Page 1

Baiting for Leopard

Outwitting the cunning

Living dinosaurs African crocodiles

My tender shoulder Reminiscences of a buffalo hunt

Overland to Central Kafue: Zamkafuzi

The Maneating lions of Tsavo A Day On The N’dungu Escarpment

The finale of a wild Zambian Adventure

Make a Plan

Sharpening your knife in the bush


contents 2 | Volume 6 Issue 3


10 Baiting for Leopard Outwitting the cunning

26 Overland to Central Kafue: Zamkafuzi Part 3 the finale of a wild Zambian Adventure

43 Living dinosaurs African crocodiles

60 My tender shoulder Reminiscences of a buffalo hunt

89 The Maneating lions of Tsavo A Day On The N’dungu Escarpment

114 Make a Plan Sharpening your knife in the bush

118 True North The Miseries of a Dethroned Monarch

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AFRICAN

Published by Safari Media Africa Editors United States of America Editor: Alan Bunn editorusa@africanxmag.com Associate editor: Galen Geer ggeer@africanxmag.com Europe Hans Jochen Wild editoreurope@africanxmag.com Africa Southern Africa: Mitch Mitchell editorafrica@africanxmag.com Central Africa: Cam Crieg cam@africanxmag.com Financial Thea Mitchell Layout & Design Xtasis Media and Digital Wind Advertising and Marketing South Africa: T. Mitchell adssa@africanxmag.com Phone +27 13-7125246 Fax 0866104466 USA: Alan Bunn adsusa@africanxmag.com (706) 2762608 African Expedition Magazine is an independent bimonthly publication promoting fair, sustainable hunting, a protected environment and adventure sports in Africa. The African Expedition Magazine is published by Safari Media Africa

Disclaimer While all precautions have been taken to ensure the accuracy of advice and information provided, the Proprietor, Publisher, Editor, or Writers cannot accept responsibility for any damages, inconvenience or injury whatsoever that may result from incorrect information. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publisher or its agents. African Expedition Magazine assumes no responsibility to return graphics unsolicited editorial, or other material. All rights in unsolicited editorial, letters, emails, graphics and other material will be treated as unconditionally assigned for publication and copyright purposes and material will be subject to African Expedition Magazine’s unrestricted right to edit and editorial comment. All material and/or editorial in African Expedition is the property of African Expedition and/or the various contributors. No part of this magazine may be reproduced without the prior written consent of the Publisher.,

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You can click on: • author’s names to email them (when they allow it) • articles to comment about them on our blog Volume 6 Issue 3 | 7


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Baiting for Leopard Outwitting the cunning

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L

Cleve Cheney

eopards are intelligent, shrewd, crafty and beautiful animals. They are real survivors. In support of this statement is the fact that these animals often live in close proximity to or even within human settlements without people even being aware of their presence. Hunting leopard is not as easy an undertaking as some would lead us to believe.

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Their suspicious and retiring nature, combined with finely honed senses, make this species one of the more challenging of predators to hunt. They will quickly and silently melt away into the undergrowth if they become aware of humans approaching (that is of course if they have not chosen to select man as a prey species) and hunting them on foot is not a realistic proposition – especially if time is a limiting factor. Another aspect which makes these animals difficult to hunt is that they are, by and large, creatures of the night – they are in their element in the dark. Occasionally they will become active at dusk and may be observed returning to their secretive haunts just before or at daybreak. The fortunate wildlife enthusiast or hunter may occasionally find a leopard during the day resting on some rocky outcrop or suspended atop a tree limb in a state of regal repose.

margin. The size of the track is bigger than adult caracal or serval but much smaller than an adult lion. Although very similar to these three species the leopard track may be distinguished by its size and more rounded shape as compared to lion. If leopard are present in an area spoor can often be found in dry riverbeds, and around waterholes but more frequently along roads, or tracks. Leopard, like other cats are not too fond of “bundu bashing” especially in wet grass or undergrowth. Leopard scat is described as sausage shaped, segmented and with a tapered end. The diameter is about 20-30mm. It usually contains a large amount of hair and undigested bones and hooves are sometimes also present. The colour, when fresh is light brown becoming tan to creamy white as it ages.

Leopard kills are a sure sign of their presence. Prone to kill more than it can immeThe one tried and proven method of hunt- diately consume leopard often haul their ing these cats is to set up a bait and wait prey up into a tree where it is firmly sein a well concealed blind for them to be cured in a convenient fork to keep it away attracted to the bait. Simple? Well no, not from scavengers and to be returned to at as simple as this. Hunting leopard is a a later time. strategic process that must be carefully The power of these cats becomes eviplanned and executed. dent when they haul fairly large species It begins with establishing whether they – often weighing more than themselves – are present and active in a particular area up into trees. If there are no nearby conor not. It is pointless baiting for leopard venient trees to haul prey up into and it if there are none in the vicinity. These is left on the ground, leopard will attempt animals will manifest their presence in to hide it by covering the carcass with a number of ways. At night their guttural vegetation. Leopard leave distinct claw “sawing” vocalization, used to advertise marks in the bark of a tree trunk when territory, will confirm their presence. Other ascending a tree and is a good indicator leopard sign include tracks and scats. of where to set up a bait. The spoor is 85-95 mm in length and Leopard have quite a distinct way of feedshows four toes and usually no sign of ing and signs on the carcass which will claws. The pad in the print shows three indicate that it has been fed on by a leopclearly defined lobes along the trailing Volume 6 Issue 3 | 13


ard are the following: the prey animal is eaten from the buttocks end and the shoulder. Internal organs are consumed but stomach and intestines are discarded and often buried under debris. If food is scarce or if a leopard has been injured or is in poor health it may be driven by hunger to eat carrion or to catch prey that is easier to kill (like humans for example)! Territorial markings are additional signs the observant hunter can be on the lookout for. With the tail raised high leopard urinate onto low bushes or the ground whilst at the same time scratching with their hind feet, to mark territories (see Figure 8). When fresh, the urine gives off a pungent, easily discernible odour and the scuff marks are clearly discernible on the ground. Once the presence of a leopard has been established the next step is to look for a suitable spot to set up bait and erect a blind. The bait must be placed up high enough in a tree where scavengers like jackal and hyaena and larger predators such as lion cannot reach it or disturb the leopard whilst it is feeding. A vertical trunk (which makes it difficult for lion to scale) followed by a horizontal branch is ideal (see Figure 9-10). The horizontal branch should be at right angles to the blind so that the leopard will present a clear side on shot when it comes to feed on the bait. If possible the bait tree should be in close proximity to a well travelled game path as this will be a likely route for a leopard to make use of. Tie the bait firmly to the tree so that it cannot be easily dislodged when the leopard feeds on it. If it falls to the ground it will be carried off by hyaena or other scavengers and without something to feed on the leopard will soon move off. 14 | Volume 6 Issue 3

Minimize human scent by wearing rubber galoshes or standing on sacking which will be removed once the bait is in place. Never allow anyone to urinate in the vicinity. Leafy branches can be packed lightly over the bait to avoid it being seen by vultures who will soon devour it. It is important to lay down a scent trail leading to the bait to lure the animal in. Lay the scent trail along game paths and interconnect the game paths with scent trails. Place the offal of the animal shot for bait in a sack and pierce holes into the bottom of the sack to allow juices, blood and small pieces of offal to run out as the bag is dragged around. The bag of offal can then be tied up in the tree next to the bait where breezes can waft scent into the surrounding bush. Correct placement of the blind is very important and the most important thing to keep in mind is to erect it downwind of the prevailing breeze. If the hide is upwind of the blind the leopard will smell the hunters and will generally not come to the bait. From inside the blind the hunter should have a clear and unobstructed view of the bait. Make sure that there are no twigs, branches or grass in the way which could obscure the view or deflect a bullet. The blind should be dense enough to prevent any movement inside it being seen from outside. Shooting ports should be as small as is practically possible and lined with grass, a small sandbag or cloth to prevent noise when a rifle is rested on it. The blind should be erected as close to the bait as possible bearing in mind that if it is too close the leopard may be suspicious of it and may be reluctant to approach the


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Leopard leave distinct claw marks in the bark of a tree trunk when ascending a tree and is a good indicator of where to set up a bait

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It is important to lay down a scent trail leading to the bait to lure the animal in

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bait. Try and place the bait in such a way that the background is sky. Leopard are usually shot at last light or sunrise and being clearly presented as a silhouette against a background sky will make the shot easier. A blind may be anywhere from 40 – 70m away depending on the prevailing conditions. The entrance should be from the back and should be concealed. Hunters should be in the blind well before last light or well before dawn and should maintain absolute silence. Any noise or talking will immediately put any leopard on high alert and prevent it from coming to the bait or send it at a run away from the bait if it is already on it. Try and void bladders and bowels at camp before entering the blind. Keep a sealable bottle in the blind if the need arises to urinate. Avoid eating or smoking whilst waiting in the blind and exercise extreme patience. If a leopard is successfully lured to and feeds off a bait and does not present a clear shot all hope is not lost. Even if it moves off after feeding it may well return the following day if it was not disturbed on its initial visit. Modern “critter cams” – cameras designed to take photos when a beam is broken or when motion is detected, are ideal tools

to scout an area for suitable leopards. Although the quality of images in early “critter cams” was not too good the latest models are excellent and can take good quality pictures even in the dark. Some may question the ethics of hunting an animal by luring it to a bait but realistically this is one method which does work. Leopard are also hunted using dog packs but this method is likely to come under even more severe criticism. Hunting over a bait does increase the chances of success because the shot presented by a leopard on a bait facilitates good shot placement and reduces the risk of wounding. In the end this should be the aim of every ethical hunter – to dispatch his quarry quickly, cleanly and humanely and minimizing the risk of wounding and suffering. Many professional hunters will not advocate taking a shot at a leopard when it is lying down feeding on a bait as the vitals are “squashed” and it is difficult to then place a shot accurately into the heart/lung area. The advice would be to wait until the leopard is sitting or standing at which time the vital areas would be more clearly exposed.

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The blind should be dense enough to prevent any movement inside it being seen from outside

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Overland to Central Kafue:

Zamkafuzi

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Part 3 the finale of a wild Zambian Adventure

W

e left Mongu, the capital of Western Zambia, on an almost cloudless 26 September 2013 east-bound for Kafue National Park whose Tatayoyo Gate was about 360km along the M9. The tar surface of the two-lane M9 varied from newsmooth through ‘rapidly undulating’ to some sections with serious potholes and stretches under reconstruction with detours – an easy run for the Landy and Violet. As our trip unfolded it looked as if Kafue might be our mid-point rather than nearly the end point. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 27


The M9 goes east/west right through Kafue National Park and all drivers have to complete a register at the arrival and departure gates for which, pleasantly surprisingly, there is no fee. We were blessed with sightings, from the main road, of roan antelope, warthog, tsesebe, Defasso waterbuck, puku and impala which really whet our appetites for great sightings during our planned two-day stay in this park. Just after crossing the Kafue River there is a turnoff to Lwengu Community Campsite on its banks. A relatively new initiative of the local community it boasted ‘no park fees’ as it is technically just outside the Park and charged ZMK 100 per person per night to camp although there was little shade for visitors. We wanted to spend some time ‘chilling’ in camp so opted for Myukuyuku Campsite about 20km further east where we discovered the ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) fee was ZMK 79 ‘park entrance’ (charged per day) + ZMK 19 ‘camping fee’ per person per night. The camp is operated by a private interest whose fee was an additional ZMK100 pppn. Again we were blessed as we chose (on advice of travellers we had met at Mutoya) Main campsite which idyllically fronted on the magnificent Kafue River. Our camp chairs provided ‘ringside seats’ on the raised river bank from which to view a couple of small pods of hippo, various water birds and antelope grazing in the distance across the far bank. Awoken one morning by their bray-like alarm call and a small stampede of hippo from around our camp towards the river, we captured some images of the big African sun rising over the bush and, over coffee and rusks, reflected on the awesomeness 28 | Volume 6 Issue 3


of God’s handiwork. We discovered that the part of Kafue National Park where game concentrations are greatest is the Busanga Plains far to the north-east of where we camped. There they cater almost exclusively for fly-in tourists. Perhaps progress along the sand roads from the M9 to the lodges in the Plains’ area is too slow, on average, for self-drivers to reach a lodge by nightfall? Whatever the reason, self-drivers were discouraged from embarking on that safari. On our game drives in the central area, in addition to the intial sightings from the main road, we saw lots more puku, a few Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, more waterbuck and impala as well as elephant, zebra and bushbuck and we heard of a buffalo sighting from fellow visitors. We recorded some bites and a few kills though …, not of large game but tsetse flies, when we had to attend to a puncture during a game drive! Thankfully tsetses were absent from our campsite! Achieving tsetse kills though, is worthy of accolade because they are amazingly resilient beasties; you can hit them quite hard and all they do is wriggle and buzz briefly before flying away. Whenever we encounter tsetses we remember our first trip with Tim and Denise in Botswana’s Moremi Wildlife Sanctuary in 1981. Michele spied a tsetse fly that had the audacity to enter the vehicle and sit on the back of driver Tim’s head. Without hesitation and totally focussed, she kicked off a sandal and whacked that fly, only fully realising the consequences of her action when Tim protested, much to the hilarity of all in the vehicle! The shadows were lengthening when we Volume 6 Issue 3 | 29


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found Pioneer Camp, off the Great East Road, about 14km out of the city (ZMK 35 pppn, hot showers, restaurant and bar), after an eventful Saturday afternoon in Lusaka. Our brief connection with Zambian ministry friends in the mall parking lot was like a joyous family reunion while the repair of two of the Landy’s tyres by a couple of independent operators, using the facilities of a large tyre fitment outfit and Tim’s stock of patches … an African experience.

not obtained South African police clearance certificates for our vehicles so we received a polite reprimand after a short delay. We had spent a relaxed previous afternoon and night at Zambezi Breezes about 10km north of Chirundu, on green lawns under shady trees on the banks of the Zambezi (ZMK 50 pppn camping), blissfully drifting off to sleep with the sounds of the lazy river and a lion roaring far away. That made this situation only mildly stressful.

We used the two nights at Pioneer to plot our course for the remainder of our holiday. Originally our plan was to spend most of our time in Western Zambia, take in Kafue NP then head home. Our preliminary internet research revealed fees which seriously limited the amount of time we could afford to stay in Zambian wildlife parks but we had hoped to find other, more affordable camping spots within ‘striking distance’ of some of the parks. We had not, so only half our holiday was over and we didn’t fancy risking another high-priced Zambian park with sparse game.

The largely straight red sandy road to the riverside Nyamepi campsite in Mana Pools National Park was fringed with bush and kinked a little at times to avoid some large spreading trees. It was hot and we had to keep windows closed to keep the tsetses out. The bush looked like it had been fairly dense but was now sparse, dry and dusty. The sparseness and absence of grass suggested either a prolonged drought or overstocking with game. Hence we expected the animals would concentrate close to water so we hoped to see much around Nyamepi Camp, forty some kilometres from the entrance gate.

By South African standards fuel was very expensive in Zambia at ZMK 9.91 per litre of petrol everywhere we travelled (diesel was only slightly cheaper). However, we had already incurred cost to get there and it was our holiday. Our logical route home was via Zimbabwe and there were some relatively inexpensive options potentially open to us after visiting Mana Pools which we agreed was a ‘must see’. Chirundu border crossing was a pleasure – dealing with both Zambian and Zimbabwean immigration and customs officials in this one-stop facility. We had

As we neared the camp and the park’s HQ it seemed our ‘suspicions’ were confirmed – fish eagle on the ground, waterbuck, impala, kudu, warthog, baboon, ground hornbills and elephant were dotted about. Later that afternoon we added a few buffalo, saddle bills, Batteleur, longtailed starlings and white-crowned plovers (lapwing) to our list of ‘identifiables’. By the next afternoon we had added a couple of hyaena, side-striped jackal, eland and several species of water birds. From our riverside campsite we had a Volume 6 Issue 3 | 31


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panoramic view of the great Zambezi which must be about 500m wide at that point, a stretch broken by sporadic tree and bush-covered islands. We were able to sit and watch a lone elephant crossing the river to a nearby island, several pods of hippo, crocodiles, a little egret, with his curiously yellow feet at the end of black legs, at the water’s edge, various kingfishers, marabou and openbill storks. Warily we weathered the occasional monkey raid although they managed to steal a rusk or two. One early afternoon we were watching a small herd of elephant grazing and browsing among the campsites when a mother elephant and her calf of perhaps two or three years came specifically to visit us. Mum scrutinised the contents of our kitchen table from close quarters and junior almost walked into our washing line strung between the vehicles and a tree on the river bank.

paid in dollars. Our attempts to economise in the second part of the trip seemed doomed. Near the town of Kariba, Tim and Denise had managed to rent an inexpensive houseboat the previous year. Unfortunately none was available this time so, after camping the night, we set off via an old hunters’ road, now used to access the power lines, up the escarpment bound for Tashinga Camp in the Matusadona NP. Tim knew the way, and from his mention of joining the main road, I foolishly assumed we would be able to buy petrol again en route.

Because of Violet’s thirst I always try and optimise fuel usage and cost. Experience in Southern and East Africa is that fuel prices tend to decrease as one approaches the border point through which it is imported. So I filled only one tank in Kariba, to take advantage of lower prices Thankfully he realised the danger and as we headed southward. At least that reversed passed Violet who was parked was the theory but it was not a good deciquite close to the top of the bank in dense sion! The ‘hunters’ road’ was steep, windshade. Several fellow campers joined us ing and rough with spectacular views of for the ensuing photo-shoot provided by Lake Kariba and valley. the pair as they grazed, drank and genThe main road we joined at the top of the erally investigated the short section of grassy water’s edge below our camp. The escarpment was severely corrugated with much ‘ploughing’ through loose gravel little egret kept them under close obserwith a distinct absence of habitation and vation too. What an awesome privilege! no hope of filling stations. The track down Mana Pools is evidently a prime tourthe escarpment again to Tashinga, on the ist destination. A riverside campsite cost Lake shore, was an enjoyable off-road $100 US per night for up to six people exercise (about 70km). The net effect plus $15 per vehicle and $15 per person of these driving conditions was that the per day park fees. The accepted general needle on Violet’s fuel gauge seemed to exchange rate within Zimbabwe at the be racing some unseen opponent to well time was R10 per $1 and, probably besouth of the ‘finished’ line. Having estabcause they recognised our licence plates, lished that there was no petrol for sale we occasionally received change from toll at Tashinga but that it could be obtained gates and filling stations in rands, having Volume 6 Issue 3 | 33


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by boat from a nearby game farm, “if the boat was going in the next day or so,” there was no option other than to purchase that at $2.50 per litre! The price at Kariba had been $1.55! Tashinga’s a very special campsite on a small stubby peninsula on the Lake shore providing a 270 degree lake front so that the sun rises and sets over the lake when viewed from the campsite. On the way down to the camp we had seen a small herd of roan antelope and glimpsed the stragglers of a buffalo herd just disappearing into thick bush at the roadside, while on a grassy section of flood plain there were a few oxpeckerspeckled hippo grazing, some kudu, a large herd of impala, warthog, waterbuck, Egyptian geese, egrets, herons, hornbills, hamerkop, yellow-billed and openbill storks and glossy ibis. Tea and rusks under the Landy’s awning on the edge of a slight rise overlooking the flood plain … that’s Africa! The previous night we had woken to see the shadowy forms of elephant in our campsite as they fed on the fruit of the huge African fig tree that provided our shade. There was something deeply moving about being almost at the same eye level as these huge creatures from the vantage of our rooftop tent. We marvelled at how silently and carefully they trod around our camp table and chairs, not disturbing one! Elephant visited the campsite typically late morning and afternoon each day too, en route to drink from the lake. We saw none of the cats but Tim recounted a terrifying experience of one of his friends, scarcely two years prior to Volume 6 Issue 3 | 35


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our visit to the very same campsite with the same A-frame shelter. His friend was part of a group of experienced huntingfishing types who were camped there for the night. Feeling weary and known for his loud snoring, he headed for the A-frame, about 20m away from the campfire, still being enjoyed by most of the party. Sometime later the fireside group were alerted by a commotion inside the A-frame where a lioness had their friend’s head in her mouth and had shaken him out of his sleeping bag. They managed to drive off the lioness and rushed the badly injured victim to nearby Bumi Hills for aerial evacuation to hospital. We were privileged to meet this gracious gentleman the following week when we overnighted at his home in Bulawayo. The feint scar above his nose and well-fitting prosthetic eye are a tribute to excellent and prompt medical care. Although physically well healed he was not in any hurry to go on a hunting trip. A finger-sized stick through its sidewall was the nemesis of a Landy tyre while one of those previously repaired was leaking slowly. I was pleased I retained the original split rims, with flaps and tubes, on Violet after we battled to break the bead on the offending Landy tyre so we could repair it. Driving onto the tyre would not dislodge it. Even placing the foot of the high-lift jack close to the rim and jacking the vehicle on that had to be repeated several times before success. The bigger wheel size and stud conformation of the Landy compared to Violet meant we could not swap any wheels but we carried two complete spares each so, although our repair was not perfect, the Landy would not be incapacitated by

another puncture. Camp fees for Tashinga comprised $15 per person per night. Add to this a conservation fee of $12 per person and $15 per vehicle, both of which were payable once every 7 days of your stay. We spent two glorious nights in this piece of Eden. After refuelling (at $1.62/l) and camping, with a dip in the very welcome cool pool at Binga, we headed for Deka where we hoped to spend a night or two with friends. Unfortunately management of the lodge had changed and renovations were underway so next stop, Hwange National Park, about 180km from Binga. Main Camp in Hwange NP provided basic camp site with simple ablutions at similar prices to Tashinga. Their supply of park maps had run out so we used our photo of an aging display in the reception area for reference. Elephants, although among our favourite animals, seemed to be too numerous for the park but perhaps they had migrated to the more northerly area at this time of year. We were blessed to have some really great views of elephant frolicking in a waterhole from a nearby wooden platform built for the purpose. The blessing extended to a pride of lion with cubs and a group of adult cheetah, sable antelope, steenbok, kudu, hyaena, baboon and a variety of birds. The artificial water points were certainly attracting the game at that very dry time of year. After two nights in Hwange NP and another in Bulawayo we bade Tim and Denise farewell as they prepared to head back to Kimberley and we returned to Barberton via the length of the Kruger National Park. We spent two nights in Kruger and saw all of the ‘Big Five’ and Volume 6 Issue 3 | 37


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much larger numbers of game than we had in any of the Zambian or Zimbabwean parks. Camping facilities were excellent, well-maintained and prices very reasonable by comparison. We had travelled a total of 6 000km via Botswana and Caprivi through south western Zambia, across to Kafue National Park, ‘followed’ the Zambezi and Lake Kariba on the Zimbabwe side from Mana Pools to Deka and thence, via Hwange NP, Bulawayo and South Africa’s Kruger National Park. A little more than half of this was tarred road, necessary to reach the more remote destinations we thrive on visiting. We enjoy the challenge of pitting our vehicles and driving skills against those challenges and being in wild places unspoilt by the effects of excessive human habitation. We are always grateful to God for blessing us with means, skills and time to enjoy these wild frontiers and we are prepared to ‘rough it’ in order to enjoy them. We understand that sightings

of animals in the wild can never be guaranteed and we were blessed to see species that either do not occur or are rare in South African parks but our impression is that the Zambian and Zimbabwean wildlife authorities have largely lost the antipoaching war, when one considers the small numbers and skittishness of game species we saw. Whilst we are prepared for no facilities, to have to pay top dollar for minimal game sighting and under-maintained facilities does rather stick in the crop. Some of the overseas visitors we encountered had low expectations but also felt that value lagged the money spent. The cost of reaching these destinations is high as is their maintenance but one wonders whether reducing tariffs would not result in higher occupancy and, ultimately, higher revenue. Whatever the arguments, the fact remains that if patrons have a good experience they will be happy and return or at least be good advertisers.

John and his wife, Michele are veterans of several southern and east- African safaris. They are currently both on the ministry staff of Barberton Christian Church, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

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Living di

Photo: Herman Bosua 42 | Volume 6 Issue 3


inosaurs African crocodiles

D

on’t just splash into the river after a long hot day on your African safari. Our can rivers are flush with man-eating crocodiles just waiting for some imported meat. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 43


Suit of parade armour used by a Roman soldier during cult processions, consisting of a helmet and cuirass, both made of sewn crocodile skin.

This crocodile armor is on display at the British Museum, in London. It was worn during the Second Crusade, during the middle of the 12th Century.

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Size

A crocodile’s construction allows it to be a successful predator. Its streamlined body enables it to swim really fast – up to 30km per hour: over 3 times as fast as a human. Crocodiles tuck their feet to the side while swimming, which decreases water resistance. They have webbed feet which, though not used to propel the animal through the water, allow them to make fast turns and sudden moves in the water or initiate swimming. Webbed feet are an advantage in shallower water, where the animal sometimes moves around by walking. Crocodiles have a palatal flap, a rigid tissue at the back of the mouth that blocks the entry of water. The palate has a special path from the nostril to the glottis that bypasses the mouth. The nostrils are closed during submergence.

Size greatly varies between species, from the dwarf crocodile to the saltwater crocodile. Species of Osteolaemus grow to an adult size of just 1.5 to 1.9 m (4.9 to 6.2 ft), whereas the saltwater crocodile can grow to sizes over 7 m (23 ft) and weigh 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). Several other large species can reach over 5.2 m (17 ft) long and weigh over 900 kg (2,000 lb). Crocodilians show pronounced sexual dimorphism, with males growing much larger and more rapidly than females. Despite their large adult sizes, crocodiles start their lives at around 20 cm (7.9 in) long. The largest species of crocodile is the saltwater crocodile, found in eastern India, northern Australia, throughout Southeast Asia, and in the surrounding waters.

The tongues of crocodiles are not free, but held in place by a membrane that limits movement; as a result, crocodiles are unable to stick out their tongues. Crocodiles have smooth skin on their bellies and sides, while their dorsal surfaces are armored with large bony scales. The armoured skin has scales and is thick and rugged, providing some protection. They are still able to absorb heat through this armour, as a network of small capillaries allows blood through the scales to absorb heat. Crocodilian scales have pores believed to be sensory in function, analogous to the lateral line in fishes. They are particularly seen on their upper and lower jaws. Another possibility is that they are secretory, as they produce an oily substance which appears to flush mud off.

The longest crocodile captured alive is Lolong, which was measured at 6.17 m (20.2 ft) and weighed at 1,075 kg (2,370 lb) by a National Geographic team in Agusan del Sur Province, Philippines.

Crocodile skin has been used for making armour.

The largest crocodile ever held in captivity is an estuarine–Siamese hybrid named Yai (born 10 June 1972) at the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm and Zoo, Thailand. This animal measures 6 m (20 ft) in length and weighs 1,114.27 kg (2,456.5 lb).

Teeth Crocodiles are able to replace each of their 80 teeth up to 50 times in their 35 to 75-year lifespan. Next to the full grown tooth there is a small replacement tooth Biology and behavior Despite their prehistoric look, crocodiles are among the more biologically complex Volume 6 Issue 3 | 45


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reptiles. Unlike other reptiles, a crocodile has a cerebral cortex, a four-chambered heart, and the functional equivalent of a diaphragm, by incorporating muscles used for aquatic locomotion into respiration. Salt glands are present in the tongues of crocodiles and they have a pore opening on the surface of the tongue, which is a trait that separates them from alligators. Salt glands are dysfunctional in Alligators. Their function appears to be similar to that of salt glands in marine turtles. Crocodiles do not have sweat glands and release heat through their mouths. They often sleep with their mouths open and may pant like a dog. Senses Crocodiles have acute senses, an evolutionary advantage that makes them successful predators. The eyes, ears and nostrils are located on top of the head, allowing the crocodile to lie low in the water, almost totally submerged and hidden from prey. Sight Crocodiles have very good night vision and are mostly nocturnal hunters. They use the disadvantage of most prey animals’ poor nocturnal vision to their advantage. The light receptors in crocodilians’ eyes include both cones and numerous rods, so it is assumed all crocodilians can see colors. Crocodiles have vertical-slit shaped pupils, similar to domestic cats. In addition to the protection of the upper and lower eyelids, crocodiles have a nictitating membrane which can be drawn over the eye from the inner corner while the lids are open. The eyeball surface is thus protected under the water while a certain

degree of vision is still possible. Smell Crocodilian sense of smell is also very well developed, aiding them to detect prey or animal carcasses that are either on land or in water, from far away. It is possible that crocodiles use olfaction in the egg prior to hatching. Chemoreception in crocodiles is especially interesting because they hunt both in terrestrial and in aquatic surroundings. Crocodiles detect both air-borne and water-soluble chemicals and use their sense of smell for hunting. When above water, crocodiles enhance their ability to detect volatile odorants through a rhythmic movement of the floor of the throat. Unlike turtles, crocodiles close their nostrils when submerged, so the use of sense of smell underwater is unlikely. Old boer advice is to cut the valves which close the nostrils on the tip of a crocodiles nose when caught, resulting in the inability to stop water from flooding the lungs. Hearing Crocodiles can hear well; their eardrums concealed by flat flaps that may be raised or lowered by muscles. Touch The upper and lower jaws are covered with sensory pits, visible as small, black speckles on the skin, the crocodilian version of the lateral line organs seen in fish and many amphibians, though arising from a completely different origin. These pigmented nodules encase bundles of nerve fibers innervated beneath by Volume 6 Issue 3 | 47


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branches of the trigeminal nerve. They respond to the slightest disturbance in surface water, detecting vibrations and small pressure changes as small as a single drop. This makes it possible for crocodiles to detect prey, danger and intruders, even in total darkness. These sense organs are known as Domed Pressure Receptors (DPRs). While alligators and caimans have DPRs only on their jaws, crocodiles have similar organs on almost every scale on their bodies. The function of the DPRs on the jaws is clear; to catch prey, but it is still not clear what is the function of the organs on the rest of the body. Hunting and diet Crocodiles are ambush predators, waiting for fish or land animals to come close, then rushing out to attack. Crocodiles mostly eat fish, amphibians, crustaceans, molluscs, birds, reptiles, mammals and occasionally cannibalize on smaller crocodiles. What a crocodile eats varies greatly with species, size and age. From the mostly fish-eating species like the slender-snouted and freshwater crocodiles to the larger species like the Nile crocodile and the saltwater crocodile that prey on large mammals, such as buffalo, buck and warthogs. Diet is also greatly affected by size and age of the individual within the same species. All young crocodiles hunt mostly invertebrates and small fish, gradually moving onto larger prey. As cold-blooded predators, they have a very slow metabolism, so they can survive long periods without food. Despite their appearance of being slow, crocodiles have a very fast strike and are top

predators in their environment, and various species have been observed attacking and killing other predators such as sharks and big cats. Crocodiles have the most acidic stomach of any vertebrate. They can easily digest bones, hooves and horns. BBC TV reported that a Nile crocodile that has lurked a long time underwater to catch prey builds up a large oxygen debt. When it has caught and eaten that prey, it closes its right aortic arch and uses its left aortic arch to flush blood loaded with carbon dioxide from its muscles directly to its stomach; the resulting excess acidity in its blood supply makes it much easier for the stomach lining to secrete more stomach acid to quickly dissolve bulks of swallowed prey flesh and bone. Many large crocodilians swallow stones (called gastroliths or stomach stones), which may act as ballast to balance their bodies or assist in crushing food, similar to grit ingested by birds. Bite Since they feed by grabbing and holding onto their prey, they have evolved sharp teeth for piercing and holding onto flesh, and powerful muscles to close the jaws and hold them shut. The teeth are not well-suited to tearing flesh off of large prey items. However, this is an advantage rather than a disadvantage to the crocodile since the properties of the teeth allow it to hold onto prey with the least possibility of the prey animal to escape. Otherwise combined with the exceptionally high bite force, the flesh would easily cut through; thus creating an escape opportunity for the prey item. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 49


The jaws can bite down with immense force, by far the strongest bite of any animal.

the jaw muscle in the skull is very large, which is easily visible from the outside as a bulge at each side. The nature of The bite of a large crocodile’s bite is more the muscle is so stiff, it is almost as hard as bone to touch, as if it were the conthan 5,000 lbf (22,000 N), which was tinuum of the skull. Another trait is that measured in a 5.5 m (18 ft) Nile crocodile, on the field, compared to just 335 lbf most of the muscle in a crocodile’s jaw is arranged for clamping down. Despite the (1,490 N) for a Rottweiler, 670 lbf (3,000 N) for a great white shark, 800 lbf (3,600 strong muscles to close the jaw, crocodiles have extremely small and weak N) for a hyena, or 2,200 lbf (9,800 N) for an American alligator. A 5.2 m (17 ft) long muscles to open the jaw. Crocodiles can thus be subdued for study or transport saltwater crocodile has been confirmed by taping their jaws or holding their jaws as having the strongest bite force ever shut with large rubber bands cut from recorded for an animal in a laboratory automobile inner tubes. setting. It was able to apply a bite force value of 3,700 lbf (16,000 N), and thus surpassed the previous record of 2,125 lbf (9,450 N) made by a 3.9 m (13 ft) long American alligator.

Taking the measurements of several 5.2 m (17 ft) crocodiles as reference, the bite forces of 6-m individuals were estimated at 7,700 lbf (34,000 N).[53] The study, lead by Dr. Gregory M. Erickson, also shed light to the larger, extinct species of crocodilians. Since crocodile anatomy has changed only slightly for the last 80 million years, current data on modern crocodilians can be used to estimate the bite force of extinct species. An 11 to 12 metres (36–39 ft) long Deinosuchus would apply a force of 23,100 lbf (103,000 N), twice that of the latest, higher bite force estimations of Tyrannosaurus. The extraordinary bite of crocodilians is a result of their anatomy. The space for 50 | Volume 6 Issue 3

Locomotion Crocodiles can gallop with their front and back legs working together and they are very fast over short distances. The land speed record for a crocodile is 17 km/h (11 mph) measured in a galloping Australian freshwater crocodile. Maximum speed varies from species to species. Certain species can indeed gallop, including Cuban crocodiles, New Guinea crocodiles, African dwarf crocodiles, and even small Nile crocodiles. The fastest means by which most species can move is a kind of “belly run”, where the body moves in a snake-like fashion, limbs splayed out to either side paddling away frantically while the tail whips to and fro. Crocodiles can reach speeds of 10–11 km/h (6–7 mph) when they “belly run”, and often faster if slipping down muddy riverbanks. Another form of locomotion is the “high walk”,


where the body is raised clear of the ground. Crocodiles may possess a form of homing instinct. In northern Australia, three rogue saltwater crocodiles were relocated 400 km (249 mi) by helicopter, but had returned to their original locations within three weeks, based on data obtained from tracking devices attached to the reptiles. Longevity Measuring crocodile age is unreliable, although several techniques are used to derive a reasonable guess. The most common method is to measure lamellar growth rings in bones and teeth—each ring corresponds to a change in growth rate which typically occurs once a year between dry and wet seasons.[56] Bearing these inaccuracies in mind, it can be safely said that all crocodile species have an average lifespan of at least 30–40 years, and in the case of larger species an average of 60–70 years. The oldest crocodiles appear to be the largest species. C. porosus is estimated to live around 70 years on average, with limited evidence of some individuals exceeding 100 years.

around 1900. The croc was a man-eater and ate several children. Sir Henry was asked by the tribe to kill the crocodile, but after consultation they decided to let the crocodile live as punishment. A male freshwater crocodile lived to an estimated age of 120–140 years at the Australia Zoo. Known affectionately as “Mr. Freshie”, he was rescued around 1970 by Bob Irwin and Steve Irwin, after being shot twice by hunters and losing an eye as a result, and lived until 2010. Social behavior and vocalization Crocodiles are the most social of reptiles. Even though they do not form social groups, many species congregate in certain section of a rivers, tolerating each other at times of feeding and basking. Most species are not highly territorial, with the exception of the saltwater crocodile; which is a highly territorial and aggressive species.

A mature male will not tolerate any other males at any time of the year. Most of the species however, are more flexible. There is a certain form of hierarchy in crocodiles, where the largest and heaviest males are at the top; having access to the best basking site, females and priority A male crocodile lived to an estimated age of 110–115 years in a Russian zoo in during a group feeding of a big kill or carcass. A good example to the hierarchy in Yekaterinburg. Named Kolya, he joined the zoo around 1913 to 1915, fully grown, crocodiles would be the case of the Nile after touring in an animal show, and lived crocodile. This species clearly displays all of these behaviors. Studies in this area until 1995. are not thorough, and many species are Crocworld in Kwazulu-Natal is the home yet to be studied in greater detail. of Henry, the oldest known crocodile in captivity. He was captured by an elephant Mugger crocodiles are also known to show toleration in group feedings and hunter known as sir Henry in the Okatend to congregate to certain areas. Howvango Delta in Botswana in 1903. The crocodile is estimated to have been born ever, males of all species are aggressive Volume 6 Issue 3 | 51


towards each other during mating season, to gain access to females. Crocodiles are also the most vocal of all reptiles, producing a wide variety of sounds during various situations and conditions, depending on species, age, size and sex. Depending on the context, some species can communicate over 20 different messages through vocalizations alone. Some of these vocalizations are made during social communication, especially during territorial displays towards the same sex and courtship with the opposite sex; the common concern being reproduction. Therefore most conspecific vocalization is made during the breeding season, with the exception being yearround territorial behavior in some species and quarrels during feeding. Crocodiles also produce different distress calls and in aggressive displays to their own kind and other animals; notably other predators during interspecific predatory confrontations over carcasses and terrestrial kills. Specific vocalisations include ●● Chirp: When about to hatch, the young make a “peeping” noise, which encourages the female to excavate the nest. The female then gathers the hatchlings in her mouth and transports them to the water, where they remain in a group for several months, protected by the female[62] ●● Distress call: A high-pitched call mostly used by younger animals that alerts other crocodiles to imminent danger or an animal being attacked. ●● Threat call: A hissing sound that 52 | Volume 6 Issue 3

has also been described as a coughing noise. ●● Hatching call: Emitted by females when breeding to alert other crocodiles that she has laid eggs in her nest. ●● Bellowing: Male crocodiles are especially vociferous. Bellowing choruses occur most often in the spring when breeding groups congregate, but can occur at any time of year. To bellow, males noticeably inflate as they raise the tail and head out of water, slowly waving the tail back and forth. They then puff out the throat and with a closed mouth, begin to vibrate air. Just before bellowing, males project an infrasonic signal at about 10 Hz through the water which vibrates the ground and nearby objects. These low-frequency vibrations travel great distances through both air and water to advertise the male’s presence and are so powerful they result in the water appearing to ‘dance’. Reproduction Crocodiles reproduce by laying eggs, which are either laid in hole or mound nests, depending on species. A hole nest is usually excavated in sand and a mound nest is usually constructed out of vegetation. Nesting period ranges from a few weeks up to six months. Courtship takes place in a series of behavioral interactions that include a variety of snout rubbing and submissive display that can take a long time. Mating always takes place in water, where the pair can be observed mating several times. Females can build or dig several trial nests which appear


incomplete and abandoned later. Egg laying usually takes place at night and about 30–40 minutes. Females are highly protective of their nests and young. The eggs are hard shelled but translucent at the time of egg-laying. Depending on the species crocodile, a number of 7-95 eggs are laid. Crocodile embryos do not have sex chromosomes, and unlike humans, sex is not determined genetically. Sex is determined by temperature, where at 30 °C (86 °F) or less most hatchlings are females and at 31 °C (88 °F), offspring are of both sexes. A temperature of 32 to 33 °C (90 to 91 °F) gives mostly males whereas above 33 °C (91 °F) in some species continues to give males but in other species resulting in females, which are sometimes called as high-temperature females. Temperature also affects growth and survival rate of the young, which may explain the sexual dimorphism in crocodiles. The average incubation period is around 80 days, and also is dependent on temperature and species that usually ranges from 65 to 95 days. At the time of hatching, the young start calling within the eggs. They have an egg-tooth at the tip of their snouts, which is developed from the skin, helps them pierce out of the shell. Hearing the calls, the female usually excavates the nest and sometimes takes the unhatched eggs in her mouth, slowly rolling the eggs to help the process. The young is usually carried to the water in the mouth. A group of hatchlings is called a pod or crèche and may be protected for months.

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My tender

shoulder

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Reminiscences of a buffalo hunt

I

have a very dear aunt who lives in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Every time she sends me a text message, email or word of mouth message, her missive ends in the following words; “Please tell him that I still pray for him, every day.� She directs these sincere thoughts towards my husband, of course. I always smile about this a little, but I take it to heart and appreciate her prayers. You see: she reckons he has a very hard life with me. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 61


But please allow me to make a small defence on behalf of myself: I am the eldest of three daughters who have been raised by a formidable man; an avid hunter, serious sportsman, loving husband, honest father, but most of all a perfectionist in every facet of life. The standard had been set very high, and the combination of this example and my strong-headed personality required a miracle husband. I married the Eighth Wonder. It was on one of many of my birthdays that my husband was again tending to a hunting exhibition elsewhere in the world, while, back in Namibia, I entertained and guided hunters. I always joke that the only time both Gysbert and I have ever been to one of our daughters’ birthdays, was at their births, and never again. We enjoy a very high quality of life, but the job of a professional hunter is extremely strenuous, and family life unfortunately tends to be put into second place for about eleven months of the year. When he returned, he handed me an envelope, a handwritten letter inside. He said this was my birthday present. Normally I know what I’m getting for a present, because he always asks me what I want, for fear that I won’t like it, so this came as a total surprise… A buffalo hunt in the Caprivi! My heart leapt; I screamed and hugged and kissed him. One of the animals on my wish list was to become a reality, the other two being an Ibex in Tajikistan and a Red Stag in Argentina. In our line of business you always carry a .375, and trust me, you do a lot of shooting, but most of them as back-up shots. The idea of taking my own buffalo trophy made me literally jump for joy. So off we headed a few weeks later for the Caprivi (now Zambezi). We departed at four o’clock in the afternoon of a Tuesday threatening with thunder and drove through the night, at times amidst heavy rain obscuring our vision. Buffalo, spotted hyena and elephant appeared as dangerous obstacles on the road the closer we came to our destination, arriving at the camp in the early morning hours, managed not to wake Dawid Muller, a good friend and concession holder of Wuparu, and went straight to bed. 62 | Volume 6 Issue 3


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We woke to the sound of grey-headed bush shrike and of hippo splashing in the fresh pools right in front of our tent. After coffee and some longed-for conversation between old friends we contemplated our plans for the day. Dawid and Gysbert did some work on one of the Land Cruisers, fixing the electrical wires of the winch. We went for a drive. Just as we turned around to head back to camp we spotted some young buffalo cows. They swiftly dashed away from us. Up ahead, camouflaged in the green shrubs, stood a group of about five dagga boys, angry old outcasts from the herd. We let them be, and decided to go back for lunch and a good rest before we would return to see if they were still around. The sun was scorching by the time we left camp. We drove through swamps, rivers and dry-burnt land. Majestic sausage trees stood proud. Every few metres breathed life, with impala, warthog, lechwe, bushbuck, sable, roan, zebra and the incredible birdlife, which never tends to quieten up. Only the elephant seemed to have left for the promising clouds over Botswana, mere droppings and old tracks left behind as evidence of their earlier presence. We finally found some fresh tracks close to where we had last seen the old dagga boys. We filled up our water bottles, loaded our guns, looked at one another. Dawid nodded. We had a silent understanding, the three of us. I carried my old faithful Sako .375 with Barnes TSX 300 grains bullets, while Gysbert had brought along his CZ .458 Lott, and Dawid had his Heym .470 Nitro Express. Da Silva, our tracker, and Humphrey, the conservancy ranger, accompanied us. We walked quite a while before Humphrey and Da Silva spotted them grazing on a green pasture island in the dried-up swamp, about 800 metres away. We silently covered ground, scurrying from island to island. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 65


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The wind was perfect. The buffalo were oblivious to us. But as we came closer, the cover got less and we had to stop at some point to discuss how to proceed. The grey go-away birds scolded nasally above us, at which point Dawid thought it a good time to stop, to first tell me about his plans of acquiring a small calibre rifle with a silencer to get rid of these annoying birds messing up so many of his stalks. The sweat was streaming down my back in the same pattern over and over again, so I didn’t particularly delight in his brilliant plan at that very moment. We moved again, but a troop of baboons spotted us and started running and screaming frantically, straight into the direction of the buffalo. My spirits faded. The way Dawid felt towards the grey goaway birds, was the exact same way I felt towards baboons and ostrich. They have the most amazing ability to spot you from miles away and to feel that it is their God-given duty to alarm all other creatures of your presence, and then even to lead the way to safer grounds. We had to sit it out. We waited about half an hour before getting up and continuing our stalk. We had no clue whether the dagga boys were still around, so we approached ever so slowly. The island on which we saw them last was large and overgrown with green. This restricted visibility to only about 10 metres. I was convinced that the buffalo had gone into these green thickets for cover, and there’s no way that you could spot them unknowingly in this type of vegetation. We moved in slowly towards the island, looking for some openings and any signs of fresh tracks. But the tracks were leading around the island instead. Slowly we followed the rim of the island, carefully not to step out too much and loose cover. Suddenly Da Silva snapped his fingers; we ducked flat to the ground. He saw them about 400 metres ahead. A group of five old buffalo. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 67


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Problem: the only cover we could use was a big anthill, 300 metres ahead of us, with a never ending stretch of pasture between us. No sign of disturbance, as the five were still grazing peacefully. We stayed close to the ground, moving very slowly, and after which felt like forever, we stopped at the foot of the anthill and waited. Dawid sailed up the anthill to spot them. I couldn’t move. Pins and needles started working their way up my feet and lower legs. I waited even longer. My heart started pounding as he signalled to me to join him. I very slowly crawled up next to him. He was directing my gaze to two of the buffalo standing to the left, and then he whispered in my ear “His horns are quite worn off; he is very old,” and I whispered back, “Just make sure it’s the oldest one.” After which he replied “Well, this one is about five minutes to twelve, couldn’t get an older one if you wished for it”. Without moving too much, I tried to get a good rest lying flat on my belly on the anthill. A sharp pebble pushed into my rib. Gysbert whispered from behind me that we should try and get closer. Not likely; we had no way of venturing nearer without disturbing them. The two buffalo were grazing together, facing the same direction, and I had to wait for the older one to step out. As soon as he did, I had my crosshairs on his shoulder, but a thick branch was just beneath my aim, and I waited for him to take a few more steps to walk clear of the branch. A strand of hair fell in front of my face, I tried to blow it away but it ended up in my mouth. He stepped out, I closed my fist, clenched the shot, watched his reaction from the scope and saw him run off. I was so sure of my shot, that I said out loud “It’s dead on its feet”. This feeling was glorious, the simple surety of a great shot. We jumped up and ran twenty metres to our right. The other buffalo had stopped, lifting their noses towards us, waiting for their mate to follow, but he still hadn’t appeared. As we slowly approached, Dawid told me to remember to aim at a specific target if the buffalo should charge, and not only to shoot in its general direction. We walked up slowly, came around a big brush, and there he lay. We waited a few minutes; creeping closer. I shot him once more to make sure he was dead, and only then did we approach him from behind. I fell to my knees and felt tears well up in my eyes. This great beast, this irritable one, this oldest of them all, old dagga boy was down. What a sight to have laid my eyes on! I bowed my head in respect and sat with him. We took some photos and I hugged my husband. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. That evening, we sit, staring into the crackling fire. Gybsert pulls me closer by my right shoulder. I shudder with a sudden pang of pain that stings right through me. The whole hunt comes back to me and I laugh out loud as he whispers in my ear: “I would have trusted no one else with that shot.” This miracle man, the Eighth Wonder, has outdone himself again. I immediately send off a text message to my aunt in Cape Town, thanking her for her prayers. God smiles upon me every day. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 69


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Throughout this experience, I could feel Hemingway’s breath on my shoulder. Lady Luck was with me on this hunt with a great buffalo after just one day. It has brought me back to this tepid earth. Feelings seep through me… My thankfulness to Dawid, one of my mentors, my gratitude to Gysbert, my biggest inspiration and who has taught me patience, the people of Wuparo Conservancy who have so much to give, Da Silva, with his never-ending legs and stamina, but most of all, the being alive in this awe-inspiring country completes me. I am brought back again to what I want to convey to everyone fortunate enough to experience this land. As I close my eyes, I press two fingers one more time to my tender right shoulder, but the pain seems to have subsided. I knew it would fade eventually, and although I had prepared myself for this, I cannot help but pray that this sense, this incredibly lovely pain, may linger just a little bit longer...

Click to view the Aru promotional video

Danene van der Westhuyzen is one of only a few qualified female professional hunters in Namibia, and the first female dangerous-game PH ever to qualify in Namibia. She currently serves as vice-president for the Namibian Professional Hunting Association (NAPHA), and is chairlady of Outfitters and Professional Hunting Associations of Southern Africa (OPHASA). Danene is passionate about ethical hunting and bringing home “the big one.” She manages Aru Game Lodges, together with her husband Gysbert van der Westhuyzen. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 73


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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.

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The Maneating lions of

Tsavo

A Day On The N’dungu Escarpment

by Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson, D.S.O.

I

mmediately after breakfast camp was struck, and accompanied by a few of the Wa Kamba, we started off for the N’dungu Escarpment -- a frowning ridge which runs for a great distance parallel to the Sabaki, some three or four miles from its northern bank. We had not gone very far before I caught sight of a fine waterbuck and successfully bowled him over -- a good omen for the day, which put us all in excellent spirits. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 89


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Mabruki cut off several strips of the tough meat and impaled them on a sharp stick to dry in the sun as he went along. I warned him that he had better be careful that a lion did not scent the meat, as if it did it would be sure to follow up and kill him. Of course I did not mean this seriously; but Mabruki was a great glutton, and by no means courageous, so I wanted to frighten him. As we trudged along towards the hill, I heard a peculiar noise behind a small rising on our right, and on looking over the crest, I was delighted to see two beautiful giraffe feeding peacefully a little distance away and straining their long necks to get at the tops of some mimosa-like trees, while a young one was lying down in the grass quite close to me. For some time I remained concealed, watching the fullgrown pair with great interest: they had evidently just come up from the river, and were slowly making their way back to their home on the escarpment. They seemed on the most affectionate terms, occasionally entwining their great long necks and gently biting each other on the shoulders. Much as I should have liked to have added a giraffe to my collection of trophies, I left them undisturbed, as I think it a pity to shoot these rather rare and very harmless creatures, unless one is required for a special purpose. We pushed on, accordingly, towards the escarpment, for I was very impatient to get to the top and explore a place where I felt convinced no other white man had ever set foot. From the river the ground rose gently upwards to the foot of the ridge, and was covered more or less densely with stunted trees and bushes, and of course the inevitable “wait-a-bit”

thorns. I was fortunate enough, however, to find a rhino path which afforded a fairly comfortable and open road, on which we could walk upright the greater part of the way. The climb up the escarpment itself was a stiff one, and had to be negotiated principally on all-fours, but on the way up I discovered that there was an enormous cleft some miles to the right which would probably have afforded an easier ascent. I had not time to explore it on this particular day, but I made a mental note to do so on some future occasion. After a two hours’ journey from the river we sat panting on the summit after our scramble and surveyed the valley of the Tsavo, which lay spread out like a map about five hundred feet below us. Our home tents, the bridge, Tsavo Station and other buildings were plainly visible, and the railway itself, like a shining snake, could be seen for many miles winding its way through the parched wilderness. Having taken a few photographs of the scene, we turned and struck through the N’dungu Plateau. Here I found the same kind of nyika as that round Tsavo, the only difference being that there were more green trees about. The country, moreover, was somewhat more open, and was intersected by hundreds of broad and well-beaten animal paths, along which we could walk upright in comfort. I was leading the way, followed closely by Mahina and Mabruki, when suddenly we almost walked upon a lion which was lying down at the side of the path and which had probably been asleep. It gave a fierce growl and at once bounded off through the bush; but to Mabruki -- who doubtless recalled then the warning I had given him in fun earlier Volume 6 Issue 3 | 91


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in the day -- the incident appeared so alarming that he flung down his stick-load of meat and fled for his life, much to the amusement of the others, even the usually silent Wa Kamba joining in the general laughter as they scrambled for the discarded meat. We saw nothing more of the lion, though a few steps further on brought us to the remains of a zebra which he had recently killed and feasted on; but after this Mabruki kept carefully in the rear. Curiously enough, only a short while later we had an exactly similar adventure with a rhino, as owing to the tortuous nature of the path, we walked right into it before we were aware. Like the lion, however, it was more frightened than we, and charged away from us through the jungle. For about two hours we pursued our journey into the plateau, and saw and heard a wonderful variety of game, including giraffe, rhino, bush-buck, the lesser kudu, zebra, wart-hog, baboons and monkeys, and any number of paa, the last being of a redder colour than those of the Tsavo valley. Of natives or of human habitations, however, we saw no signs, and indeed the whole region was so dry and waterless as to be quite uninhabitable. The animals that require water have to make a nightly journey to and from the Sabaki, which accounts for the thousands of animal paths leading from the plateau to the river. By this time we were all beginning to feel very tired, and the bhisti’s stock of water was running low. I therefore climbed the highest tree I could find in order to have a good look round, but absolutely nothing could I see in any direction but the same flat thorny wilderness, interspersed here

and there with a few green trees; not a landmark of any sort or kind as far as the eye could reach; a most hopeless, terrible place should one be lost in it, with certain death either by thirst or by savage beasts staring one in the face. Clearly, then, the only thing to do was to return to the river; and in order to accomplish this before dark it was necessary that no time should be lost. But we had been winding in and out so much through the animal paths that it was no easy matter to say in which direction the Sabaki lay. First I consulted my Wa Kamba followers as to the route back, they simply shook their heads. Then I asked Mahina, who pointed out a direction exactly opposite to that which I felt confident was the right one. Mabruki, of course, knew nothing, but volunteered the helpful and cheering information that we were lost and would all be killed by lions. In these circumstances, I confirmed my own idea as to our way by comparing my watch and the sun, and gave the order to start at once. For two solid hours, however, we trudged along in the fearful heat without striking a single familiar object or landmark. Mabruki murmured loudly; even Mahina expressed grave doubts as to whether the “Sahib� had taken the right direction; only the Wa Kamba stalked along in reassuring silence. For some time we had been following a broad white rhino path, and the great footmarks, of one of these beasts were fresh and plainly visible in the dust. He had been travelling in the opposite direction to us, and I felt sure that he must have been returning from drinking in the river. I accordingly insisted on our keeping to this path, and very soon, to my great relief, we found that we were Volume 6 Issue 3 | 93


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at the edge of the escarpment, a couple of miles away from the place where we had made the ascent. Here a halt was called; a sheet was spread over some of the stunted trees, and under its shade we rested for half an hour, had some food, and drank the last of our water. After this we pushed on with renewed vigour, and arrived at the Sabaki in good time before sundown, having bagged a couple of guinea-fowl and a paa on the way to serve for dinner. After the long and fatiguing day my bathe in a clear shady pool was a real delight, but I might not have enjoyed it quite so much if I had known then of the terrible fate which awaited one of my followers in the same river the next day. By the time I got back to camp supper was ready and fully appreciated. The tireless Mahina had also collected some dry grass for my bed, and I turned in at once, with my rifle handy, and slept the sleep of the just, regardless of all the wild beasts in Africa. At dawn Mabruki roused me with a cup of steaming hot coffee and some biscuits, and a start was at once made on our return journey to Tsavo. The place where we had struck the Sabaki the previous evening was some miles further down the stream than I had ever been before, so I decided to take advantage of the Masai trail along its bank until the Tsavo River was reached. I did not think we should meet with any further adventure on our way home, but in the wilds the unexpected is always happening. Shortly after we started one of the Wa Kamba went down to the river’s edge to fill his calabash with water, when a crocodile suddenly rose up out of the stream, seized the poor fellow and in a moment had dragged him in. I

was on ahead at the time and so did not witness the occurrence, but on hearing the cries of the others I ran back as quickly as possible -- too late, however, to see any sign of either crocodile or native. Mahina philosophically remarked that after all it was only a washenzi (savage), whose loss did not much matter; and the other three Wa Kamba certainly did not appear to be affected by the incident, but calmly possessed themselves of their dead companion’s bow and quiver of poisoned arrows, and of the stock of meat which he had left on the bank. I have since learned that accidents of this kind are of fairly frequent occurrence along the banks of these rivers. On one occasion while I was in the country a British officer had a very lucky escape. He was filling his water bottle at the river, when one of these brutes caught him by the hand and attempted to draw him in. Fortunately one of his servants rushed to his assistance and managed to pull him out of the crocodile’s clutches with the loss only of two of his fingers. As we made our way up the Sabaki, we discovered a beautiful waterfall about a hundred and fifty feet high --not a sheer drop, but a series of cascades. At this time the river was in low water, and the falls consequently did not look their best; but in flood time they form a fine sight, and the thunder of the falling water can then be plainly heard at Tsavo, over seven miles away, when the wind is in the right direction. We crossed the river on the rocks at the head of these falls, and after some hours’ hard marching reached camp without further incident. Volume 6 Issue 3 | 95


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He who is born a fool is never cured. He who learns, teaches. 104 | Volume 6 Issue 3


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We are the green revolution. We do not print many thousands of copies and have hundreds stay on the shelves or come back to us. We distribute digitally and print on demand only. This is negates the necessity of the cutting down of trees to make paper - which will never be used.

Viva la Revolution!

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Make a Plan

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.

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. 114 | Volume 6 Issue 3


Sharpening your knife in the bush Nowadays there is no shortage of knife sharpening gadgets on the market. But you for- got that cool gadget that you ceived as a present at home and it is useless here on your hunting expedition.

CLICK HERE to buy your copy of Make a Plan now for only $8.50

re-

With the basic principle of sharpening in mind - like a hard grinding medium, a lubricant and a constant grinding angle, a person can make another plan to sharpen that blade again. Here are a couple of ideas: ●● Knife against steel: My granny sharpened her knives - one in each hand - in the kitchen by pulling one against the other. Stroke away from each other over the whole length of the blade at an angle of almost 30 degrees, first one side then the other side of the cutting edges. If there is only one knife, use any steel. ●● Flint or glass: A piece of flint or glass have a tough, sharp edge that can be used to sharpen with. Rub the sharp side of the flint or glass over the cutting edge of the blade at 30 degrees to get the knife sharp ●● • A Flat, smooth rock: This, at least, is the origin of the whetstone. Look for a flat part, wet it with a little bit of water, and grind it with the same technique as with a whetstone ●● Fine sand: The old-timers sometimes kept a wooden board and a small little box of fine sand in the kitchen to sharpen with. Scatter the sand on a piece of wood or any flat surface, then drag the cutting edge of the knife to and fro at about 30 degrees ●● Waterproof sandpaper, stretched over a piece of wood or any other flat item, forms an effective whetstone. A fine file can also be used as a useful grinder ●● The top side of the vehicle door window have a coarse well-rounded surface, ideal to sharpen a knife on. Wet with a little bit of water and cut at 30 de- grees with the blade over the top of the windowpane, first one side then the other ●● Grandpa used to make his cutthroat razor extremely sharp on the back side of a leather belt. Because leather is much softer than steel this plan is meant for the final finishing off of a sharp cutting edge, rather than to try to give a very blunt knife a cutting edge again

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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.

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.

Know how to administer

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True North

John Eldredge

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The Miseries of a Dethroned Monarch During a long layover at O’Hare, I studied the man who sells popcorn from a little stand in one of the terminal hallways. He sat silently on a stool as thousands of people rushed by. Occasionally, every fifteen minutes or so, someone would stop and buy a bag. He would scoop the popcorn from the bin, take the money, and make change-all without a word being spoken between them. When the brief encounter was over, he would resume his place on the stool, staring blankly, his shoulders hunched over. I wondered at his age; he seemed well past fifty. How long had that been his profession? Could he possibly make a living at it? His face wore a weary expression of resignation tinged with shame. Adam, I thought, what happened? Did he know how far his situation was from his true design? Somehow he knew, even if he didn’t know the Story. His sadness was testimony to it. Some people love what they do. They are the fortunate souls, who have found a way to link what they are truly gifted at (and therefore what brings them joy) with a means of paying the bills. But most of the world merely toils to survive, and no one gets to use his gifts all the time. On top of that, there is the curse of thorns and thistles, the futility that tinges all human efforts at the moment. As a result, we’ve come to think of work as a result of the Fall. You can see our cynicism in the fact that we’ve chosen the cartoon character Dilbert as the icon of our working days. His is a hopeless life of futility and anonymity in the bowels of some large corporation. We don’t even know what he does-only that it’s meaningless. We identify with him, feeling at some deep level the apparent futility of our lives. Even if we are loved, it is not enough. We yearn to be fruitful, to do something of meaning and value that flows naturally out of the gifts and capacities of our own soul. But of course-we were meant to be the kings and queens of the earth.


African Expedition Magazine Volume 6 Issue 3  

Baiting for Leopard: Outwitting the cunning | Overland to Central Kafue Zamkafuzi: The finale of a wild Zambian Adventure | Living dinosaurs...

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