Mashatu – Walking the Bush by Anne Simpson


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We climb out of the Land Rover and gather around our tracker, Sam, and photo copyour guide, Cornell (like the university and he seems to contain about the same amount of knowledge).  The brief Cornel gives is serious and is highlighted by the .375 H & H rifle capable of taking down a lion or even an elephant.  The animals in the reserve are used to seeing the vehicles and know they are harmless.  Our group on the other hand, will be viewed as predators, or worse for us as intruders, as we walk through the Savannah on our “hind” legs.  Rule number one, do not run – that is also rule number two and three.  Stand your ground and look fierce – really?  OK we say and off we go single file and very quiet.  100 feet beyond the truck we find signs of a recent lion feast perfectly cleaned up by hyenas.   Cornell reminds us not to run and a few of us want to know if that means from right here back to the truck!

We do not encounter any lions during our 90 minute walk or anything else that might be interested in eating us but we are watched intently by a herd of impalas whose big horned boss snorts commends to his harem of does. Mostly we spend the time learning  about animal conservation in Africa.  Cornel shows us trees that have been uprooted by the elephants.  Madikwe has an elephant population that is double what the reserve can sustain.  This overpopulation is destroying habitat for many of the other animals and is a serious challenge for the park management.    The huge pachyderms are protected and they also have very strong family bonds and excellent memories.  Cornell told us that past attempts to control the population by removing the old and sick actually created “juvenile delinquents” because the youngsters remembered the harsh treatment of their family members.

photo The walk was a wonderful way to spend some time in Africa’s outdoor classroom not to mention work off a bite or two of the always-abundant meals!

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