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Thursday 30 June 2011

Baboon Causes Man to Fall to His Death

(Victoria Falls)

ZAMBIAN TRAGEDY - Date: 10th June 2011 - Early in June a tragic incident occurred on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls. Following a stand-off with a baboon, which had taken an interest in a plastic carrier bag a tourist was carrying (which we understand to have only held a camera and no food), an American tourist slipped and fell to his death from the edge of the gorge.

The baboons on the Zambian side have long been far more troublesome than their relatives on the Zimbabwe side, often hi-jacking food stuffs from local people crossing the bridge near the border post and causing problems for tourists walking between the Falls and the Hotels located very close by.

Care should be taken when encountering baboons, even in Victoria Falls town and surrounds, especially if you are walking on your own and carrying food in plastic shopping bags. A sudden snatch-and-grab attack can leave you shaken and holding a torn plastic bag with a few less items of shopping. A backpack is probably safer (and reduces the plastic rubbish created by the town) and often locals are around who will be more than happy to walk with you if you are unsure. If re-using plastic bags for carrying non-food items, ensure the bag is clean and has not recently carried fruit or other fresh food stuffs which may leave behind an inviting smell to baboons. Certainly never feed baboons or any other wild animal.

Large male baboons can be extremely powerful and intimidating, especially if running straight towards you, with obvious intent in their eyes. If you find yourself in this situation, drop the shopping bag and step away. Do not attempt to wrestle with baboons for the ownership of your bag.

Residents of Victoria Falls walk past baboons every day, often within a few metres, without event. Knowing your baboon behaviour helps, and if you can’t observe baboons in the wild, watch a few wildlife documentaries to help you read their behaviour and reactions. Animals also read our behaviour, and it is important not to show fear or panic and to walk with confidence, purpose and direction. Keep an eye on all the baboons around you but avoid prolonged direct eye contact with individuals as this can be seen as a challenge or threat.

The key thing to remember in all animal close encounters is respect. Wild animals can be dangerous. However many animals will react with calm acceptance of your presence if you do not push their boundaries of tolerance. Whilst this varies with species and individuals, learning to read animal behaviour and react accordingly is a key requirement of any bush guide or ranger, or indeed anyone living in close proximity to wild animals – such as the residents of Victoria Falls.

Friday 10 June 2011

Plans approved for Victoria Falls ground

Zimbabwe's plans for a third Test ground in the country to complement those in Harare and Bulawayo are set to come to fruition after the Victoria Falls local council granted planning approval for a stadium near the iconic site. Zimbabwe Cricket chief executive Ozias Bvute and chairman of selectors Alistair Campbell confirmed the council approval, and said that construction work will begin early next year.

"This is one of the great natural wonders of the world and playing international and first-class cricket there will cause a lot of excitement among visiting players and fans," said Bvute. "Tourism is on the up in this country and sporting tourism especially so.

"We had eight or nine thousand for a recent Twenty20 tournament in Harare and that has given us additional confidence to go ahead, apart from other factors," added Campbell. "People now go to Dubai for cricket. We will soon be an alternative to that. There is a lot of vision here at the moment."

As well as hosting Tests and ODIs, the ground will also provide a second home, after Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, for domestic side Matabeleland Tuskers. In addition, ZC are hoping that other teams - particularly English representative and county sides - will be attracted to use the facilities for pre-season tours.

Widely considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls sits on the Zambezi river on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and is also a World Heritage site. At the height of Zimbabwe's tourism industry it attracted several hundred thousand visitors a year. Those numbers dwindled as the country's political situation deteriorated, with most travellers opting to reach the Falls through Zambia, but amid relative stability in recent years the number of tourists has started to pick up again.

Development on both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides has not been without its problems in the past, and in 2007 plans to build 500 chalets in a national park on the Zambian side, and the collapse of infrastructure in Zimbabwe, prompted Unesco to warn that the area could lose its World Heritage status. That never happened, however, and the development of the cricket ground will utilise the latest ecologically-friendly features.

Approximations of the total capacity of the ground range between 4,000 and 12,000 and no cost estimates have been made available so far, but architects are said to be drawing up plans for a clubhouse. Once completed, it will be accessible by road, rail and air in Zimbabwe, while several airlines offer flights from Johannesburg, the journey taking under two hours.

Source: Plans approved for Victoria Falls ground (9/6/11)

Thursday 9 June 2011

Elephants cause death of two in Victoria Falls


Two deaths caused by elephants, within the space of a week, have shocked residents of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The first death, of a young man in Chinotimba, Victoria Falls, occurred on the evening of 3rd June. The man, an apostolic sect member, was trampled to death by a bull elephant soon after dusk while praying.

In the second, unrelated incident, a professional guide was killed by a bull elephant at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge while he was accompanying a client during a safari walk. The elephant was believed to be on 'musth', a period where a bull elephant has higher testosterone levels that heighten aggressive behaviour, charged at the two prompting the guide to fire warning shots. The guide however, tripped and the charging elephant trampled him. 

As reported in our recent Newsletters and stories, residents of Victoria Falls town have been plagued by garden-raiding elephants. Of concern is that as patience has worn thin with their nightly visits residents have resorted to harassing the animals more and more, from throwing stones to using loud fireworks, in order to move them on. 

Residents now look to ZimParks to offer advice and guidance on elephant-human interactions and how they can protect their properties from the attentions of elephants. Local conservationists are recommending non-lethal measures which will discourage the elephants from visiting residential areas. They are working on various alternatives such as qualified teams being set up to deal with elephants and a hotline for residents to call 24 hrs a day.

Clearly shooting all the elephants involved is not an option that the tourism industry, or international community, will support, and yet something must be done before another tragic loss of life occurs.

Tourists walking in Victoria Falls are recommended to always carry a torch at night-time and to take special care on roads frequented by elephants (the tell-tale signs are usually more than evident to sight and smell). Ask around and find out if elephants have been around - if so take a taxi. If elephants are encountered on roads, retreat to a safe distance. Do not throw stones or other objects. If you are close enough to throw stones and get a reaction from the elephant, then you are too close!!


Elephant Kills Victoria Falls Safari Lodge Guide

On June 8, tragedy struck at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, when the lodge’s Head Guide Tendekai Madzivanzira was killed by an elephant in full musth.

Madzivanzira, who had years of experience, had escorted an international guest from the hotel to the nearby Siduli Hide on an armed walk at 16h00. The hide is close to a waterhole frequented by a variety of game and while the guest was inside the hide, a number of animals visited the waterhole, including a bull elephant in full musth.

The bull chased off another four elephants that had made their way to the water to drink and, after some time, the bull elephant started to move off. It was at this time (18h00) that, while Madzivanzira was escorting his guest back to the lodge, the bull spotted them and started to charge. According to the guest, Madzivanzira grabbed her arm and instructed her to run but by this stage the elephant was too close. Madzivanzira then instructed her to climb a nearby tree and stumbled as he turned to face the elephant as he discharged his weapon. The elephant hit the guide tossing him to the ground.

Efforts by observers and staff whistling and shouting from the lodge’s balcony to try to distract the charging bull elephant were to no avail. The elephant eventually ran off and staff members and a medical team were on site to rescue the guest from the tree and attend to Madzivanzira, who had been fatally wounded. Senior management from Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and experienced wildlife experts, in co-ordination with the National Parks and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), were called to secure the area and to conduct further investigations into the matter.

Once news of the incident had reached Africa Albida Tourism’s head office by 18h30, Madzivanzira the various management staff were deployed to assist with contacting family and immediate grief counselling ensued with the guide’s family and the guests.

While in transit today to Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, Ross Kennedy, Africa Albida Tourism’s Chief Executive, said: “It is a very sad and shocking thing to have happened and we will do everything we can do to provide support for Tendekai’s family. I‘ve been told the staff at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge have been amazing in dealing with the situation and I have to say a big thank you to all of them. This is the first time in the 17 years of the lodge being open that something like this has ever happened and as much as we train our staff for a worst case scenario when living in the bush with wild animals, you still never think an incident like this is ever going to take place. Tendekai was a skilled professional who had the respect of his wildlife peers and conservation colleagues, along with all clients, staff, and the community as a whole”