Hunting or Survival

Hunting or Survival

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What wildlife authority in Africa recently issued this edict:

“Many wild animals in (?) have become displaced as the result of urban growth and habitat loss. [They] are becoming more common in urban areas and are frequently seen by people. These animals can cause problems. A resident landowner or tenant can legally capture some species of wild animals without a permit if the animal is discovered damaging property.”

Kenya, South Africa?

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Toast What Study

Toast What Study

What actually did the scientists at Oxford University tell us last week about the catastrophic decline in lion populations?

We’ve known for some time that lion populations are in trouble. The world’s preeminent scholar on wild lions, Craig Packer, issued a number of striking studies before his retirement several years ago. Packer was sounding the alarm a decade ago and just before retiring was so moved by his own data that he shook loose from his life-long support of sports hunting.

But nothing happens in vacuum. If you’re the vacuum cleaner man then it may seem so, and it seems to me the researchers from Oxford University are acting like vacuum cleaner men.

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Change, Folks, Change

Change, Folks, Change

A “parliamentary driven democracy as opposed to presidential… is the only system which [can] shield the country from biased or unsuitable leaders.”

So ascribes Kenya’s current president together with his principal rival who were on opposite sides of the mini civil war of 2008. While America languishes in anguished reflection regarding what to do with something like Trump, Kenya has a plan. They intend to change their constitution.

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Just for Women

Just for Women

Women – not other genders, races or ideologues – will determine the world’s upcoming contentious elections. Women is the only voting demographic universally conceded as being oppressed. Oppressors in power argue that’s the way it should be. So there’s no rationalization in between; arguments won’t sequester into “Fake News.”

63 years ago today, in the cold war days of 1956, 20,000 women marched on government buildings shouting, “Enough is enough!” Not in Washington. It happened in Pretoria, South Africa.

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Bequagged

Bequagged

I was in Nairobi walking the streets with three hundred dollars of cold cash squished deeply into my cargo pants pocket. It was 1994. I knew Nairobi well but the street I was now walking, not so well.

Riverside Drive was then the esophagus into the underbelly of this city. Yes there were huge slums surrounding the city, but Riverside Drive preyed on that poverty and it wasn’t on the outskirts. It was smack dab in the middle. Riverside Drive wasn’t so much a slum as a mafia promenade. Badly lit, never cleaned up and always putrid, this was where you bought an AK47 for $8.50.

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Four Hundred Years

Four Hundred Years

Twelve black American Congresspeople and two white ones led by Nancy Pelosi addressed the Ghanaian parliament yesterday. “We know our forebears did the abominable to you but we must also bear in mind that there is nothing we can do about what happened in the past.”

She didn’t say that. That was said by an important Ghanaian politician to the delegation.

Politics clash. Politics aside.

Four hundred years ago sometime early last month the modest Portuguese caravel, the San Juan Bautista, limped into Veracruz, Mexico, having horribly navigated the Gulf of Mexico managing to miss all the islands much less Jamaica which was the captain’s destination.

One of its three lanteen sails hung limply, ripped apart by a terrible storm at sea. The top third of its pole mast was split nearly in two. How the captain must have rejoiced when the lookout in the Crow’s Nest shouted, “Land Aho!”

He ordered the remaining two sails lowered so haphazardly that the weary ship tilted violently, almost sinking. Somehow, though, it managed to coast slowly towards the beach to finally end the 3-month horrendous voyage from Angola. Many of his crew were dead. Most of the remaining, including himself were seriously sick. All were starving.

But before the old man touched land the notorious British pirate John Jope commanding the modern war ship named the ‘White Lion,’ together with his partner the wealthy privateer Daniel Elrith who commanded the even more impressive ‘Treasurer’ built with a writ from the Earl of Warwick, intercepted the Bautista, killed what was left of its miserable crew, and confiscated about half of the 100 slaves in its belly.

They took only half, because the other half was dead.

Elrith’s ship was greater but Jope’s ship was faster. They split the booty including the human cargo and raced for the American colonies.

Jope showed up first, about 400 years ago exactly.

Without waiting for the normal invitation by local British authorities, Jope moved quickly into Point Comfort which later was named Hampton, Virginia, just across the James River from Norfolk.

The British colonel in charge of the port immediately contained his anger when he saw enough of the pirate flags to know it was Jope, and that Jope was Elrith’s partner, and that Elrith had connections to King James.

The townspeople, however, were not so mollified. They hastened down to the dock surrounding the British colonel protesting he had not engaged the militia. More than several unwanted British privateers were docking monthly, avoiding taxes and bringing all sorts of miscreants into town.

The colonel did then herald a few soldiers, but not to delay the ship’s docking, to keep the settlers at bay.

Among the townspeople was John Rolfe, the colony’s secretary and spouse of Pocahontas. He sympathized with his fellow settlers but he performed his paid duties for The King honorably: Rolfe duely registered the ship along with its commercial cargo, “20. plus and odd Negroes.” Rolfe was discreet. There were probably at least 50.

What thought John Rolfe? It was known that these black people were being sold as slaves in the Caribbean, and there had been animated conversations in the pubs and carriage houses about how useful they could be to the farmers who were constantly desperate for help.

I can only imagine that exact moment when Rolfe or others of the townsfolk looked upon the sick and starving blackness being raised from the belly of the caravel. There had to be some compassion after initial revulsion at the inhumane state of the human.

Was this the moment that we rationalized slavery? We would tend their wounds, fill their bellies and wash their putrid skins… in return for their souls? How easy it must have been at that moment to feel like a savior of the slave.

And so it continued. Child labor and prostitution in the slums of the dirty cities, for if not wouldn’t the kid die? Sons of Liberty dressed up as Injuns for that moment of violence.

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, the owner of 600 slaves who were not “others.”

The Jackson massacres, the Trail of Tears.

April 22, 1889: 50,000 white people lined up waiting for the noon gunshot “bringing civilization” helter skelter over the sacred lands of the Cherokee. The Battle of Bad Axe and the treaty-flaunting wars preceding it in which a young lieutenant, Abraham Lincoln, fired his first military shot. He missed.

A catastrophic Civil War that never really ended. Tammany Hall and mafias protecting the poor.

Benches for whites and benches for blacks. Teachers for the privileged and debt-laden overworked single mothers for the denied. Food stamps for the poor and frequent flyer miles for the rich. Votes for sale. Lies for Liberty.

Americans are champions of rationalization. Did it all start that one day at Point Comfort 400 years ago?

“But we must bear in mind that there is nothing we can do about what happened in the past.”

At our peril.

Bungling Baggage

Bungling Baggage

As I see it it’s unbridled capitalism really giving us a headache, now, and I’ve got a whopper of a story to tell you.

I’m guiding ten people in a few weeks to Botswana. The Botswana aircraft company that we use to get from camp to camp has described exactly the type of suitcases that we can’t bring, because they claim it can’t be safely stored in the plane’s belly.

Meanwhile down the line in Johannesburg (through which we have to fly to get to Botswana) airport authorities have told us that type of bag is exactly the ONLY type of suitcase that their employees will handle!

Such nonsense doesn’t happen when the times are such that “customers are always right” and everybody is vying for everybody else’s business. But that’s not the moment.

I know we’re headed into a global recession so I’m absolutely amazed that the employees and managers and representatives of safari companies in southern Africa are so blind to what’s crashing into them in just a few months that they are flaunting customer stress.

They’re all acting as if the customer can’t be right and should be foiled at every attempt to be so. For the last several years safari bookings have been at near all-time highs. I can imagine the difficulties and frustrations that poses the types of small companies which provide safari services.

But they don’t have to take it out on us!

We gave both the Botswana company, Desert ‘n Delta Safaris, and the Joburg airport authorities advance warning of this blog and asked them for comment. Neither did so.

The details actually are interesting. In the last decade there have been an unusual number of small plane crashes in Botswana. For some reason, as vibrant a tourist industry as Botswana has, their charter aircraft industry remains in the dark ages.

Like much of Alaska they tend to use very small, old single prop planes. In part this reflects a lack of building proper airstrips but it also reflects greed. The travel industry globally is ridiculously volatile. So in good times when you’d expect enthusiastic investment, it’s just the reverse. Professionals know the heyday will end and never gently. Only in safari country, for example, are investment properties guaranteed a three year R.O.I.

Ditto for planes, I guess. In any case one of the culprits identified (after a very long time and without much study) as the cause of low Botswana air safety was hard-sided luggage. It makes it difficult to pack in the very small bellies of these very small planes.

So, no hard-sided luggage.

In Joburg, meanwhile, the O.R. Tambo International airport has just racked up some of the worst statistics for an airport its size. Among those were delays caused by baggage handlers. According to airport authorities (after little study) one main reason was soft luggage that got caught in automated baggage delivery systems. So now the airport requires at least one side of every piece of luggage to be hard.

So what are we to do?

Naturally, we contacted both parties and advised them of the others’ regulations. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that neither revised their original regulations.

So what are we to do? Well, we really don’t have a choice. We’ll try to comply best we can with the Botswana requests, but we won’t even get to Botswana with our luggage if we don’t first comply with the Joburg requests!

Stay tuned. This should be interesting.

Trade Wars Hurt

Trade Wars Hurt

Yes, it’s terrifying Russia’s disruption of elections. But they’ve got a bigger fish in the pond: they’re destroying the world capitalistic order. The global recession is slowly, methodically seeping over the planet like a spilled jar of syrup. By the first of the year every privileged westerner will feel it.

Trade wars started by America will be understood by everyone to be the cause. But the viscous nature of a global recession isn’t easily reversed, particularly when Russian-supported governments are precisely the ones supposedly responsible for getting us out of the goop.

In Africa as I presume everywhere, the squabbles and bureaucracy strangling intra-African trade is linked directly to America’s initial actions… You don’t reap what you don’t sow.

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Rediscoveries

Rediscoveries

The remarkable thing was when I first climbed up to see the waterfalls in what was called the Udzungwa Mountains, for the life of me perhaps I did see a Sanje Mangabey. “Lanky” as I remember it. Cute, curious, solitary, grey. Staring at me as much as I was staring at it.

That was 1979, and it was the year that the mangabey was discovered.

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Incarnate Trump

Incarnate Trump

People think I’m nuts when comparing Trump politics in America to Zuma politics in South Africa, but I’m not cracked yet.

Zuma (Trump) is currently in the 4th day of a trial/inquiry into all his wrongdoings before he was ousted (impeached) in the 3rd year of his second term. The same will happen to Trump. Even if you don’t believe that African spirits grace us with foretelling, it’s worth your while to see what a mostly duped megalomaniac can do to a country and the party cajoled into supporting him.

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Elephant Controversies

Elephant Controversies

When I defend zoos to my clients on safari I point out the structural shift zoos began three or four decades ago away from public entertainment. Most zoos have shrunk in physical size. Most now have fewer animals on display and most spend increasing amounts of their revenue on field conservation and scientific research.

I enjoy telling safari visitors that almost all animals born today in zoos come from parents that were born in zoos. There is an exception, elephants, and that’s erupted into a major controversy.

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Selous Chances

Selous Chances

About eleven months from now I’m guiding an exclusive group of veteran African travelers on what I donned the “Last Chance Selous Safari.” Will we be too late?

London’s Daily Telegraph posted, “Kicking up plumes of dust that scatter the grazing wildlife, a relentless flow of bulldozers, water tankers and lorries trundles along the main track across the northwest of the reserve towards Stiegler’s Gorge..”

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