12/09/2002

Park guarding in Kenya

As regular training excercises, we were often sent in pairs to join the park wardens in Kenya to battle the poachers. I've made this trip about 5 times. Usually, nothing happens, as we hardly ever meet any poachers. But once, one of the most exciting event of my life happened there.

I was walking with Tony, pictured here



and a single Kenyan park warden. We were following boot marks in the ground, trying to see if we would come across anybody who was not allowed to be there. About 20 kilometers from the park borders, the foot steps veered off into the scrub. We parked our jeep, and followed the steps.

I and Tony were armed with semi-automatics, and the park warden was armed with a hunting rifle. The area we were walking in was badly eroded, and there were gullys everywhere. Because of the high grass, one hardly saw the gullys till you were about 2 meters from them. However, the grass allowed us to follow the pathways of the people who had walked there previously easily.

We walked for about two kilometers, and then saw a dead Elephant lying on the ground. A pack of lions was lying around it, and one of the males was chewing on some meat. We were surprised, because the Elephant still had its tusks on, yet we knew that it must have been killed by humans, since Lions don't kill Elephants usually. We wondered what had happened. It seemed to me that it would one of those mysterious stories where you never knew exactly what happened.

Then Tony turned pale and pointed at the meat the lion was eating. I looked in the direction, and I saw that it wasn't a part of the Elephant it was eating, it was a man! The Lion had killed a poacher, and was eating it.

The warden immediately started trembling, and crossed himself. "Mad Lion", he said, and gestured that we should get out of there immediately. As we turned to go, the Lion raised its head and looked at us. It stood up, completely still, watching us, and then started moving slowly in our direction. The warden started wimpering, and burst into a sprint. We joined in, though it seemed futile to want to outrun a Lion. Then, Tony veered off to the left, and I followed suit.

Tony had seen a somewhat deep gully, and he ran towards that. We both ran there, dropped in, and started running down the gully, hoping to find an overhang where we could defend ourselves from the lion from only one side. Tony ran ahead of me, turned a corner, and I heard a single shot. I saw him stumble and fall, but I didn't see who had shot him. I stopped and held my rifle in position, pointing towards the corner.

And a heavy blow hit me from above as the Lion swapped with its paw at my head. I fell to the ground, and pointed my gun at the sky above me where the Lion was, and fired a burst wildly. The Lion was not hit, but moved out of view. A series of gunshuts sounded from above, and the Lion came crashing down into the gully with me, blood splashing wildly from its body. It fell in front of Tony, and I sprang back, firing wildly from the hip. I hit it again, and it disappeared around the corner.

I forgot that there was a belligerent there, but chased after the animal to finish it off. As I turned the corner, I saw a man being mauled by the wounded animal, and a boy and another man running off down the gully. I started firing wildly, unfortunately hitting both the poacher and the lion. They both died.

I climbed back up, bleeding from the clawmarks in my head, and saw the game warden a short distance away, frantically reloading his rifle. I signaled that the animal was dead, and the visibly shaken man walked over to me.

We called for backup, and sat there in the hot sun drinking from a small bottle of distilled palm wine till the heavy duty Jeep arrived to take us home. Tony had died on the spot, and we didn't bother going after the other poachers who had run off. Hell, I actually felt sorry for them.

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