River Sings Charting .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express Happy Anniversary
the pristine waterways of Gabon
Shooting Buffalo and Pulling Teeth Getting hurt on a dangerous game hunt
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contents 4 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
8 .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express Happy Anniversary
22 A River Sings
Charting the pristine waterways of Gabon
41 Shooting Buffalo and Pulling Teeth Getting hurt on a dangerous game hunt
60 African hunters of yesteryear The Maneating lions of Tsavo
80 Bush Cuisine
Espetada: Meat-on-a-stick the Portuguese way
88 Make a Plan
Pull, lift or move heavy items with a rope
92 True North
A Call for Change
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.375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express
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he year 1912 was a hallmark year for those of us who love the sport of big game hunting. Holland and Holland introduced a cartridge into their family of sporting cartridges, which became the standard for big game hunting throughout world, and a cartridge design that fathered an unending family of cartridges featuring the new belted case design. The .375 H&H belted magnum was 100 years old in 2012, and is still going strong.
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A family of champions. Left to right: 9.3x72R, 9.3x74R, .375 Magnum langed, .450/400 3-inch, .450/400 3.25-inch, .470 Nitro, .475 No. 2 Nitro Express, .500 Nitro Express, .577 Nitro Express, .600 Nitro Express, and the ‘Big Daddy’ .700 Nitro Express 10 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
From left to right: .357 160-grain cast bullet, .377 swaged , .357 bullet, 248 grain plain base, 252 grain gas checked, 268 grain gas checked, 278 grain gas checked. 375 Magnum Flanged, .375 H&H belted, .375 Magnum Flanged with 278 grain bullet
1912 was also the period of great game hunting in Africa. World War One was still in the distant future, and the world was made aware of the challenges of Africa from some of the greatest adventure writers ever known. Most of that generation grew up with the stories of writers such as H. Rider Haggard burnt into their young minds, and a desire to travel to the vast plains and shooting fields of Africa. Much has been written about the .375 H&H belted case, however many are not aware of the contribution of its sibling, the .375 Magnum Flanged Nitro Express, which was also born during that fateful year. In 1899, the British developed a predecessor, which was known as the .375 Flanged Nitro Express. This cartridge featured a straight-rimmed case with a
length of 2.5 inches and a rim diameter of .523 inches, and offered ballistics quite close to the .38/55 cartridge. This cartridge, even though almost unknown in the United States, can be encountered in rifles still in shooting condition. Even though the ammunition is no longer manufactured, anyone wanting to reload this caliber can fabricate cases from new Hornady .405 Winchester cases or use .3ÂŹÂŹ0/40 cases. The .30/40 case ends up a little short by about .250 inch, but is still very usable. The cartridge in this family that I love the best is the .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express. Holland and Holland realized the ballistics of the .375 H&H would make it a winner in the game field. However, they also had the wisdom to realize a rimmed case was Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 11
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This is the view from the games perspective. Left: 470, Right: 375.
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much more reliable in the single shot and double rifles, which were popular in those times and places, where the animal could, and possibly would, turn the game plan against the man with a non-functioning weapon. I give full credit and respect to the belted .375 H&H magnum. However, there is nothing that you can take into the field that has the feel of a good double rifle. The doubles like the rimmed cases, and the .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express is a sibling brother to the .375 H&H, except that the case is longer and it has a rim. I know of no other cases that can be formed into this case. The case length is 2.94 inch and the cartridge has a rim diameter is .572. Holland and Holland decided that due to the firearms design and metal of the day, this cartridge should operate at a pressure just below that of the .375 H&H. The fact that the cordite powders of the day were temperature sensitive in the heat of Africa and India also had a lot to do with this decision. Today, most modern double rifles and powders can handle this level of pressure and in theory, the flanged version of the cartridge can match the performance of the .375 H&H belted Magnum and be reliable in a double rifle with either extractors or ejectors. My personal .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express was built by Butch Searcy of Boron, California, and forms a mate with the original set of .470 Nitro Express barrels. I enjoy the .470, but it is a little large for informal shooting here in the United States. The .375 Flanged Magnum barrel set gives me a smaller caliber that can be downloaded for local hunting and target shooting. Kynoch, as well as a few European manufacturers, loaded the original cartridges. These originals now sell for up to ten dollars each and were mostly Berdan primed. Various manufacturers have produced a few recent runs of boxer-primed cases, which are reloadable with normal components. These limited runs seem to sell out overnight, and then be forgotten in the shadow of new and more modern cartridges. Shooting factory ammunition for fun and practice at these collector prices is out of my budget, and jacketed bullets are still more expensive than most smaller caliber projectiles. The answer for those really wanting to shoot this caliber in volume is to reload with cast lead bullets. I want to shoot this rifle this hunting season, so I have been working for the last two weeks on re-establishing load data. The .375 Flanged Magnum barrels are fitted with a Leupold Vari-X III 1.75x6 scope with a 14 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
heavy duplex reticule, and Warne quick detachable rings for the integral barrel mount. Over the last couple of years, I had worked out some fun shooting loads using .358 caliber 158-grain cast bullets that had been tumble lubed and then bumped up to .376 diameter on a old C&H Swagematic press. Using several different fast burning powders in loads from 9 to 12 grains they were great shooters at 25 yards for offhand practicing on an indoor range. The gun is so much fun to shoot with these loads, that I convinced myself I want to take it deer hunting this year using cast lead bullets in a area were it is still legal to use traditional lead base ammunition. This is difficult to find in California nowadays, and may be impossible some day in the future, so if I want to do it, I decided that now was the time before the anti-hunters have their way to further restrict the hunting sports. I have been using several different cast lead bullets as a base for a hunting load. My first run was with the Lyman #375248, which weighs 249 grains, after sizing to .376 and lubing. The second bullet is the Lyman #375449, which uses a Hornady gas check and as a finished bullet weighs 277 grains. Both bullets were casted using wheel weights, plus 2% tin, and water quenched directly from the mold into room temperature water. I also had on hand a number of old .375-inch bullets that were left over from testing other molds I found at different gun shows. Since the idea for these bullets is not to just have a mild indoor shooting load, but to also have something with a much higher power setting for field game shooting, I decided to use mostly heavier loads of slower burning rifle powders. The .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express is so similar to the .375 H&H that, except for the longer neck and rim on the flanged cartridge, you can call them clones of one another. As mentioned earlier, the flanged case is often used in single shot, light weight, break top rifles of early manufacture, and is usually loaded to lower pressures then its belted brother. They are so close that you can even use the same set of loading dies for both calibers, as long as you remember that the flanged brother has a longer neck. You must take that into account when setting your dies, especially the seating die. I actually use a .375 H&H die for seating the extremely short 158grain bullets into the flanged case. The .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express is not the easiest caliber to find cases for here in the United States. Many doubles have been built chambered
This is what you see from the breach. Left: 470 Nitro Express. Right: 375 Magnum Flanged
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for the .375 H&H belted cartridges; however, I believe that a double is best served with a solid rimmed cartridge. I would not want the ejectors to jump over the rim of a belted case in those situations where a double rifle is at its best. The Lyman 4th Edition of their cast bullet handbook does not list the .375 Flanged Magnum Nitro Express. In fact, hardly anyone lists this cartridge and loading data is very scarce. However, the good news is starting loads for the .375 H&H seem to be in the ballpark for this less popular brother in a strong double rifle. The recommended cast lead loads for the .375 H&H are in a pressure range that is very compatible with most of the older, weaker rifles in this caliber. Besides, the best results with cast lead bullets are in the lower pressure windows. Lyman lists in this manual a fairly broad number of powders for the .375 H&H with lead bullets. I had four of the powders they had listed in my loading stock: IMR 4198, IMR 3031, Accurate 5744, and Alliant Reloader 7 (R7). I started with the Alliant R7, since the only can of this powder I had was about 3/4 empty and it seemed to be a good way to use up what was left. I started shooting four shot groups, two shoots from the left and then two from the right barrel. Loads with the 277-grain bullet started at 26 grains and worked up to 34 grains. No loads showed any real signs of pressure, but you could feel the difference as you worked your way up. All loads shot nicely at 50 yards, so that was the range I set the point of impact. I settled on using the 34 grains load, since it was in the power range I wanted and actually shot the best group. I fired four rounds, two from each barrel at 25, 50 and 100 yards using a 3-inch bulls eye. Without any change of setting, all twelve shots were in the bull. Not bad for a double that is not really regulated for the load I was using, but now I had run out of my stock of R7. The next test run was with the same bullet, using Accurate 5744. I have always liked this powder and use in almost exclusively in the larger calibers with cast lead bullets. The starting loads were at 27 grains and worked up to 34 grains with the 277-grain bullet. Surprisingly, accuracy was on a par at 25 yards with the R7 loads. Then, I worked up one grain at a time to 34 grains. At 34 grains, the recoil level was becoming noticeable and the barrel really started to heat up after 10 rounds or so. In fact, when shooting over a 10 to 12 minute period, the barrel was too hot to handle. I noticed that for some reason the hotter the load the better the gun shot, and the separation of each barrel 16 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
decreased as the loads increased, without the bullets crossing over. Also, this powder seemed to give a real flash of flame out of the barrel, but I did not notice any streaks of burning powder flying around. Next came a can of IMR 4198. Again, started at 24 grains and worked my way up to 35 grains. This load speaks with authority, but seems to have a lower pressure curve than the Accurate 5744. The barrel flash seems less intensive and the load shot just as well. Accuracy again was surprisingly good at 50 yards. I have not had a chance to shoot out to 100 yards with this load, as again I ran out of powder. However, since I want to use this gun from a tree stand at 50 to 65 yards, I believe I have a couple of loads that I can use with confidence this season. The next powder in my rounds of test shooting was IMR 3031. This medium burning rate powder has always been promising in other cast lead loads and seemed to be worth the effort. IMR 3031 shot just a well as IMR 4198 and Alliant R7, with the possible advantage that the barrel did not seem to heat up during the ten shot strings. I will be working with the 249-grain cast lead Lyman bullet in a couple of weeks. This bullet does not use a gas check and will probably be a little cheaper to load in the future, considering the cost and difficulty of obtaining a steady supply of gas checks for the .375 bullets. I only have a couple of hundred of these to play with, but if they shoot as well at the heavier bullets, I may need to order another mold so that I can avoid the use of a gas check. These tests with the .375 Flanged Magnum with cast bullets should be parallel with what you should experience with the .375 H&H. Anyone having the luck to own either .375 caliber will find these cast lead loads will make them into a manageable, pleasant shooting, deer or pig gun at ranges up to 125 yards or so. And, of almost equal importance, the cost of shooting will be right down there with any medium caliber handgun cartridge. I hear rumors that Nosler may be considering making a run of loaded ammunition in the original 1899 version, .375 Flanged Nitro Express. If they do, I hope they will also make cases available for this fine old cartridge. Corbon is offering loaded .375 Flanged Magnum on their website for approximately $4.00 a round. My advice is to load cast lead bullets and enjoy shooting this classic caliber. Let us hope it will be around for another 100 years.
Leo Grizzaffi is a lifelong hunter and veteran of many African safaris. Author and reloading expert, his specialty is the care and feeding of big bore double rifles, however he also dabbles with the little calibers. Leo resides in California, where being a lawyer and judge in the City of Los Angeles sometimes interferes with his busy hunting and reloading schedule. Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 17
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Sings Charting the pristine waterways of Gabon 22 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
Keith Levesque and Katie Blasco
“Step it up!”
Keith’s voice echoed from somewhere amongst the dense green foliage in front of me. We’re losing the lead party.” Step it up? I’m sweating like an overweight wrestler in 40-degree heat, carrying a pack that weighs half of what I do, and climbing through twisted masses of tree, vine, and root with a semi-automatic rifle following dangerously close to my rear. Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 23
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At what point did our expedition turn into a military death march? We wanted to get lost. Central Africa and the Congo Basin are names that conjure up visions of dark green jungles and impenetrable forest. On the westernmost edge of this belt of bursting biodiversity, nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, lays Gabon, conservationist Mike Fay’s “Last Eden”. Inspired by Fay’s 15-month mega-transect, charting the ecosystems across equatorial Africa, we tried to find a place as remote, pristine, and wild, and stumbled upon an elusive waterway, the Sing River. In the heart of Gabon’s Minkébé National Park, the Sing’s only visitors are the forest elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes, a host of insects, and -as we were to discover, an alarming number of poachers. Of Gabon’s population, estimated at 1.5 million, over 75% live in urban areas, leaving the country’s remaining wilderness virtually untouched. Over 80% of Gabon is covered in rainforest, a large proportion of which was designated as parkland by President Omar Bongo in 2002. In a single year, Gabon went from zero to 13 National Parks, due in large part to the ecosystem surveys of Mike Fay and Lee White, who at the time were working for the Wildlife Conservation Society. This network of National Parks covers ecosystems, ranging from coastal beaches, swampland and savannah, to tropical rainforest. In the northeastern corner of the country, bordering on the Republic of the Congo, Minkébé National Park is one of the least-visited and most remote of Gabon’s protected areas. Its enigmatic reputation as a place of thick, brilliant jungles teaming with the grey, looming shadows of over 20,000 forest elephants made us giddy with visions of untapped possibilities for adventure. However, its remote location and disconnection from the expensive and almost inexistent tourist industry, meant information was nearly impossible to find. What we had in mind was a river expedition, something no one had done before. Just the two of us, our inflatable, lightweight pack rafts, and enough
food on our backs to get us through 3 weeks of jungle travel without having to turn to poaching to supplement our diets. Minkébé Park requires special entry permission from Gabon’s National Park Agency, Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux, or the ANPN. After endless research and many failed attempts at emails and expensive over-seas calls to Africa, our planning took a positive turn when we made contact with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Minkébé Programme in Libreville, Gabon. WWF’s Minkébé Programme , established in 1998, works with the Gabonese government, local communities and the private sector, to manage over 40,000 kilometres 2 of some of the most biologically diverse and intact forest in Africa. The forest, which includes within its boundaries the 7560 km2 Minkébé National Park, is increasingly threatened by logging, mining, and poaching activities as well as the Ebola virus, which is believed to have been the cause of a 90% decline in Minkébé’s western lowland Gorilla population between 1994 and 1996. Since its inception, the program has made huge headway in mapping the ecological diversity of the vast area, training and educating park staff, and reducing poaching activities. After multiple online conversations, pouring over Russian topographic maps and many late nights staring at Gabon’s twisting waterways glowing on our computer screens, we found our Sisyphus’ stone, a challenge worthy of our efforts, the Sing River. The Sing flows from its source in northern Gabon near the Cameroon border, through the Minkébé forest, until it meets the larger, fast-flowing Ivindo River. The WWF, having surveyed a large part of the region, had little information on the upper reaches of the Sing due to its remoteness, shallow waters, and the density of its foliage making it impassable even in paddled boats for half of the year. For Keith, a biologist, and myself, a geologist who spends most of our year organizing and conducting research in Canada’s frigid Arctic, the evolution of our equatorial vacation into research project, was Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 25
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a tantalizing prospect. We could potentially provide the WWF and ANPN with new information on poaching activities, hunting and fishing camps, and wildlife inhabiting the Sing waterway. And so it happened, that somewhere between our home in Québec and Minkébé National Park, our 2-man jungle expedition turned into a joint conservation effort involving the WWF, ANPN and eventually, the Gabonese Military.
Palace, its name inspiring visions of Las Vegas-style glitzy excess, neon lights and sequined women. The dull green sprawling structure that greeted us with its fluorescent lighting and sterile décor was reminiscent of an ancient hospital more than Makokou’s “top-end” hotel.
Our days in Makokou seemed to follow the same pattern as in Libreville, as we found ourselves conOur river voyage seemed to evolve, summoning a ducting meetings and appointments, presenting our sinuous life of its own as we bounced from meeting expedition plan to rooms packed with park officials to meeting with the WWF and ANPN in the nation’s and logisticians, eager to provide us with a wealth of seaside capital, Libreville. A minor hitch in our plans local knowledge on the park and the obstacles we arose, when we learned that the ANPN was relucmay encounter. We solidified our plan to motor up tant to allow us entry into the park alone. Previous the Ivindo then Nouna Rivers for two days by motordisappearances in Gabon’s deep jungles, and the ized pirogue (the French term for dug-out canoe) to potential for conflict stemming from contact with both our drop-off location at the northern end of the park. other humans and the environment were of signifiThe enthusiasm was infectious, and we celebrated cant concern. Following ANPN protocol, the Christmas holidays swilling sweaty we were appointed two Eco-Guards, brown bottles of Regab, the local beer, park rangers trained in conservation and and discussing the trip with our reWe arrived mandated to enforce the park’s laws, who cently appointed Eco-Guards, Hiver and in Makokou, would accompany us on our expedition Yenzo. The following day, our team of gateway to and support the data collection effort. The 6 (including a boat driver and his naviaddition of two new team members pregator) departed Makokou, a crowd of Gabon’s sented a logistical issue for river travel, screaming children with plastic machine north-eastern both Keith and I had one-man inflatable guns waving us off from the muddy rafts, our Eco-Guards had none. However, parks, in the shoreline. pitch black the WWF’s rigid, plastic-hulled watercraft, Barely10 minutes into our two-day affectionately dubbed “The Fat One” of the African boat trip, we were stopped by a military although not as light as our rafts, served checkpoint. Ominous looking soldiers night to rectify our potentially voyage-altering in tight green camouflage, eyes hidden transportation issue. behind black shades greeted us on the After a week of planning, organizing logistics and riverbank, their semi-automatics held like badges at buying supplies, our small party left the commotion their sides. Keith and I stayed in the pirogue while and clatter of the sprawling urban centre by Land the others presented the military with our park perCruiser. We passed, travelling in the opposite direcmits and expedition plan, explaining our research tion, the presidential convoy, a kilometre-long train of interests with the WWF and ANPN. Identity cards green-speckled military vehicles, police, gendarmerand passports were demanded, Keith struggling to ie, and glossy sedans stirring up the red dust, sirens extract his from the hidden pocket, now not-so-idealwailing and strobe lights flashing. The only thing ly-placed, in the crotch of his pants. missing was the president himself, who had opted for The arrival of a superior officer, the Adjutant, hera flight from his meetings in Oyem back to Libreville. alded an untimely end to our expedition, merely After spending 11 spine-jarring, ass-numbing hours 2 kilometres from its starting point. Words were in the back of the Land Cruiser, it was evident who exchanged, fragile papers passed hand-to-hand, had made the wiser choice of transportation methchecked and rechecked. The crowd on the shoreods. line continued to grow as we waited anxiously to be We arrived in Makokou, gateway to Gabon’s northordered back along the path we had come. Then eastern parks, in the pitch black of the African night, astonishingly, breaking into an ear-to-ear grin, the jolted out of our attempts at sleep by the unexpected Adjutant marched up to us, took our hands in his and crooning of Québec pop artists, Celine Dion and said, “Good luck my Canadian friends! Please come Roch Voisine blaring over the radio. Our home for back alive!” the Christmas holidays lay before us, the Belinga The Ivindo’s waters were at times flowing fiercely and 28 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
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others, glassy calm. Tiny birds basked on protruding rock islands, as clouds of butterflies flit across the water in the gleaming sunshine, like handfuls of floating confetti. The river narrowed and grew shallower as we turned off onto the Nouna, our boat drivers keeping constant vigil for sunken logs looming in the brown waters. For two days we progressed northwards, nearing the northern limit of Minkébé Park, and our planned drop-off location, the Minkébé Gold Camp, an ulcer in the heart of the mystic jungle. Sprung up from the slow trickle of gold out of massive hand-dug pits, the camp, a place of lawlessness, corruption, and chaos, was home to over 3000 people, many illegal immigrants, toiling 24 hours a day in the red earth for wages that seldom arrive. As we had travelled northwards up the Nouna River, pirogues packed with people had passed us in the opposite direction, a consequence of the camp’s booming business opportunities and high prices which lured ambitious entrepreneurs selling everything from high-end electronics to crates of beer. The lack of roads and border control made the flow of illegal immigrants, or les clandestins and in there their wake poachers, a constant and up until recently, disregarded, problem.
illicit methods within the park or the buffer zone surrounding the park, most of the hunting was overtly illegal. The government’s steps toward regulating the influx of illegals and the pressure on the Minkébé ecosystem began just weeks before our arrival with the installation of a military outpost of 32 men at Minkébé Gold Camp. Since our travels, the camp and mine have been evacuated by the Gabonese military. The government, with the Park, is working towards implementing sustainable, artisanal gold mining using legitimate Gabonese miners and strictly controlling immigration. However, the ivory crisis is more critical than ever. Military and park patrols in the area have increased, but the territory is vast and the poachers and traffickers are unwavering.
We toured the mine’s largest pit, a gaping cavern made still larger by the bending forms shovelling and hauling muddy wet earth, like busy insects in a multitiered hive. Each descending layer of the pit was supported by a wooden slab step, reinforcing the easily eroded earth. Men were digging on each neat terrace, and others, were pushing wheelbarrows and hefting sacs of ore up to the washing A dull warning Les clandestins, entered from Gabon’s stations on level ground. The neighbouring countries of Cameroon entire community of the pit echoed from the pit: and the Republic of the Congo, and suddenly erupted in cheers; a ‘Watch yourself ... even farther afield from Africa’s north, shining nugget unearthed? But following dreams of wealth and a better no, merely the cajoling of the just watch yourself.” life within Gabon’s boundaries. Entering crowd as someone unzipped from the northern route through Camhis fly and pissed into the ceneroon, most immigrants made the 100 tre of the watery hole. kilometre trek non-stop, going several days without The mine was operated using artisanal methods, food or sleep through swampy jungle to reach the with pumps furnishing the washing stations with gold camp. There were no checkpoints and forged water and keeping the ground temporarily dry in new international ID cards are easily obtained and only digging areas. The dull background whirr of the genoccasionally checked by the irregular park patrols. erators was heard both night and day. The workers The Minkébé Gold Camp took a heavy toll on the smiled eagerly, beaconing us over to pose for photos surrounding environment. Hunting for personal subbetween panning, shovelling, carrying, and washing. sistence was originally permitted (unofficially) within Bodies, painted orange with mud, pressed around a 5-kilometre radius of the camp when it was small, us, demanding “Les Blancs, Les Blancs! Come take a couple hundred people at most. By the time we a photo with me!” We were quickly promoted to arrived, the area more closely resembled a sprawlcelebrity status in this unnamed border town. Our aring town of stick scaffolding and tin roofs, and official rival, was not however, welcomed by all. regulations didn’t exist, except for within the national Escaping the throngs of the pit and heading back park boundaries, where hunting was prohibited. along dirt paths to the centre of the village we were However, this didn’t seem to deter the practice. In accosted by a swaggering posse of thugs. ‘Repreour two days at the camp, we listened to tales of selfsentatives of the Mine Owner’ they gave as their tilted “great hunters” and were approached by poachcredentials. Glimmering yellow chains, rings, and ers looking for new export markets for their ivory and watches sparkled from head to foot as in low, smooth skins. Conducted by illegal immigrants, many using voices they questioned. Who had given us authorVolume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 31
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ity to visit? For what purpose? Why were we taking photos and writing things in a tiny notebook? Was our government interested in exploiting their gold? Voices grew thicker, testosterone levels kicked up a notch, as our representatives (our Eco-Guards and a couple of off-duty military men) met the mine’s representatives head to head. After some smooth negotiating and a minor marking of territory, we escaped with a dull warning echoing from the direction of the pit, ‘Watch yourself. Just watch yourself.” Two nights in this frontier town, plagued by the stench of open sewers and human exhaustion, and tormented by the steady rain of cockroaches from the roof of our shack was enough. Our discussions with Captain Periny at the Minkébé military outpost and his growing interest in our expedition must have inspired in him a sentiment of adventure, for he announced, just before our departure for the Sing River, that he would be sending a squad of armed troops with us upon leaving Minkébé Camp, in the name of “exploration” and the discovery of new territory. We set off from the gold camp, into the electric green jungle in the slow warmth of the morning, trailed by our two Eco-Guards, two porters carrying “The Fat One”, and an armed convey of 10 camouflaged military personnel tripping on our heels. The sevenhour march had us weaving up, then down across the hummocky jungled terrain of Minkébé Mountain. For our 4-man expedition team, our packs were painfully heavy with almost 3 weeks of food, hammocks, tents, cooking gear, first aid supplies, our rafts and a single change of clothes. The military, off on a day’s sojourn and carrying little more than their weapons, charged through the forest, forcing us into a neck breaking pace. Through my head ran a constant mantra, “If only I can stay ahead of the porters carrying 50 pounds of plastic pirogue on their head.” As I am sure they were thinking, “if only we can stay ahead of that out-of-shape white woman…”. Seven hours later we said goodbye to the military, porters, and our tracker guide. Hiver, Yenzo, Keith
and I set up our tents and hammocks on the brown banks of the Manima River, tributary to the Sing, amidst a pulsing world of wet green, and contemplated our perfect solitude. For the next two days we dragged, more than paddled our boats along the meandering brown stream, thick with suspended sediment and riddled with seemingly impassable walls of vegetation. Fording muddy shallows and climbing over and under fallen trees blocking our passage, the river’s inaccessibility was brought screaming, to our attention. But for a river so isolated, the presence of humans was everywhere to be seen. Crocodile traps, resembling tiny stick houses lined the riverbanks to either side, their wire snares dangling like the hangman’s noose. Some days we counted more than 15 along the river’s edge. Though cut-off from boat traffic, the northern part of the river was clearly reachable by foot from Minkébé camp and another smaller mine in the area. Poaching, though illegal in Minkébé Park, is for many a means of survival. The two species of crocodile that live along the rivers in Minkébé, the slender-nosed and dwarf, are not hunted for their skin, but for their meat. And it isn’t only the reptiles. On several occasions, we observed elephant bones protruding from the sticky shoreline. The bush meat and ivory trade are alive and booming. Minkébé’s forest elephant population is estimated at over 20,000, a number which emerged from the 2003-2004 elephant survey conducted by the WWF and ANPN in Minkébé Park, however the impact that poaching has had on this number is unknown. Different than their savannah brethren, forest elephants (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis) are smaller in stature with shorter tusks and a coating of tiny hairs protecting their hide from the grasping tendrils of the jungle’s flora. They have evolved to be wary of predators, particularly of humans, now that they are illegally hunted. Seeing them can be next to impossible, and if you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse, you may be met with hostility and aggression. Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 33
Floating along the river in our tiny rafts, we heard the heavy steps and snapping of large branches as elephants passed near us beyond the green forest walls. But these great grey beasts remained as elusive to us as the winding river we paddled, mud piled thick upon its banks and riddled with the deep imprints of the hidden giants. After several days fording the stagnant stream our skin was splashed vibrant red with a weeping, pustulant rash that itched until it burned. A spider web network of cuts and bruises tattooed our shins and calves. Exhausted, bodies smeared with the smashed carcasses of dead flies, sweat, and mud we made camp on New Year’s Eve, far from the celebrations and festivities occupying the rest of the world. The smoking fire sent shadows dancing across the trees, as our damp clothing smouldered limply over the flames. We were awakened just before midnight by the loud bellows of Yenzo. A parade of hundreds of ants marching over his body had jolted him from sleep just before midnight. The tiny insects had entered his tent through several holes in the floor and walls just in time to ring in the New Year. His screams of “Happy New Year!!” as he danced around camp swatting at the aggravating beasts, had the rest of us in fits of laughter as we joined in with the happy New Year celebrations. It seemed we weren’t to have any respite over the holidays. New Year’s day brought with it another arthropod invasion in the form of the black African wasp. A careless thwack with the machete on a branch overhanging the river as we paddled by had let loose a mad, hostile swarm. The winged devils drove their pumping abdomens into our flesh again and again, immune to the slap of hand and spray of water. Our only hope was to out-paddle or out-run them, but this didn’t occur until we had received at least 15 vicious stings apiece, which rapidly turned to burning, swollen lumps of flesh that ached for 12 hours. Yenzo came stumbling out of the trees where he’d fled to escape the attack, looking morose and broken. Keith seized the opportunity to lighten the mood, calling out to him across the river, “First the ants, now the wasps. Happy New Year Yenzo, Happy New Year!” As the Manima finally spilled into the slightly wider expanses of the Sing, the proportion 34 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
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of our days spent paddling our boats, instead of dragging them, increased significantly. We passed through old-growth forests woven with lianas, then into the swampy labyrinth of les marécages, the wetlands. Semi-permanent campsites appeared along the shores, some strung with scraps of discarded clothes and broken plastic chairs. Others hosted entire families of fisher-folk milling about smoking racks piled high with fish. Fishing is tolerated along the Sing, as part of the traditional practices of local communities. Many people paddle for several days upriver from their villages in the south, to the crude campsites to catch and smoke fish. They return south, pirogues packed with their preserved cache, to sell at the village markets. One day blended into the next, as we paddled downriver, noting all signs of human and animal life with our hand-held GPSs, while trying to achieve enough kilometres before finding a suitable patch of mud to camp on for the night. Looking for glimpses of monkeys and elephants hiding amongst the trees, we were often startled by the splash of snakes and lizards dropping into the river from overhanging branches. We simultaneously tried to avoid the threat of reptiles falling from the skies, while the river presented us with a minefield of submerged sticks protruding within inches of the surface. Sharp fingers waiting to snag and puncture our inflatable rafts.
quickly turned and fled back into the green vastness. We eventually reached the village of Mayibout along the Ivindo, home of the 1996 Ebola outbreak, for an uneventful end to an expedition that ended far too quickly. We were greeted by the blank, perplexed stares of villagers and boat drivers loitering on the beach, wondering where these white apparitions in tiny blue boats had come from. Disembarking and deflating our rafts, the crowds soon lost interest. Sitting on the beach in our damp clothes we reflected that this trip, traversing nearly 400 kilometres through jungled terrain and upon isolated rivers, was suddenly over. People and boats, coming and going. A women washing her bucket of laundry next to a man cleaning his shiny new motorcycle, out of place on this rustic shoreline. The hot sun finally drying out our packs and clothes after weeks of sodden wetness. Within hours our Land Cruiser had arrived. We said goodbye to the river as we embarked once again for a rocky ride over bush road back to Makokou, passing along the way logging trucks, axles sagging with the weight of freshly cut trees.
It is said that forest spirits live there in Minkébé.
We conducted wildlife reconnaissance surveys starting from the banks of the Sing and proceeding through the forest. Trying to follow a general compass bearing within the overgrown mass of vegetation was only mildly facilitated by the use of our machetes. Through muddy streams and ant-infested trees we documented signs of animal presence. The rounded imprints of elephants stamped into the stream-banks, the numerous pathways beaten through the undergrowth by passing feet, straw-like dung piled along the way. These elephant paths are used by the poachers. Striped naked to erase their musky human scent, they follow the trails for days, led to their prey by the naively trodden tracks. Nine days later the Sing ended abruptly, and we drifted onto the wide stretches of the Ivindo River under a vibrant sun. A duiker, a deer-like creature, stared out at us from the underbrush. We stared back, and as the mouth of the Sing disappeared behind us, he 36 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
It is said that forest spirits live there in Minkébé. People have disappeared, sacrificed to phantoms living amongst tangled tree and vine. There are areas in the south where the locals refuse to go. They look at you wide-eyed and solemn and tell you that the jungle is a very dangerous place. A
long the Sing, the only danger we found came in the shape of man. A place of beauty, diversity and magic, Minkébé will only endure as long as the equilibrium of give and take between human and nature remains in balance. Special thanks to our enthusiastic and indefatigable Eco-Guards Hiver Ntsame and Yenzo Ulrich, and to Pauwel De Wachter with the WWF Minkébé Programme for believing in our ambitious plan, and for his wealth of knowledge and logistical support. Many thanks to Anne-Marie Ndong-Obiang and Hervé Ndong Allogho at the ANPN in Gabon; Bas Huijbregts, Gustave Mabaza, Bas Verhage, Guillaume Duboscq, and Bede Moussavou at the WWF in Gabon; and Captain Periny with the Gabonese Military. Without their support, knowledge and permission, our expedition would not have been possible.
For more information on travelling off the beaten path in Gabon visit: http://www.mamatembotours.com
Katie Blasco has a degree in geophysics, but finds her real passion in writing, communications, travel and languages. She has worked throughout Canada and in Alaska, and has travelled extensively in Asia, Africa, South America, Turkey, Europe and the Caribbean. She is currently involved in science administration and communications at Université Laval.
Keith Levesque holds a bachelors’ degree in biology from the University of Quebec at Montreal and studied for his Masters and Ph.D. degree in fisheries biology at Université Laval in Quebec City, Canada. He is now the research coordinator for ArcticNet, a research network based out of Quebec City studying the impacts of climate change in the coastal Canadian Arctic. Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 37
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Getting hurt on a dangerous game hunt
Rory J. A. Young
t was just after sunrise and the warm yellow glow settled softly around us. We were slumbering in the back of the pick-up truck, as my father drove us out to the commercial farming area of Guruve. It was a comfortable trip for usâ€Ś warm, smooth, and protected from the elements. We werenâ€™t used to this luxury, so as the light fell on us, our heads nodded. Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 41
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Ivan Carter and Dave Christensen were dozing opposite me. I was lucky that they had also been in town on their time off and had offered to tutor me on my first buffalo hunt. Dave had, at that time, already been a fully licensed Professional Guide for several years. Ivan had recently been licensed a Professional Guide and was now working on his Professional Hunters (PH) License. We were all watching his progress with interest. Professional Guides (PG) were more knowledgeable, with excellent bush skills and were usually better trackers than PHs, since they did all their own tracking every day. On the other hand, Professional Hunters made more money and were for the most part hunters first and guides second. No matter how experienced he was, a Professional Guide was not allowed to take hunting safaris for “hire or reward”. Ivan wanted to do what no one had done before – get both licenses. Only five per cent of candidates who made it to the proficiency exams after completing a four year apprenticeship passed the finals. And even amongst those few, half would be given “restricted licenses”, meaning they would have to shoot more dangerous game, or accompany some hunts, or, in the case of one poor sod, just come back a year later “with a decent haircut”. It would, of course, have been easier to do a Professional Hunters License which would allow him to guide anyway, but all guides knew that unless one went through the guide licensing system successfully, it was rare to be accepted as a specialist walking guide with a PH license. So, Ivan was going for both. And then there was me, lowly ‘Learner’ Professional Hunter, which basically meant I could do game drives and the like and be apprenticed to a Professional Hunter or Guide. Which in my case was Rob Clifford, an ex-National Parks officer with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the bush and many years hunting experience. In those days, we still did one year as a ‘gobby’, then one year as a courier, and two years as a Learner Hunter (assuming we passed the written exams) under a PH. Finally, full-license written exams followed, and if we had passed the written, there was a ten day practical field proficiency exam. At the proficiency exam, we would be expected to shoot or back-up on an elephant or buffalo hunt. However, to even have any chance of making it at the proficiency exams, any hunter-to-be worth his salt had to have at least several buffalos, elephants, and other dangerous game shot and many more backed up and accompanied. The only way to shoot big game in those quantities, unless you were a millionaire, was Problem Animal Control or “PAC”.
I looked down. The layer of blood from the old elephant bull was still congealed like black treacle on my battered shoes. I would have to sort that out before I guided any clients back at Fothergill Island. Since I was about to hunt, it didn’t matter of course, but normally I would clean them and then powder them in ‘mealie-meal’, before letting them dry and brushing them with a suede brush. As usual, we were all wearing sharply ironed green cotton shirts and Khaki Drill shorts, with thick leather and polished brass belts – all de rigeur for Professional Guides and wannabes in those days. We looked smart at first glance, but I knew that on closer inspection the holes in my threadbare shorts, which had been darned by the ladies in the staff village, would stick out like a sore thumb. Still, on a salary of $200 per month, and with ammo, transport to other areas for experience, cigarettes, and books to pay for ¬– never mind a few pennies towards my proficiency exam fund – I was damn lucky to be wearing any pants at all! I did not mind, of course, it was worth it. I loved it too and it was definitely good for me – although I did wish I could afford a few more days on the town and better luck with all those gorgeous creatures who frequented Sandro’s, Archipelago’s, and the other clubs in Harare. Tough shit, I would have to hope that more clients brought their pretty daughters on safari with them, and that Rob did not catch me trying to chat them up – or Ivan for that matter – the bugger had sent the waiter up to the bar to deliver a shovel and a spade to me the last time I had got anywhere near a girl. I was still being ragged about it by the other learners, especially Russell Gammon. Russell was delighted, as I had recently put an unrolled condom, strategically placed to fall out as he opened it, as he invariably would do to check on a bird, in his bird book just before he went out on a drive with six Quantas stewardesses. The results had been spectacular. Anyway, one night out, and as usual, some slick townie had taken a dislike to the skinny, sunburnt, long-haired bush-baby talking to his girl. My knuckles were still in agony and my hand badly swollen from the brawl that had ensued. I had noticed the wry smile from Dave as he asked how I hurt my hand, and then enquired how the hell I was going to shoot with it. My casual display of slapping my hands together and stretching the fingers had been excruciating, but seemed to have done the trick, although he still looked pretty dubious, probably thinking about the rest of my current disabilities. I glanced at the rest of me. My legs were covered in mosquito bites Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 43
as usual. We couldn’t get insect repellent very easily back then, and would not have thought of buying it if we could have. Then, I looked at the gash on my thigh and thought back to the bull elephant again. He had Floppy Trunk Syndrome or Flaccid Trunk Paralysis. We had been watching him and the other bulls affected by this on the Matusadona shoreline for a couple of years. It started at the tip and slowly the paralysis worked its way up his trunk. He adapted well at first by trapping the indigofera, or couche grass, between one foot and the part of the trunk just above the paralysis, and then balancing it on the same point on the trunk before carefully carrying it up to his mouth. Drinking meant getting into the lake and using their mouths. There were different theories about what was causing it. Later, it would be proposed that it was the same indigofera, which they so enjoyed eating and was so nutritious. At that time, theories flying around ranged from lead poisoning to black widow bites (they built little tepee-like nests in the grass that grew all over the shore). Unfortunately, the bull was so far gone that he could no longer use any little tricks to get the huge volume of food he needed daily into his mouth. We had seen him on his knees trying to bite the couche grass, which grew in shallow water, directly with his mouth. Sadly, the old chap had weakened to the point that his hip bones were sticking out like huge plough disks, his skin was hanging off him like dirty canvas curtains, and he wasn’t eating or drinking anything anymore. The warden of Matusadona, Andy Searle, decided that he would be shot and invited in the University of Zimbabwe vets to do an autopsy to try and determine what was causing the paralysis. This of course, would be good experience for us learner hunters and therefore we accompanied the hunt. Since he was in the open on the shoreline, we could not go with Andy on the final approach, but managed to get a good view from the small bluff where the island ended and the exposed area between the island and mainland area began (the lake was so low at that time that Fothergill was a peninsula and not an island). The floodplain was beautiful, a mix of soft green grass, spiky dead trees, and red earth with the woodlands rising up behind into the Matusadona Hills. The bull was feeding on the southern side and Andy approached him from the northeast. The wind was easterly, which meant he could approach the elephant directly with the sun behind him without worrying that the elephant would smell him. It was about 10am, 44 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
so the sun was low enough that the elephant was even facing away. There was nothing between them in the way of cover, except the odd termite mound or small gully. Elephants have very poor eyesight, but are more likely to pick up movement if it goes across their line of sight. If you keep moving quietly, directly towards them, they will not know until you are fairly close – as long as you are quiet of course. With the sun behind him and walking softly, we knew he would be able to pretty much walk right up to him. And, that is what he did, almost… Just as he was about 80 metres away, the wind changed to a northerly and he was busted. The bull spun and ran southeast, diagonally towards the tree line. That was thick Mopani scrub, and if he got in there it would be hard work. Andy ran too, releasing the safety on his .458 and sprinting diagonally to cut him off. I was impressed; Andy could run like hell. Then he did something truly amazing. At full sprint, just as some rugby players shift their weight onto one foot and then change direction, Andy put all his weight onto his left side, stiffening his body and thus giving himself a tiny pause and a stable position for a fraction of a second. He had been quickly bringing up his rifle just before this, and as the Afrikaners were famous for doing during the Boer War, he sighted and fired as the butt touched his shoulder. The bull immediately crashed to the ground, a perfect side-on head shot, at eighty metres, whilst both hunter and prey were in a full sprint at different angles to each other! We crouched dumbstruck for a very long time, whilst he casually strolled over to the bull. Then, we were put to work. We ran back to the Land Rover and vets, and then raced back to the spot. As soon as we got there, the vets started discussing with Rob and Andy what they wanted. Rob turned to us and said simply, “skin it and give the vets what they want”. Russell, Jesse, Benson, and I had skinned elephant several times already, as well as many other animals of course, and quickly grabbed the bundle of knives and got to work. “Gobby” or Paul as his mom called him, was also there. He was still at school and used to come and work as a “gofer” in camp. He was put to work sharpening knives as they were blunted – which was continuously. It was over 40˚C already and it was hard work. Rob wanted us to do 13 panels this time and skin the feet and trunk for practice as well. As was the norm, one of us would pull back on a panel with a large butcher’s hook, so that another could do the knife work more easily. Rob and Andy carefully checked our
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work from time to time to make sure we weren’t leaving any fat on the skin. Not good for the skin, and would, in the case of game with hair/fur, later cause “hairslip”. We tried to be as neat and tidy as we could, but eventually got covered in blood and gore up to our armpits and groins, mainly thanks to the vets sending us into the guts to get bits of this and pieces of that. At some point, the knife slipped in my hand and as I stepped back I slipped, landing in the bloody mess. The sharp knife blade came down on my leg putting a nasty looking, but not too deep a cut in it. Not noticeable at all with all the blood all over me, so I did not get any sympathy and did not expect any anyway. At one stage, Rob told Gobby to quickly move the trunk into the shade and skin it there, so that the vets could get whatever muscle samples they wanted. We all stopped to watch briefly, with grins on our faces and winks at each other, as he attempted to move it. He soon realised that he wasn’t going to move something that weighed about 125 kilograms, and stretched when you pulled the end. We helped him move it, ragged him a bit, and then got back to the hot bloody business. The vets got their samples and Gobby made the mistake of sticking his knife into the inflated intestine whilst standing in front of it. Needless to say he got sprayed from head to toe in semi-digested vegetation. Not that bad actually, basically fermented grass with a peppery smell, but when he saw the nematodes on him wriggling around, he started to retch. In a few hours (too slow as we weren’t that experienced yet), we were done. There was no need to butcher the animal as the carcass would be left in its entirety for the scavengers because we were in a National Park. The only thing left to do was remove the ivory. This would be done correctly, removing the entire tusks, including the fragile, egg-shell thin bases. We even looked for the ‘ivory pearls’ that developed above the base of the tusks. Later on, after scrubbing all the blood off my limbs and dressing my wound, while we all had a beer, I chatted to Andy. I was wondering how I would ever be able to shoot like that and mentioned this to him. I found his advice fascinating. He told me not to think about all the details about where on the different animals and from which position I should place my shot, but instead to learn to “see” the heart and brain within the animal. “Learn the exact size and position of the brain within the elephant’s head, and then look at different elephants from different angles, over and over, imagining the brain within the head until you always see it there if you want to. Do the same with all animals”. Good advice. Tragically, Andy was killed a few years later when the chopper he was flying 46 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
crashed in Hwange National Park. He was a great conservationist and a very good man. I looked again at my Veldskoen shoes and saw that Dave was wearing the same. Then, my gaze wandered over to Ivan and I noticed that he was, as usual, barefoot, complete with healing wound where he had stitched up a cut with fishing line. I was still trying to figure out whether this barefoot lark was genuine eccentricity, bravado, or whether it would be worthwhile doing, so as to approach game more quietly. I had my doubts, not that going barefoot would be a waste of time, or that it would be painful – we had all grown up running around bare foot – but rather because a noisy client would probably stuff up such “dedication”; stomping along behind you in bloody great boots with all the “safari” gear, jingling and squeaking like one of the gorgeous creatures in the clubs I mentioned earlier. I looked away and scolded myself. I had to get out of the cynical frame of mind; it would do me no good. A couple of years before I had been a paratrooper in the Foreign Legion based in Corsica. I had been doing well, getting my wings four years below the minimum age required to join the unit. Then, things had gone very wrong and I was forced to choose between following my own code of honour or the Legion’s. I chose the latter, knowing that I would forever have regrets no matter which code I chose, and cursed the men who had forced me to make that choice. I had gone into a black depression and had burned a long, deep, and hot anger. I had used every effort to control it and found that the bush was a medicine that worked. The reckless streak came out from time to time and I knew there was a shadow hanging over my head because of it. Even the name Bvanyangu, given to me by the Shonas, reflected this and somehow followed me everywhere. I had been battling to understand, relate to and interact normally with people and, although I was rapidly improving to the point that I could guide clients and have a good time with them myself, I was still prone to go on the binge and end up picking fights with the biggest buggers I could find. Not a good trait as a lowly and unproven Learner Hunter. It did not matter that I had my reasons, because that was nobody’s problem but mine, and I would have to deal with my issues “chop-chop” if I was going to become what I hoped – a professional with a bright future. Also, I was also going to need a lot of help to gain the dangerous game experience I needed to get my full license, and that meant lots of favours. Dave had already impressed upon me that I needed to swallow my pride and start begging anyone and everyone. To Professional Hunters: “Please Sir, I am looking for dangerous game experience. Would it be possible Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 47
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to accompany a hunt, I can work as a skinner for free or do any other work” – grovel, grovel, grovel. Pretty much the same story with National Parks Officers, Rural Council Wildlife Officers, farmers – anybody and everybody I thought could help. I had already done hundreds of walks with Dave, Rob Clifford (my official tutor), and all the other Professional Guides and Professional Hunters who came through Matusadona National Park. We were lucky to have a boss like Rob who kept us going non-stop. When we weren’t doing game drives or boat safaris we were in the workshop servicing and repairing the old Series II and Series III Land Rovers we used, building hides, assisting with game capture, culling impala, building a boma to house cheetah for release into “Matus”, counting game, and helping with problem animal control. Every spare moment was spent either accompanying walking safaris or tracking and approaching, unarmed and alone, lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino, and anything else that we could find, again on “DC’s” advice. It all added up, but no matter how good in the bush and how well studied and professional, I would not get anywhere without dangerous game experience. I came back to the present. I couldn’t believe my luck. The day before Andy Searle had shot the elephant, a message had come through from my father saying that a farmer in Mvurwi had a buffalo with a snare round its neck which needed to be shot and would I be interested in doing it? Hell yes! I was already traveling to Harare to have my wisdom teeth taken out, so I could do it the day after. That was the plan, accompany the elephant hunt, fly to Harare the next day, party that night, the following morning have my wisdom teeth taken out and then the next day out to Mvurwi to shoot the buff. Easy! Idiot! Hunting a buffalo the day after a 45 minute operation under general anaesthetic would have been bad enough, but the operation ended up taking nearly four hours, as they had to chisel deep into the upper and lower jaw bones to get them out and cut my lips to get better access. I was now sitting in the pick-up with a cut leg (no problem), half my knuckles broken (I could handle that one) and a swollen head that was throbbing with agonizing pulses of pain from my neck upwards. I couldn’t really turn either way and struggled to speak properly. Instead, I kept my pip stockstill and made incoherent gargling sounds. I could not take the pain-killers, which they had given me when I checked out of the hospital, “on condition I would stay in bed at home and come back as soon as anything was not right”, because I would be handling a firearm. I suppose hunting buffaloes wasn’t quite right… We arrived at the farm and Mr. Irvine came out to meet us. Dressed exactly the same as my father, he was in typical tobacco farmer attire, polished shoes, long socks, shorts, 52 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
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collared shirt, and the inevitable floppy hat. They could have been twins, they even both had pipes. Anyway, he wasted no time in telling us that the buffalo was in the lands right now and we needed to get moving quickly before she wandered into the bush again. We all piled into his open Land Cruiser and trundled off, discussing the situation as we went along. Or rather, I tried to ignore the pain and make my questions and comments sound normal as everyone else chatted. A few weeks earlier, a herd of elephants had come up from Mavuradona Wilderness Area and broken through his fences. Before they could be repaired, our buffalo had wandered through. She already had the cable snare round her neck when she arrived and had since taken to hanging out with Mr. Irvine’s cattle… much to the consternation of the herd boys. Mr. Irvine wouldn’t have minded having her, except that there would be problems with the Department of Veterinary Services due to the threat of Foot and Mouth Disease, and of course, that she would eventually take out one of those herd boys. We came to a stop at a sloping field. There were cattle in the distance, but none nearby. A treeline ran down one side towards the small river at the bottom of the slope and the buffalo cow was standing quietly in the open. I looked through my binoculars and drew a breath. She was a beautiful animal, in her prime, healthy and muscled with a sleek, unblemished hide. She was looking towards us, as she had obviously heard the vehicle. Ivan and Dave called me over to discuss the job at hand. It was decided that Ivan would conduct the hunt and that I would use his rifle. It was a .458 Remington Model 700 with a black ‘plastic’ stock. Ivan handed the rifle to me along with two boxes of ammo. One box of soft-nose and one box of monolithic solids. This was my first test. I loaded up, three rounds in the rifle and twelve in my ammo-pouch. “What have you loaded?”, came the inevitable. “All monolithic solids except for the one up the spout”, I answered. “Why?” he asked. I explained my reasoning, “we are doing a hunting approach and therefore don’t expect to fire the first shot in self-defence. If we were doing a guiding approach with clients I would load all monolithic solids. Our first shot will be heartlungs, so soft-nose will do a better job.”. “Correct”, he answered, “you never use soft nose except on a first heart-lungs shot, and you never take a head shot except in self-defence or on a wounded animal.” “Let’s go” he said, “How are you going to approach it?” This was the norm, it would be up to me and he would step in if and when he felt necessary. “We 54 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
can’t move down the treeline, as the wind will be a problem, so we need to loop far back round beyond the treeline and then cut back up it from the bottom of the valley. That should put us about 60 metres from her”. “Is that close enough?” he asked. “No”, I replied, “we will then have to go down on our bellies up to 40 metres from her, or closer if possible.” “Good”, he answered, “let’s go”. We followed the route I had worked out, quietly but quickly, until we arrived at the bottom of the valley, at the base of the treeline. More slowly and carefully now, we began to move uphill, using the trees as cover. The cow was still facing uphill towards the vehicle. When we reached the point we had earlier noted, we got down on our bellies and began to ‘leopard-crawl’ across the open area towards her, very slowly and quietly. As we reached a point about 40 metres from her, we stopped. I knelt on one knee and Ivan squatted. I flicked off the safety and raised the rifle to my shoulder. Just then, she turned and faced us. My head was pounding with pain and I was ready to throw up again from the nausea when I lowered the barrel slightly, not wanting to take a head shot and thinking a tad too long. Ivan immediately hissed at me, ”Heart shot just below where her mouth is, now!” My head cleared, I ‘saw’ the heart, and immediately fired. As I did so my head exploded. The recoil drove the cheek rest into my mangled mouth and everything went black and I fell over for a second, but immediately scrambled to my feet, reloading and spitting out blood. The buff had arched her back and bolted. Just as I was wondering how badly I had messed up, Ivan said “Good shot!”, and a second later she fell. We threw a couple of stones, then we approached her carefully from behind. When we were sure there was no more life left in her, we checked her out. The others had joined us by now and Dave immediately said, “Mr Irvine thought you’d buggered it up and I told him, no, when they arch their backs like that it’s a heart shot!” Everyone proceeded to congratulate me. Once I’d recovered a bit, we skinned and butchered the animal together with the farm-workers who were given the meat. Dave stuck a ramrod into the entry hole and we checked the heart. “Straight through” said Ivan, “yet look how far she ran, oven 50 metres.” I was offered the trophy, but politely declined. Although I understand their appeal, they are not my thing. By now my father and everyone else were looking at me with worried expressions, as I had apparently turned a sallow grey colour and was sway-
ing. Mr Irvine suggested tea, to which we all heartily agreed and headed up to the house. I dropped my watch in my cup (still donâ€™t know why I had it off my wrist), then I dropped the cup. I went to the bathroom and threw up a large quantity of blood. That night the haematoma I had not known was there burst in my jaw, gushing blood out of my mouth. I was rushed to hospital, where they determined I had been bleeding internally for the past thirty-six hours, most of which I had been swallowing. As I lay in the
hospital bed, feeling proud and light-headed from the drugs they had pumped into me, I reflected on how much I had learned about hunting in the last few days and how much more experienced I was. I had no idea that I still knew virtually nothing about hunting buffalo, especially problem ones, and was about to learn that the hard way in Mozambique from the teacher from hell, Mr. Stephen John Edwards, ex-tsetse control and veterinary department hunter, author and eccentric.
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African hunters of yesteryear
The African hunters of days gone by have had experiences few hunters have today. In those days, the game was much more plentiful and regulations were non-existent. Hunting was more dangerous in those days - no chopper evacuation when clawed up by a wounded leopard and no protection against marauding tribesmen. We can learn something from them. In this series, we feature some of the writings of the hunters that came before us and who hunted in an era we think of with nostalgia. 60 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
The Maneating lions of
THE DISTRICT OFFICER’S NARROW ESCAPE by Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson, D.S.O.
ome little time before the flight of the workmen, I had written to Mr. Whitehead, the District Officer, asking him to come up and assist me in my campaign against the lions, and to bring with him any of his askaris (native soldiers) that he could spare. He replied accepting the invitation, and told me to expect him about dinner-time on December 2, which turned out to be the day after the exodus. His train was due at Tsavo about six o’clock in the evening, so I sent my “boy” up to the station to meet him and to help in carrying his baggage to the camp.
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In a very short time, however, the “boy” rushed back trembling with terror, and informed me that there was no sign of the train or of the railway staff, but that an enormous lion was standing on the station platform. This extraordinary story I did not believe in the least, as by this time the coolies -- never remarkable for bravery -- were in such a state of fright that if they caught sight of a hyena or a baboon, or even a dog, in the bush, they were sure to imagine it was a lion; but I found out next day that it was an actual fact, and that both stationmaster and signalman had been obliged to take refuge from one of the man-eaters by locking themselves in the station building. I waited some little time for Mr. Whitehead, but eventually, as he did not put in an appearance, I concluded that he must have postponed his journey until the next day, and so had my dinner in my customary solitary state. During the meal I heard a couple of shots, but paid no attention to them, as rifles were constantly being fired off in the neighbourhood of the camp. Later in the evening, I went out as usual to watch for our elusive foes, and took up my position in a crib made of sleepers which I had built on a big girder close to a camp which I thought was likely to be attacked. Soon after settling down at my post, I was surprised to hear the man-eaters growling and purring and crunching up bones about seventy yards from the crib. I could not understand what they had found to eat, as I had heard no commotion in the camps, and I knew by bitter experience that every meal the brutes obtained from us was announced by shrieks and uproar. The only conclusion I could come to was that they had pounced upon some poor unsuspecting native traveller. After a time I was able to make out their eyes glowing in the darkness, and I took as careful aim as was possible in the circumstances and fired; but the only notice they paid to the shot was to carry off whatever they were devouring and to retire quietly over a slight rise, which prevented me from seeing them. There they finished their meal at their ease. As soon as it was daylight, I got out of my crib and went towards the place where I had last heard them. On the way, whom should I meet but my missing guest, Mr. Whitehead, looking very pale and ill, and generally dishevelled. “Where on earth have you come from?” I exclaimed. “Why didn’t you turn up to dinner last night?” “A nice reception you give a fellow when you invite him to dinner,” was his only reply. “Why, what’s up?” I asked.
“That infernal lion of yours nearly did for me last night,” said Whitehead. “Nonsense, you must have dreamed it!” I cried in astonishment. For answer he turned round and showed me his back. “That’s not much of a dream, is it?” he asked. His clothing was rent by one huge tear from the nape of the neck downwards, and on the flesh there were four great claw marks, showing red and angry through the torn cloth. Without further parley, I hurried him off to my tent, and bathed and dressed his wounds; and when I had made him considerably more comfortable, I got from him the whole story of the events of the night. It appeared that his train was very late, so that it was quite dark when he arrived at Tsavo Station, from which the track to my camp lay through a small cutting. He was accompanied by Abdullah, his sergeant of askaris, who walked close behind him carrying a lighted lamp. All went well until they were about half-way through the gloomy cutting, when one of the lions suddenly jumped down upon them from the high bank, knocking Whitehead over like a ninepin, and tearing his back in the manner I had seen. Fortunately, however, he had his carbine with him, and instantly fired. The flash and the loud report must have dazed the lion for a second or two, enabling Whitehead to disengage himself; but the next instant the brute pounced like lightning on the unfortunate Abdullah, with whom he at once made off. All that the poor fellow could say was: “Eh, Bwana, simba” (“ Oh, Master, a lion “). As the lion was dragging him over the bank, Whitehead fired again, but without effect, and the brute quickly disappeared into the darkness with his prey. It was of course, this unfortunate man whom I had heard the lions devouring during the night. Whitehead himself had a marvellous escape; his wounds were happily not very deep, and caused him little or no inconvenience afterwards. On the same day, December 3, the forces arrayed against the lions were further strengthened. Mr. Farquhar, the Superintendent of Police, arrived from the coast with a score of sepoys to assist in hunting down the man-eaters, whose fame had by this time spread far and wide, and the most elaborate precautions were taken, his men being posted on the most convenient trees near every camp. Several other officials had also come up on leave to join in the chase, and each of these guarded a likely spot in the same way, Mr. Whitehead sharing my post inside the crib on the girder. Further, in spite of some chaff, my Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 63
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lion trap was put in thorough working order, and two of the sepoys were installed as bait. Our preparations were quite complete by nightfall, and we all took up our appointed positions. Nothing happened until about nine o’clock, when to my great satisfaction the intense stillness was suddenly broken by the noise of the door of the trap clattering down. “At last,” I thought, “one at least of the brutes is done for.” But the sequel was an ignominious one. The bait-sepoys had a lamp burning inside their part of the cage, and were each armed with a Martini rifle, with plenty of ammunition. They had also been given strict orders to shoot at once if a lion should enter the trap. Instead of doing so, however, they were so terrified when he rushed in and began to lash himself madly against the bars of the cage, that they completely lost their heads and were actually too unnerved to fire. Not for some minutes -- not, indeed, until Mr. Farquhar, whose post was close by, shouted at them and cheered them on -- did they at all recover themselves. Then when at last they did begin to fire, they fired with a vengeance -- anywhere, anyhow. Whitehead and I were at right angles to the direction in which they should have shot, and yet their
bullets came whizzing all round us. Altogether they fired over a score of shots, and in the end succeeded only in blowing away one of the bars of the door, thus allowing our prize to make good his escape. How they failed to kill him several times over is, and always will be, a complete mystery to me, as they could have put the muzzles of their rifles absolutely touching his body. There was, indeed, some blood scattered about the trap, but it was small consolation to know that the brute, whose capture and death seemed so certain, had only been slightly wounded. Still we were not unduly dejected, and when morning came, a hunt was at once arranged. Accordingly we spent the greater part of the day on our hands and knees following the lions through the dense thickets of thorny jungle, but though we heard their growls from time to time, we never succeeded in actually coming up with them. Of the whole party, only Farquhar managed to catch a momentary glimpse of one as it bounded over a bush. Two days more were spent in the same manner, and with equal unsuccess; and then Farquhar and his sepoys were obliged to return to the coast. Mr. Whitehead also departed for his district, and once again I was left alone with the man-eaters.
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A stranger has big eyes but sees nothing. Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today. Volume 5 Issue 1 AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE | 79
Ingredients ●● 8 to 9 pounds of venison, cubed into 2-inch pieces. ●● 1 whole head of garlic, chopped and ground into a rough paste
●● About 1 ½ cups Madeira wine (on the drier side. This is a Portuguese recipe, after all. Port, however, would be too sweet. Don’t even think about using Marsala, because that’s Sicilian. Besides, Sicilians aren’t exactly famous for their beef dishes. Not that the Portuguese are either, but that is beside the point.) ●● ½ cup extra virgin olive oil ●● 1 cup (8 oz.) of butter, softened. Salted or unsalted. ●● Coarse salt. Kosher or Sea. Lots of it. ●● Crushed black pepper, to taste. ●● 5 to 6 Bay Laurel* branches, ½ to ¾” in diameter and long enough to extend past the edge of your grill by 6″ because you’ll need a handle. Trim them of twigs and leaves; scrub them well. ●● 1 to 2 loaves of rough country bread. Hearty is more likely the better word.
Preparation 1. In a large, shallow baking dish, rub the cubed beef with garlic paste and crushed black pepper. Add the Madeira and olive oil to marinate. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. 2. At least two hours prior to grilling, soak bay branches in cold water. 3. Cut a slit into each cube of meat and skewer onto branches. Cubes are allowed to touch each other. Leave about 6″ on the ends of each branch meat-free, for purposes of handling the skewers when grilling time comes. 4. Once you have been liberated from the use of sharp knives, pour yourself some of the Madeira, as Craig suggests, just to keep in spirit. Drink. 5. Rub the espetada generously with salt, but do not fully encrust. Cut bread into thick slices and line a large serving platter with them. Fire up your grill. 6. If you are grilling vegetable skewers as an accompaniment, grill them first, then unskewer and cover to keep warm. 7. Place your skewers 4 to 6″ directly over a hot wood charcoal fire. We chose to remove the grill grate and be rather rustic. A grill grate, however, will ensure more even cooking. Rugged image or efficiency– take your pick. Brush the meat with marinade as the mood strikes you. Cook until medium or whatever your preference. This is not, I should tell you, a rare-meat dish. 8. When meat has finished cooking, unskewer directly onto the awaiting platter of bread, covering as much surface area as possible. Dot the still-hot meat with softened butter to let it drip down the meat and soak into the bread. Let rest for about 5 minutes. 80 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
Courtesy Mama Africaâ€™s Recipes at http://africas-best-recipes.blogspot.com/
Meat-on-a-stick the Portuguese way
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Make a Plan
Hints and advice are given in good faith to be of help in emergencies. The writer as well as the publisher, personnel and agents concerned does not accept any responsibility for any injury, accident or damages that might arise from the use of any of the hints. 88 | AFRICAN EXPEDITION MAGAZINE Volume 5 Issue 1
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Pull, lift or move heavy items with a rope CLICK HERE to buy your copy of Make a Plan now for only $8.50
You have to pull, hoist or let down something that is very heavy and there is no windlass or block and tackle available. If you have a long rope handy, you will be able to make the equivalent of a tackle that will double your tractive power. Here is the plan: ●● Fasten the rope at point A ●● Tie a loop a short distance away from A. ●● Pull the rope through the loop so that it can form a still longer loop. It will help if somebody can hold the loop for you. ●● Thread the point of the rope through a smooth eye or something similar that will al- low the rope to move freely to and fro at point B (the item that must be moved).. ●● Thread the point through the long loop that has been formed in point 3 above and pull tight in the opposite direction. ●● The heavy item at B can now, as a result of your mechanical advantage, much easier be moved. Use this technique to shift a vehicle, to load or let down cargo or as a strap to fasten a load thoroughly. With a proper branch of a tree above is also a way to hoist the carcass of an animal up to skin it or to load it on a high truck. A bowline knot is a common loop knot is not easy to untie afterwards. The bowline knot shown in accompanying sketch is ideal for a loop, does not tie up and unties easily when it is not under pressure
Dr Wallace Vosloo is an Engineer and Scientist by profession. His family has lived in Africa since 1696 and he has a deep love for the continent. He is a practical outdoorsman and loves traditional hunting, axe and knife throwing, longbow shooting, black powder rifle- and cannon shooting, salt and fresh water fly fishing and tracking. The art of survival is Wallace’s main field of interest and his passion is to transfer these old forgotten skills to young hunters.
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Your African safari is a unique experience. Now you can document your hunt day by day and revisit those exciting times for years to come. 31 Full days of journaling space with vital information: ●● safari clothing ●● personal item checklists ●● health and first aid ●● mammal identification information with photographs, tracks, dung and SCI and Rowland Ward qualification minimums.
Know how to administer CPR. Deal with dangerous animals up close. Identify and treat bites from snakes, spiders and scorpions. Know the right emergency numbers to dial in an emergency – it’s all there. A must-have item for every serious hunter. Sturdy PlastiCoil binding for durability and easy opening, 110 pages, 6.0 x 9.0 in. Full color covers and cream interior printed in black and white.
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A Call for Change
One of the strangest quirks of life here on this planet is the fact that the one face we hardly ever see is the one closest to us: our own. As we move about in the world every day, our face is always right before us and always just beyond us. Somebody could write a fairy tale about that. It would be an allegory for how rarely we see ourselves, who we truly are, the good and the bad. But in unexpected moments we get a sideways glance, as when passing by a plate glass window downtown, and most of the time we don’t like much what we see. Notice how we are in elevators: No one makes eye contact. No one wants to acknowledge that we are seeing and being seen. In a moment of forced intimacy, almost claustrophobic intimacy, we pretend we aren’t even there. The reason? Most times we just don’t know what to do with what we see. About ourselves, I mean. It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner to see that something dreadful has happened to the human race. So we look at the ceiling or our shoes; we watch the numbers report the passing floors; we hide. This is how most of us approach our entire lives—we hide what we can, work on what we feel is redeemable, and despise the rest. (The Utter Relief of Holiness, pg 3-4, Chapter)
Published on Feb 14, 2013
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