Walk with the animals, talk with the animals

April 7, 2009 - Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Hello again,

First of all, an apology for the lack of photos recently. Haven't been able to find internet that can upload photos at a sensible speed, so my random wafflings shall have to suffice for now.

We last met in the town of Gweru, where I hurriedly updated you on my progress before hopping back into the truck and heading to Antelope Park, where we would be staying for 4 nights. The Park is set in some 3,000 acres of game reserve, and is one of the more luxurious campsites we would stay at, with a massive range of activities. Our first evening there was spent having a tour of the park and chilling round the campfire in preparation for the next days fun and frolicks. At 7.15 the next morning I was to be found in front of Checha, Chebe, Amai and Tombi - 4 African Elephants who were undergoing their morning training. These incredible animals, aged between 19-22, could sit, turn, lie down, kick and throw a football on command, and after a short display, we had the chance to play with the elephants ourselves.

That same afternoon I was off to play with some lion cubs. The 2 eight-week old cats were very energetic, although needed to be reminded at times that their claws and teeth are not allowed to be used on humans. For the most part they were very good and loved having the attention we gave them. The next day we went for an elephant ride round part of the park, which was unique and uncomfortable in equal measures! Elephants are rather wide and their rough skin does not give much help to ours; though despite this, it was an amazing experience to be walking round so high up.

Antelope Park's main project is the care and eventual reintroduction of injured or orphaned lions back into the wild. They have 68 lions of varying ages and development, and so it was at 6.30am the next morning where I was standing next to two 18 month old lions, who were as near as makes no difference fully grown, preparing to take them for a walk. These lions were in Stage 2, which means they were getting used to walking and stalking through the bush with humans. Although they were reared by the trainers from cubs and were relatively tame, it was very strange walking alongside a lion when every instinct in your body is telling you this is a very, very bad idea. Before the walk we were advised to avoid showing your back to the lion and not to crouch down - 2 motions that signify weakness to a lion and is more likely to provoke an attack. The walk concluded without incident, and was simply a great opportunity to walk with the King of the Jungle through its natural habitat.

We left Antelope Park the next day and headed for Zimbabwe's second city; Bulawayo. After a couple of hours in the city itself stocking up on drinks and snacks we arrived a Burke's Paradise Campsite for the first of our 2 nights, and prepared ourselves for the next days excursion to Matapos National Park, where we would be embarking on a Rhino Walk. It was a short drive from the campsite to the park, and almost immediately we were presented with signs of recent rhino activity in the shape of a rather large pile of dung. Proceeding into the park - stopping occasionally to watch hippos and impala plus the incredible rock formations formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago - our guide suddenly heard the snort of a rhino, and so we hopped off the 4x4 and set of into the long grass by foot to investigate further. After 5 minutes, we came across a mother and baby White Rhino (not actually white but grey - the name 'White' comes from the Afrikaans Wyd, which means 'wide' in reference to its wide mouth used for grazing). This was wildlife at its most wild, and we allowed to get within about 5 metres of the rhinos due to their poor eyesight and experience these rare creatures up close. Unfortunately these were the only rhino we saw in the day, but we still enjoyed the drive around the park learning about all the vegetation and its various uses for food, medicine and poison for hunting, as well as learning about the tragic history of poaching which continues to this day. 1kg of rhino horn will sell for $45,000 in China and the Orient, and given that the average horn weighs around 14kg, that means that a poacher can expect $630,000 for just one rhino horn. The saddest part of the tale is that the horn can be removed from the animal by drugging it and cutting it off, with no harm to the rhino itself, for the horn will grow back within 2 years. In 1996, the park removed the horns of all the rhinos to try and deter the poachers. Sadly, they still shot and killed the animals, and the basis that they wouldn't have to waste their time in the future tracking a hornless rhino. The park opened in 1964 as a home for orphaned rhinos, and last year poachers killed one of the original rhinos the park started with. She was 43 years old. It was with mixed emotions therefore that we went back to the campsite ready to leave for Victoria Falls.

We have just arrived at the falls, and tomorrow I shall be walking across the border to Zambia to watch 9 million litres of water per second fall down into the lower Zambezi River. We are at the Smoke That Thunders for 4 nights and I look forward to being utterly drenched by them.

Until next time then, much love, and goodbye.

Jon

 

 


5 Comments

Mum:
April 7, 2009
Hello, me again. Anyone would think I am watching for your updates!!! I am so jealous about the lion cubs, hope you have some great pictures. Will look forward to hearing from you after Victoria Falls - especially if you do the bungey jump. Life is never going to be the same again in dull old UK. Take care of yourself. Lots of love xxxxxxxxx
Mum:
April 16, 2009
Hi again, thought I would leave another comment so you don't feel abandoned. I have told everyone about your adventures at the golf club and they are all envious about the lion cubs - aah.

Hope you have survived Victoria Falls - awesome isn't it.

Lots of love and cannot believe you will be home 2 weeks today - you will be sad to leave I know but we will look forward to having you home for a short while before you go again. Take care xxxxxx
Nikki:
April 17, 2009
Looks like you are having an amazing time...the wildlife and scenery sounds fantastic...a real exciting adventure. Enjoy, Nik & By
The CAG:
April 20, 2009
Hi Jonny Boi,
Glad your having such a fab time, all miss you here.
Guess what???? Work - i have just today had the Admin Error return in for Judith Jackson from Diane Morris for the dep being more than borrowed amount haha and its on wrong doc/wrong AIR and in NTU!! just though you may like to know, hope you have been reading your diary and didn't cry too much
love yaz Carrie-Anne.xxxxxx ☺
August 20, 2010
one good boots is a good thing. http://www.timberland7.com
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