Walking Safari Safety...

Old Apr 13th, 2005, 10:04 AM
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Walking Safari Safety...

While I have enjoyed walking safaris very much in the heart of South Luangwa National Park, I must say that I would have serious concerns about participating in a walking safari in Botswana.

Unfortunately a recent thread that I posted was killed by Fodors. In such censored post, it was about a Professional Hunter (who serves as the guide for the paying hunter) who had been stomped and gored by an elephant who was only defending its own life.

Given the fact that hunting lodges and photo safari lodges sometimes share the same concessions in Botswana, if I were an elephant, I sure wouldn't be able to tell a photo safari group out walking with their armed guide from a hunting group out for blood.

I never felt at any danger while doing walking safaris in South Luangwa National Park. To my knowledge, no hunting is allowed in the park and from what I have seen, I have never known a hunting lodge to even be on the border of the park.

I just urge extreme caution to anyone thinking about a walking safari in an area where hunting may take place nearby. Elephants, like most living things, will try to defend themselves. Unfortunately, due to the hunters, the rest of us are also put in harms way.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 11:26 AM
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Sorry Rocco, but while I share most of your sentiments (I am anti-hunting), I just cannot agree with this generalization!

Botswana is a very popular destination for camping safaris, self-drive 4WD enthusiasts and those with independent mindsets. Despite the existence of hunting concessions (and most visitors have no idea where these are), I've not seen any evidence of increased animal attacks?

My South African friends and family visit there often and on very low budgets - doing mostly their own thing but always focused on experiences as near to nature as possible - camping, bush walking, delta canoeing, etc are three activities I know they enjoy a lot.

My friends have shared countless safari stories and scary situations and none had anything to do with hunting concessions!

They use licensed guides (for walking safaris) who are experts in their field and won't put clients in harms way. I would rather leave it up to these experts to decide whether or not a walking safari is safe!

I don't believe for one moment that walking safaris in Botswana are more dangerous than anywhere else!
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 02:21 PM
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Too bad your hunting post, that required a lot of typing, was squelched. It was informative. I had not seen that information anywhere else.

Here is how I thought hunting affected walking safaris or any safaris: The animals are going to be far more skittish and fearful. The animals would become violent only as a last resort, but would prefer to just flee making sightings much harder.

Here are two accounts of hunting and safaris that come to mind.

One Kenyan guide/driver told a tale that had occurred years ago. He was in an area that had been used for hunting a few years prior. (don't recall where) He stopped his vehicle at a pride of lions and was explaining something to his clients. Everyone had their windows down with cameras out of the windows, taking pictures, as is the custom.

The guide had a short carved stick in the vehicle from a local craftsman. He motioned at one of the lions with the stick to demonstrate a point, but remained completely in the vehicle, though his window was open. He did not stick the stick out of the vehicle at the lion. In a moment he said the male lion looked at him through the open window and charged the vehicle, swiping one paw inside the window at the guide. The guide sped off unhurt, and the lion was fine too. The guide thought that the lion viewed the stick as a gun and remembered from the days of hunting that long pointy things caused big problems. There had been no reaction from the lion to the peopleís cameras pointed out the window. Needless to say, the guide emphasized that he never pointed a stick again.

In 1998 Hwange was (and maybe still is) not that far from a hunting area. The relaxed elephants we were watching also frequented the hunting area, but knew they were safe in Hwange and ignored people on foot or in vehicles.

One evening we were watching a herd that was quite sedate at a water hole. Suddenly they became very agitated and started trumpeting and stampeding a short distance then turned around and stampeded in another direction. They were not near us, nor were they threatening, but they were upset. After about 15 minutes they calmed down again.

The next day we learned that in the hunting area, there had been elephants shot at (I donít know if they were killed) during the time that strange agitated behavior was witnessed. The guide believed that the elephants in the hunting area communicated distress to those in Hwange through the low decibel rumbling sounds they make. Throughout it all, the elephants in Hwange seemed to know they were ok and did not flee from us or become aggressive toward us.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 02:29 PM
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GMAs completely encompass S. Luangwa. The one between North and South is owned by an American who bow hunts.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 02:38 PM
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Roccco - that other thread was not pulled because it was censored. It was pulled because you included information that was under a copyright. It doesn't matter if you copy and paste or type it out - it's still against the Fodors policy to allow that type of info. It's kind of like a school paper - if you tell the same story in your own words they will let it stay. The big part you included in quotes almost guaranteed that fodors would delete it. If you want people to read the whole story, tell what the story is about (in as much detail as you wish) and post the link.

atravelynn - very interesting story about the elephants knowing their friends were in distress. I've read about elephants and their communication with each other - even from afar - and it's pretty amazing.
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Old Apr 13th, 2005, 03:57 PM
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I guess my thread could have been titled the Good (the elephant), the Bad (the Professional Hunter who was killed) and the Ugly (the American trophy hunter, who of course emerged unharmed).

It is a slap in the face to wildlife and those of us who love animals that an elephant should be killed because it reacted in self defense. It is not as if the elephant would have saved itself had it limited itself to a mock charge.

As I said in my original post, I seriously doubt that they even tracked down the correct elephant, unless this was some kind of canned hunt in a fenced area where there are not too many tusked males.

The Professional Hunter is really just an accessory to murder, while it is the paying Trophy Hunter, who is the true murderer.

In a perfect world, the American trophy hunter would have been killed, the hired Professional Hunter (guide) would have had his rifle jam, and the elephant would have escaped unscathed.
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Old Apr 14th, 2005, 08:13 AM
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Rocco, your post brings up some interesting thought on hunting in the vicinity of wildlife preserves. In Chobe last year we were quite pleased to hear that the Botswana military also serves as their border patrol and, more importantly, their anti-poaching team. No night drives were permitted in the Chobe National Park for this reason: We were told that the military has a policy of shoot first, question afterwards when confronting possible (and very likely armed) poachers driving thru the night. It was also interesting because when the Chobe River is low enough, the elephants could easily cross over to the Namibian side. However, since poaching is more rampant there, the elephants learned to not cross.

We never ventured out of our safari vehicles in the park but our guides were very comfortable pulling up relatively close to lions and elephants. And they seemed quite indifferent to all of us aiming our zoom and telefoto lenses in their direction.

I wish you a safe safari walk and can't wait to hear about it.
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Old Apr 14th, 2005, 09:56 AM
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Poaching is yet another topic in the complex mix of African wildlife.

Zambia has been one of the worst in Southern Africa to manage poaching and only recently (late 80s, early 90s)began to address it seriously. In 1989 they had only 18,000 elephant left!

And let's not kid ourselves about hunting in Zambia either! Currently ZAWA retains 100% of hunting concession fees and CRBs get 45% of hunting revenues. This amounts to a million dollars or so per CRB according to the World Peace Herald.

Yet more reasons why we simply cannot point fingers at Botswana!

It is all very complex and there are no simple answers - even the locals don't get the complete picture and neither can the casual tourist!
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Old Apr 14th, 2005, 07:15 PM
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The point of my post is not to cast stones at Botswana while putting a halo over the head of Zambia. I do not disagree with your figures. Unfortunately, as a landlocked diamond without the lucrative diamond mines of Botswana, Zambia is a very poor country, although this does not excuse their poor track record on conservation in the past.

The point I am trying to get across is that in the worst case scenario, non-hunters are put at risk due to the actions of hunters. In the best case scenario we are affected in that many animals are very skittish of humans and live in constant fear. Of course, I am not looking for a petting zoo, but for the benefit of the animals it would be nice if they did not live in constant fear of humans (don't most animals have enough to worry about?).

While at Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi (Zambia) last year, I was very disheartened to hear booming gunshots coming from just across the river in Zimbabwe. This would have been coming from Mana Pools or one of its surrounding GMA's. I, for one, would not have felt safe while canoeing down the Zambezi had we come across an elephant or buffalo who had just been shot at by hunters or seen one of their own gunned down by hunters.

Hopefully, hunters tax breaks will be taken away from them, but under the current presidential administration and congress, I would not hold my breath. Both the President and Vice President are hunters, as I am sure are many members of Congress. The Hunting Lobby is a very strong one so I doubt that no matter how passionate some of us are on the issue that little will change.
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Old Apr 14th, 2005, 11:15 PM
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In terms of elephants and poaching you are forgetting a very important point: Elephants get to be very old and have long memories. Most adult elephants anywhere in Africa has seen poaching at some point in time!.
Also all animals all over the world has a natural respect for people and are therfore more difficult to approach by foot than by vehicle.
If you investigate the number of actual accidents involving a qualified guide they are very low and will typically involve a rogue animal (there are crazy animals just like there are crazy people!).
I think it is important to stress to newbies on safaris that it is very safe to go on a walking safari but also to remember that you are dealing with wild animals.
The risk of being killed on a safari is minimal compared to being in trqaffic anywhere in the world
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