Over in Mozambique in the wilds of the African Bush progress and setbacks abound daily. You learn to live as you go so to speak. Headway is made on this project and that, then news comes that somewhere, away from your immediate attention, there has come a failure. Someone or something has faltered and fallen. In some cases never to rise again. You mark down what you have learned, stand up and continue.
I don't mean to paint a dreary picture of people trudging on against uncontrollable odds for this is by no means the case. For only if you have spent time there with the Bush and it's inhabitants can you grasp how much there is to do, and how so few have already accomplished so much. Set backs are only that, for in Niassa the successes far overwhelm the steps backward. If you have read some of my earlier entries on SOS you will have hopefully learned that I love this place and would most assuredly live there if circumstances would allow.
This week marks the 2nd or 3rd month that the Niassa Reserve has successfully joined the Social Networking Site, Face book. Although we would all like to keep Niassa pure in every since of the word, free from outside influences that water down the trueness that is left of a vanishing way, there comes a time in the life of every kilometer of African bush that if steps are not taken and compromises ordained that we stand to loose what we so desperately strive to protect. It costs a lot of money, time, effort, even human life, to maintain 42000 square kilometers of the last wild country left in Africa. All the help you can get and more is needed, so Face book, newsletters via the Internet, blogs, websites etc. all come to the forefront to get the word out and it seems a bit of the mystique, character, darkness or the intrigue has faded, been diluted, it just isn't the same you say. Your right! No argument here. I would only state that it's worth it, for after your back in your own country, in your own town, prowling your own familiar haunts you suddenly catch a faint whiff of a certain smell, wood smoke, composting leaves in the fall heat or at night a sound in the box woods along your back porch of a small animal moving that reminds you of Africa, and you are instantly there in the moment, and you remember things you had forgotten, things that you didn't even realize you noticed, more than anything you realize how much you miss it and you smile.
Below is a copy of "The New Niassa Reserve News Letter". Paula Gomez mailed me this copy and had it translated for us English speakers.
Thanks Paula !
Thanks also to Madyo Couto for sending me the pics and info on the poaching incident which I write about below. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting these two yet but already I can tell that I will like them very much. I'm very glad the Reserve has established these two as English speaking contacts in their offices. I foresee a great wealth of formerly unavailable information coming to the attention of the English speaking Friends of Niassa by way of these two.
Now the Sad News,
A few weeks ago there were over 20 Elephants poached in the reserve in one instance. I have heard the number at 21 and 23 but 1 is too much. Poaching is a problem all over Africa and has in the past few years been on the rise. Many reasons can be attributed to this rise in our area but it boils down to price and demand. China is in my opinion, and let me be perfectly clear this is my opinion! China is in our area one of the main reasons that poaching is on the upswing. I will elaborate on a later post but for now I just want to talk about what this means to me.
For me lately I have been on the road to becoming a bit "hunted out" as I put it. I love hunting and all that it involves especially in Africa. The trackers, the PH's the baits the skinners and of course the animals but for me the challenge of hunting wild game in Africa is becoming second to the challenge of preserving it. I 'm by no means a "big hunter". I have had the great fortune and pleasure to hunt a lot of places around the world and none so absolutely fulfilling as Africa. I owe a lot of my experiences to my friend Jeff McCollum who started dragging me along with him many years ago. He brought me to Africa for the first time and I will always appreciate him for that and more.
Another friend taught me and showed me the virtues of the Niassa Reserve and the dedication of those that fight for the respect this hunk of earth deserves especially within it's own country of Mozambique. Derek Littleton adopted me back when I was very new to the ways of Northern Mozambique and always showed me true friendship as I attempted to make sense of often times the senseless logic that is the way in Mozambique. Many others helped with my education there and I still have a lot to learn but Derek taught me something most important. Just to stop what I was doing occasionally and enjoy Africa. When you stand in the presence of such extreme mass and power that is the African Elephant you immediately feel the insecurity of that the small piece of ground your two feet occupy. Then he or she looks you up and down and hopefully concluding your no threat he or she continues with whatever things occupy an elephant during the course of a day. The same with the rest that live there, they come and go for the most part allowing your presence sometimes some times not, Occasionally they grant you a small stay and if your lucky they will allow you to observe some event that you will find both astounding and mesmerising. This event can't be described to others so as to achieve the same as seeing it for yourself and afterward you probably wont even try, no you just file it away for yours and yours alone, your little gift from somewhere special. This poaching thing is real, real guns, real animals, real blood, real death. Think about this small herd standing at mid day under a grove of trees, cooling themselves with the flap of their big ears. Young juveniles and newborns playing or laying asleep nearby and then they come with their AKs and in a matter of minutes twenty or more of these massive creatures lay dead, dying or wounded and the gunmen move around shooting the survivors on the ground in the back of the head. Many of the young have been paid no attention to during the shooting, they won't go far without their mothers and as they return or stand there beside their family members they are shot also. The tails and tusks are taken, cut and chopped out of the flesh and skulls and that's it. Some of the poachers are from local villages in partnership with men from Tanzania who bring the guns and connections to get the ivory out. There is a problem here. This act of poaching comes not because there are no anti poaching patrols prowling the bush in each hunting block and not because the Reserve itself isn't on alert and actively pursuing all avenues to alleviate the problem, really you will never stop all the poaching sometimes you have to let Africa be Africa in that some poaching comes about to feed a starving African. Most of this is small game, birds etc. but a lot more is for profit and as time goes by hopefully the education of the indigenous people will prove out to remedy these small problems with locals. What I am worried about is the presence of organized groups of foreign, well supplied and well armed, well connected poaching rings that are directly connected to the illegal exportation of ivory. This problem is moving into Northern Mozambique and the real problem is the almost none exist ant support from the national government. Here in lies the Rub. The government Headquarters of Mozambique is far to the south in Maputo. More and more news of mining for minerals and drilling for oil and gas comes out of the North. Could it be the Mozambique Government would just rather see the animals and the Reserve of the north just go away and in so doing open the gates to, well to progress? I am seeking the advice from others as to what I could do with my small network of friends, perhaps send letters to the various Government Ministers? I think pressure from our Government would help but even more some carefully written press spread across various Internet news venues might prove powerful. What do you think? let me know.
Some of the Dead
Niassa is home more or less to between 15000 to 20000 Elephants. It has probably the largest population of the endangered African Wild Dogs, ranging from 300-400 these are my favorite animal, also on the poaching list. The Elephants of Niassa are some of the oldest elephants in Africa because of the control of poaching and the awesome job the Reserve has done in managing the population. People you should check up on the rise of poaching across Africa. If the trend continues there will be no animals left in the wild in Africa in the very near future.
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- Just Another Savage!
- I’m a Southern Boy, just 56 last November, I get around here and there, Central America, Africa, Red Bay. I’m a Father, Grandfather, Husband, Artist and general flunky of sorts. Live in a little historic town in an old building I remodeled. Just wanted to hear myself think I guess, talk about the need of simplification, show some art, express an interest or two, brag on my dogs and see where it goes. That’s it!, That’s the deal, Thanks