Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Tourists Don't Like To See On Safari!

 You finally have that fare paid, your safari booked, cameras ready, and the kids are full of anticipation at seeing Botswana's wonderful wildlife in beautiful natural settings of bush and savanna. Elephant mothers and babies, lions looking after their cubs, herds of gazelle, giraffe and buffalo peacefully grazing are what you expect to see.

 You will, and it is thrilling! While you may see a lion drag down a wildebeast, or a cheetah make a quick kill of gazelle to feed their cubs, that is sad but exciting: it is the reality of nature. Hopefully for the prey it will be a quick kill. And yes, it means a great photo! Life at its most raw and natural.

 But Nature isn't always kind to an animal. Sometimes death can be slow and agonising. An elephant may endure intense suffering over many weeks before its death. A mauled hippo can last many days or weeks until in severe pain the lions finally finish him off.

 The reality of Nature can be this-

A lone and distressed hippo we sighted in the middle of the day, standing immobile well away from the Chobe River, Chobe National Park. The wounds to his back suggests he could have been severely hurt by another hippo in a male dominance brawl. Too sore to seek safety in the water? Are those tears streaming down his face? How many days will he endure? A prime target for lion - will they kill him quickly?

Weeping blood, this bull seeks relief by staying in the water most of the day where he can wash the aggressive flies away.

The horn snapped off at the boss most likely when in a dominance fight with another male. Healing shows around the edges, but how long does this animal endure?

This lioness affected with mastitis, an infection of the breasts which causes inflammation and severe pain. The milk can go bad and the cubs may die. Untreated, eventually abscesses (showing already) and cavities in the breasts may form, resulting in a slow death from massive infection.

Nature can be cruel but the impact of humans on wildlife may be worse.

 This elephant is very sick. Found at a watering hole by Dr Clay Wilson, of Chobe Wildlife Rescue, it appeared unable to swallow water as it just poured out again from his mouth. It appeared to be blind. 
 "Concerned citizens called me in a panic complaining that this was unsightly and upset the tourists." 
" On Sunday 29th a head park official and I went to inspect the elephant. It charged us out of the water requiring us to make a run for it. It stood in one place for over 30 minutes shifting its weight from leg to leg. I suspected an intestinal obstruction but it was not bloated as one usually observes. It has a severe ocular white discharge which is evident in cases of infection. We decided to leave it for one more day."

 The animal was spotted later and had deteriorated. The decision was finally made to euthanize it. Upon inspection it was found that a bullet had entered at a tusk root and travelled up and lodged in the brain affecting its vision and ability to swallow. Eventually after weeks of suffering painful infection, this bull would have died. Hopefully out of sight of we tourists because we wouldn't want to see that - just as the townsfolk pointed out.

Full story is here- very-sick-elephant-bull-

Among Africa's most endangered animal species, this beautiful Painted Dog ( or African Wild Dog ) has been hit by a car.  Dr Clay Wilson treated it but unfortunately it died. As cars increase, or roads are upgraded allowing higher speeds, wildlife strikes become more frequent in and around National Parks. 

Who decides to intervene or not in cases like the above?

There is argument that we should not intervene in natural happenings in the wilderness: we do not rescue gazelle from the jaws of a lion, and a lame animal is left to its fate and becomes food for a predator. That is Nature.

But when we consider Lion numbers throughout Africa have plummeted; some say from 350,000 just 50 years ago to around 20,000 today, every effort needs to be taken to protect the species from extinction in the wild. The non-intervention in the wild argument would have that lioness with mastitis and her cubs eventually die because we wouldn’t give her a $5.00 antibiotic dart!

However, when it comes to the effects of human impact such as a road-strike injured wild dog, or bullet wounded elephant there is strong argument for intervention and not leaving them to their fate. Most animal sanctuaries throughout Africa do intervene in cases where wildlife suffers from human impact. Elephant orphans of poached mothers are rescued, or if a farmer has shot their mother for killing stock, cheetah or leopard cubs are taken in. The sanctuaries serve a valuable role in rehabilitating, and releasing back into the wild where appropriate.

As a tourist, would you be upset to see any animal suffering in a National Park because no one intervened when they could?
There obviously are situations requiring human assistance. But that decision needs to be made by experienced people ‘on the ground’ with the knowledge and equipment to make and carry out a decision on the merits of each case!
Botswana’s Chobe National Parks needs the services of a dedicated fully qualified and equipped veterinarian.

I can attest to Dr Clay Wilson’s abilities and diligence to assisting conservation of wildlife in and around Chobe  – I spent 2 days observing his operation and came away very impressed. He does an excellent job.

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Susan Deborah said...

Quite gruesome sights, Jim. You're right when you say that tourists don't want to see some sights that are not aesthetically appealing, afterall people want to get away from reality and soak themselves in a place where everything seems picture perfect. I don't know how I would react/respond to a situation as the one you have described for I have never been in one. I guess I would be moved and upset and perhaps that sight would linger on for quite some time.

As for intervening, again I'm not as sure. I would call for help and alert officials but I would not dare touch the wounded animal. I am not as brave.

This post left me thinking on many levels, Jim.

Joy always,

Pinay Travel Junkie said...

This is heartbreaking! When we travel, we don't get to see animals' situation like these often, or even not at all. Though in reality, this is how nature works, it would be great to have a vet around to at least attend to animals that need help.

Jim said...

Hopefully Susan it leaves those in the decision making loop thinking. Thanks and your comments are really appreciated.

Hi Gay, You are so right. Having a vet who can make the right decision and carry it out quickly is the answer. Up until recently there was one.

AJ said...

While I understand that tourists do not want to see animal suffering in the safari (they are, after all, on vacation - an escape from life's realities), I also think that they should realize that this place is not a zoo. It is "the wild". And such things happen. It may benefit their kids to see life in its full arc.

But animal suffering due to human impact requires human intervention. That's part of our humanity. Like for instance, it is unnatural for a rhino's horn to be sawed off; that deserves medical attention, not leave the animal to die.

Thank you, Jim, for sharing these photos that show the "other" side of safari. Such is life; it's not always cute and cuddly.

sheril benedict said...

Its dreadful to see those pics jim ..I dono whom gonna take care of them really sad ..

Debbie said...

Jim the pictures are sad, but the reality behind most of these images is nature taking its own course.

We know it happens but the pictures seem to make it more real. It's sad knowing that they might be in pain before nature finishes it course and they are left for other animals to feed off of.

I sit here behind the protection of my computer in a comfy office chair, but I know if I were to be there snapping the photos I would show a lot less strength. I would be one of the ones begging for someone to please give it something so it's not in pain and to ease the suffering.

When it comes to the harm of the animals from human hands etc. I strongly believe we should then intervene and aid in the animal's recovering with any means we have.

Thanks for reminding us that although nature seems harsh and hard, it happens.

lakwatsera de primera said...

This is a disheartening reality. I agree that humans should not intervene with nature and let it run through its own natural course. But like AJ I also believe that animals suffering from human impact should get all the help they need.

Janine said...

Heartbreaking. I understand it's nature and 'survival of the fittest' by my heart still bleeds for any injured animal...and especially for those that are endangered or bordering on extinction.

Caz Makepeace said...

So sad Jim. It is heart wrenching, especially when you see things that are caused by human hands.
The animals have such a good friend in you Jim. Thank you for putting so much effort into helping them.

Rachel Hoyt said...

Awww, that hippo photo breaks my heart. Poor dude got beat up and has no one nursing him. :( Thanks for writing such a great piece to promote saving/helping them.

Andrea said...

Very interesting post here, Jim. The photos are hard to look at and raise some important questions. I certainly don't have the answers to these but I never really thought about seeing the ugly realities of nature on safari. It makes sense - we see these in human life all the time. But I never thought about it!

Jim said...

I agree with all your comments, the reality of nature can be an animal suffering, but that can be very distressing to tourists.
The point of this post is to reinforce the need for Parks officials to have a procedure in place, and a competent vet on call immediately to assess the animal's situation, and if appropriate put it out of its misery. He can make that decision on the merits of the situation.
It is terrible that an elephant is shot and wounded by a local out to protect his crops, but yet there needs to be quick immediate follow up to check on that elephant and euthanise it quickly.

KalpanaS said...

Thought-provoking. As tourists we see nature with 'theme-park' glasses, and this post makes us take a more realistic look at what we mean by 'nature' and 'human intervention'.

Jim said...

Thanks KalpanaS. Was written to provoke thought on animal suffering and the need to intervene. Tourists don't want to see animals suffering. A kill by a lion may be very exciting, but the unnecessary slow death of a hippo or elephant is another matter. If you follow Chobe Wilf life rescues Dr Clay Wilson you'll find the work he does voluntarily is so valuable to Chobe National Park, to the animals and to the townsfolk.

Lily Trotter said...

Hi Jim,
Thought provoking stuff as usual and Clay wilson does great work. I think the present 'code' of non interference with natural problems but dealing with "human induced problems" a fair compromise. If 'we' caused it we should fix it.
I wondered if the Hippo wonds were from a Boat Propeller. Looks like a lot of similar injuries I have seen on Marine Mammals.

Nomadic Samuel said...

Hey Jim,

This is a great article. You bring up a very valid point about safari's not being a more rugged visit to the zoo. The realities of life in the wild are a lot more harsh obviously.

Jim said...

Hi Fred, (Lily), Could be a boat strike, and if so then because of cause as human-impact, then fair enough to have human assistance.
I have had a look at the hippo wounds up real close in the photo, and there seems to be 2 deep wounds either side to the front, then another lighter pair further back and both match on either side.
So highly possible that in a brawl, a hippo has chomped him and angle of attack would be from front but over his head which would account for front wounds being deeper than rear wounds.

Also would account for it being on its own...thrown out.
Yes, I agree he'll probably recover because most lions died off in Chobe , it is thought that distemper caught from dead town dogs wiped them out. The reason we saw those two lionesses with cubs is because Clay gave that one antibiotics for mastitis and has been in regular observation of them. They survived. Nowadays others have moved in presumably from Savute. So people think there are plenty of lions there, but they are from other areas, so overall populations are declining.

Jim said...

Hi Nomadic Samuel, yes hoping to encourage a lot of discussion. Parks officials and the Honorary Vet Clay Wilson do a fantastic job together. They all need support to make the tourism experience enjoyable, and the welfare of animals paramount, so decisions to intervene need to be made by highly qualified people on the ground quickly.

Pamela said...

Lots to digest in this post. Something I'm not familiar with but interested in. It sounds like the animals have a savior in Dr. Clay.

Kriti said...

I almost shut this window after I read and had reached the first pic but somehow I couldn't. I finished reading it and am mortified to think what these poor animals must have gone through. Thank God for Dr. Clay. Very interesting post Jim!

Jude said...

Hi Jim. Great story and love it that Dr Clay Wilson's work has been hi lighted this way. I was all lined up to meet him and spend time with him in Kasane a few weeks ago but had to leave Africa early (medicalled out after a disc prolapse due to bumpy tracks!) There's Africa for you) and did not make the pre-arranged meeting. Kaye and I support his work and recommend that anyone who wants to know where their dollars go and cares for wildlife and animals - Dr Clay and Chobe Wildlife Rescue is the real deal! Thanks for an interesting (if very sad) read.
(PS; you might not know that the blog and all photos are in this page twice)

Jim said...

Hi Kriti, thanks for staying the course and reading right through. Yes it is a tough post to read, and I have been told by others that they removed links to this page off their facebook wall, presumably because some don't like to read the reality.
I always thought you were a very gutsy woman!

Jim said...

Hi Jude, sorry you couldn't get to meet Clay. Have you recovered?
And those bumpy dirt tracks can be hard on the back!
There is a lot of human-wildlife conflict happening in the Kasane area, with Chobe being unfenced and farms bordering the park. And animals don't recognise boundaries and if a farmer plants maize in what were once elephants traditional grazing or migratory areas, then you don't have to be a rocket scientist to guess what is happening there! Just spells out the importance of having someone who is dedicated to wildlife to help change attitudes there.

Stephanie - The Travel Chica said...

This is a subject I have never really thought about because I haven't seen it.

I think it is absolutely right to intervene to save an animal when humans are the cause for its injuries. It could also be argued that even though a human hasn't caused an injury, if the human has caused that animal to be endangered, we should intervene to save the animal as well.

It is great that you got to spend time with Dr. Clay Wilson and see a dedicated professional in action.

aviewtoathrill said...

This certainly puts a different spin on things. You are right, we are so used to seeing the sweet, antiseptic photos of safaris and forget that there is always a chance for something like this to happen to said animals. It's an eye-opener for sure...thanks for sharing this info with us, Jim.

jade said...

I wholeheartedly agree that the parks officials need to have proper health care for the animals- if they are going to provide a park like service for visitors. Animals carry a special place in my heart- and I hate to see when humans have brought any pain to them.

Michael Figueiredo said...

This is a very powerful post, Jim. I know that when I watched National Geographic programs when I was younger I used to get upset when they showed cheetahs killing the gazelles. I can imagine in real life it would be even more traumatizing. However, this is nature and people on safari should understand that they're not at the zoo. I do think that humans should intercede when animals are harmed by mankind though.

Sophie said...

A good and thought-provoking post!

I think if we spot human-inflicted wounds, it's our duty to intervene. For most of us, that means contacting the proper authorities.

Sailor said...

This is something really sad.

Norbert said...

This is heart breaking. One thing that I can't stand to see is an animal suffering. While the reality is that nature itself can be harsh sometimes to animals, this is understandable and in cases we should not intervene since it is the cycle of nature and survival of the fittest. But, when it is caused by human hands, that's when it pisses me off since we have no business in creating this type of pain and suffering to animals.

One of the things I'm really interested in doing during my trip to Africa is to volunteer to animal shelters and rescue. Hopefully I will have the opportunity.

Jim said...

Fully agree that Nature should be left to itself. Predators have got to feed off the weak, sick or wounded. That's life.

But when it comes to human-impact generally the consensus is for intervention.
So how do we decide what is a natural cause, and what is a human impact?
In the hippo case, there is a question as to the cause of the wounds and a boat propeller strike is possible. So Parks Management should not allow that animal to suffer without seeking it out, and having someone fully qualified to assess its condition and most likely cause, and then make a decision what assistance if any should be given.

Anonymous said...

Intervention is a dicey scenario. I wouldn't intervene if an animal was hunting to eat. But, if an animal is suffering or dying, then I would attempt to help it (especially if its injuries were the result of human contact). It's a tough thing to determine but I love animals, so these sites would bother me too. Nature can be cruel at times :(. Good article by the way. At least here when the animals are hurt, it's by nature and not by US!!!!! Humans' are the cruelest of all!!!

Jeremy Branham said...

Wow, sad realities of wildlife. I think I can accept these as long as they are not due to humans. The elephant was sad as man caused this with a bullet. The others are just a part of life. I think that is why I like watching Nature shows on public television here in the US. They don't sugarcoat life but show what it's like in the wild. Death is a part of all creation but like human life, it's sad when the ending is tragic for animals.

cath said...

Powerful post Jim. It saddens me to see the suffering caused by humans. But no matter what happens, when a trained professional can intervene and alleviate suffering, I think it is a good thing. Thanks for posting this and raising awareness.
Twitter me @jonesbabie

JIM said...

These are the post that we hate to see but need to. Your doing a great service posting these Jim, We need to help protect the animals of the world as we intrude on their grounds. The lion hunting is natural but no animal should suffer at the hands of uncaring or thoughtless people

lifeisacelebration said...

These are disturbing photos. Upsets me, but as you said, this is the real world. How heartbreaking to look at these pictures and imagine how they ended up this way.