in tragedy.

If you are thinking that it's always the guide's failure if such tragedies occur, I strongly suggest that you never ever go on a bush walk.

I once saw Elmon in a movie about traditional healers, so maybe he has a very good connection to the spirits of the Elder who protect him against such disasters. But most of us people or guides are just simple humans, with limited senses (compared to animals) and not immune against accidents. Thus I prefer the company of an armed guide, knowing that he will use that weapon only in pure self-defense and only as a last resort - as did the guide in the mentioned article.
nyama is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 01:11 PM
  #42  
 
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Kaye,

Quote "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"

Whether Elmon was ever surprised by ele is mere speculation on your part.

Secondly none of the elderly trackers I've seen work in Zimbabwe have a weapon either.

I have not met or seen Elmon work (though I have been to Londolozi)and obviously he is extremely skilled at his art.

But, to put him up on a pedestal above his contempories just because he has been well marketed (in film etc by the Varty's) is ridiculous.

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 02:09 PM
  #43  
 
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Kaye,

Because you've not had a chance to hear the other side of the story, you should not have passed judgment. Even I, having heard both sides from the two principal characters, am not willing to lay blame.

Certainly, no blame should be laid for the group's proximity to an elephant. As Nyama, Geoff and I (and no doubt others) know, it is all too easy for even the most experienced person to be unaware of a wild animal close by, even one so big. The guide in this case was accompanied by a San tracker, so there were two sets of experienced eyes plus those of the clients-- who, if they are anything like me, would have had their eyes peeled either for photo opps or just out of plain interest in the environment. I've come across some whose main interest seemed to be engaging the guide in argument, and I would have happily blamed them had an elephant unexpectedly charged out of the bush. But that's another story.

John
afrigalah is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 05:28 PM
  #44  
 
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Nyama

You are not correct in thinking that I believe it is always the guide's fault - in fact, I would usually think it was a guest's fault for not following directions, as in some situations, people panic and I know I am one of these people. So thanks for your great advice, but I have long known it is not a risk I am prepared to take for me, or especially for any of my nieces that are with me!

Geoff, not really speculation on my part - as I have asked Elmon about his more frightening encounters while tracking animals - he only mentioned leopards and lion, never mentioned any frightening incidents involving eles. I am hardly putting him on a pedestal because he worked for Dave Varty - that is a riduculous assumption on your part as I am not a fan of the Varty's to begin with!

I have had some great trackers, usually though not always older men, who have a wealth of experience, and go about their work in a quite dignified manner.

John

On this forum, we very rarely have 2 sides to any story, yet surprisingly, that fails to stop most of us from being judgemental! So to come down on me, for giving my opinion of the article mentioned, was unnecessary as surely I am entitled to my opinion, as is everyone else - I am not asking you to agree with it!

Even though some of you seem to know more of the facts of this particular case, nothing has been said by any of you that has changed my mind from it being human error, either by the guide or any of the clients.

Kind regards

Kaye
KayeN is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 05:55 PM
  #45  
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Geoff, thanks for the background information about the Selinda incident.
The argument about "fault" that's ensued is exactly why a story like this needs facts, and points of view from all witnesses possible. I don't care about who's fault it was, I just want to know the facts, and to know the story is true. Nyama, you'd be a big fan of government propaganda.
Whatever else, these stories may help widen the eyes of safargoers who might be in denial about the risks, however low.
Leslie
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Sep 19th, 2007, 06:04 PM
  #46  
 
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Mkhonzo,
Thanks for the update on the Chifungulu Channel.
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 06:57 PM
  #47  
 
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KayeN: "You are not correct in thinking that I believe it is always the guide's fault".

I hadn't you in my mind when writing this line.

Reading Stephen's story I can't see any error made by these people.

LAleslie: "Nyama, you'd be a big fan of government propaganda."

Since I don't live in North America I don't have much experience with your government propaganda. But what I heard about your Governor's opinions regarding our natural environment sounded quite positive to me.
nyama is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 07:04 PM
  #48  
 
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Kaye,

It is quite possible that human error played a part. You have no argument from me on that.

But we were not talking here about the many judgments, assessments and opinions most of us express about mundane matters on this forum. We were discussing an incident in which a man nearly lost his life. You may not have meant to imply the guide was to blame, but that's how your words came across to me: I still believe that the tracker/ranger had the responsibility to be aware.

I can only repeat that I believe it is wrong to make such a judgment about that kind of incident, based on only one side of the story. Like others, I've expressed opinions about rather routine things on this forum without hearing all evidence, but this is different. And even after hearing both sides of what was a life and death matter, I am unable to find blame.

John



afrigalah is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 09:20 PM
  #49  
 
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atravelynn or mkhonzon,

Could you fill me in on the "update" on the Chifungulu Channel? I could not find the reference. Ruth and I have more than a passing interest in the Chifungulu, given Ruth's "incident" last year and the fact we will be at Chiawa, then Old Mondoro starting in 12 days--yahoo! Has anything changed re. suspension of the canoe trips?

Jim
steeliejim is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 02:50 AM
  #50  
 
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I am obviously missing something from this fellow's story, as the more I read it, the more I see human error, so maybe his story in the telling is missing information or his memory, because of the situation he was is, is a bit blurry. The writer mentions, that they all turned as one, so that sounds as if everyone was facing one direction, which seems wrong to me when sitting in the bush. He also comments how close the ele was, so were they sitting in such a thickly bushed area, that she was invisible until almost upon them, that also seems wrong, you would expect them to sit somewhere where visibility in many directions was good.

Have any people involved mentioned they would have done things differently, if given the chance? I would like to think something was learnt, considering there was a death!

Lastly, regarding both sides of any story brought up on this board - while John refers to many as mundane, I disagree - many people complain about lodges, different guides, travel agents and other things, with only one side, which I feel is OK, as that is how this seems to work, but to call it mundane and ordinary is hardly fair, as what is said may well influence many people to act on that one sided story and use that information without having heard from the other party. So I am still not sure what is so offensive about me voicing my opinion based on the writer's side alone.

That you cannot see blame in the guide, is fine, I do not need you to see it, John, as you say, others with more experience than me, might well have something as large as an ele near them in the bush, and not be aware of it! I would still expect my guide to be aware that there MAY be wild animals near me that are not visible to me, all the more so, because as you say, not everything would be visible
KayeN is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 02:51 AM
  #51  
 
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Kind regards

Kaye
KayeN is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 09:26 AM
  #52  
 
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1. The people were walking, NOT sitting.

2. They already had passed the elephant without seeing it. As I already told such a situation is not unusual.

3. The elephant had four choices - just to stay where it was (the human 'threat' was already moving away), further avoiding the 'threat' and moving in a opposite direction, to do a mock charge, or to do a real charge. I guess the elephant was busy with something else or just moving in, and wasn't first aware of the people; when it suddenly detected the people, it felt frightened, paniced and began to charge. (Who is the aggressor here?)

4. The clients "turned as one" and then began to run into different directions - IMO the only option you have in such a situation.

5. The guide first tried to distract the elephant, but without effect, and finally shot it to save the life of his clients.

This all happened within a few seconds. The guide even tried to save the life of the elephant and didn't shoot immediately.

So, who made an error here?
nyama is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 09:52 AM
  #53  
 
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Nyama,

Back to the original post i.e., the WSJ article ...... i realize that the walking safaris are noted as tracking safaris ..... but, are they getting more popular thesedays? and by an article like this one with suggestions like getting close to lions and leopard and cub etc etc., ...... people will expect to get more adventurous on their treks, and this is obviously going to attract some future accidents and we perhaps will have more threads like this one! (ofcourse, the operators will hv the best trained guides/precautions etc etc.,)
HariS is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 10:01 AM
  #54  
 
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So, who made an error here?

Nyama, the guide made two mistakes.

1) He took his clients thru a spot where he couldn't protect them.

2) He failed to kill the elephant before it reached his client.

I realize there's risk involved on trips like this and that they had some bad luck, but it's the guide's responsibility to anticipate and minimize the risk and to stop the ellie once it charges.

Bill

Bill_H is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 10:41 AM
  #55  
 
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HariS,

for me it's just a new buzz word. IMO there have been 'tracking safaris' for decades - each serious bush walk also includes some kind of tracking.

Last year, during fly-camping, we heard a lion roar on the other river bank. We entered our boat, got to the other side and tried to track the lion down (we stopped this when the area became too unclear). This activity was seen as quite normal.

Interestingly, my first encounter with leopard on same eye level even appeared during a game drive (at Kaingo). We saw a kill, left the vehicle, found a spoor and tracked it down. (However, I guess that this kind of activity depends on clients.)

Walking safaris are getting more popular because the whole safari business is getting more popular. And maybe the number of such incidents will rise, simply because the number of clients rises. I don't see dramatic changes in the future. Operators know quite well how to control clients and minimize risks.

Bill_H,

regarding point 1 - where are the areas where you don't have such spots? Serengeti in Winter? During each walk I made in Botswana and Zambia we passed endless numbers of such spots.

regarding 2 - if the guide had shot immediately there are certainly a lot of people who had accused him being a ruthless elephant murderer. Making the right decision in such a short timeframe is a very difficult task and depends on many factors. From what I know about this incident so far I wouldn't blame the guide.
nyama is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 05:09 PM
  #56  
 
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Some interesting argument/discussion on this thread. My intent with posting the link was to show that mishaps can occur on walks where you do not actually track game.

I actually consider the little 'doddle walks' to be far more dangerous than a full on 'tracking' safari.

Often the participants on the walks can be unfit and tire easily. (I apologise if I have offended anyone.)

At these times the guests lose concentration (& interest) and the guide has to pay more attention to the client than the game that might be in the vicinity. I have watched this on occassions much to my chagrin.

Whereas on some tracking safaris we have covered as much as 40 K's in a day following black rhino & lion.

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 06:23 PM
  #57  
 
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Geoff,

Agreed. Also, the guide/s lose concentration at times, if/when someone in the group talks excessively? i went on a little Mickey mouse walk during the siesta hour in the recent trip and found this to be a common occurence (lots of chit-chat)

Hari
HariS is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 06:45 PM
  #58  
 
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I'm a little confused. I want to do this tracking safari thing, but got nothing to track. We're in camp and can see no lion, leopard, rhino or elephant spore from there. So I assume we start a bush walk and look for spore. So this morning we found no spore of anything we wanted to track, but saw lion, buffalo, waterbuck, kudu and some ellies while looking to track something Ok. I'll try this afternoon to see if we can find some spore so we can do a tracking safari. I guess if not, we will just settle on all the wildlife we see on the bush walks.
luangwablondes is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 07:26 PM
  #59  
 
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Luangwablondes,

Your problem is your not looking in the right place.

If its SPORE you're after have a look at certain types of plants

Geoff.
GeoffG is offline  
Sep 20th, 2007, 09:53 PM
  #60  
 
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Nyama,

You have read the article accurately and with understanding of the situation. Others, I am afraid, seem to have made assumptions which I am no longer going to bother to address.

John
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