Poachers almost wipe out white rhinos

CASSOPOLIS — Poaching white rhinos for their horns as an aphrodisiac popular in Japan, China and Korea reduced numbers to eight guarded around the clock.

There are too many animals in Botswana national parks for vegetation to support, which is why elephants appear gaunt and impalas eat shrubs they dislike.

Fish eagles from a distance look like American bald eagles.

It’s a 22-hour flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Johannesburg, South Africa, but luxurious accommodations await in Zambia and Botswana, each room decorated around a city theme. Barbara Cook of Sumnerville stayed in “Paris.”

A sitting area awaited at each floor along the staircase.

“It’s breathtakingly beautiful,” she said.

Though she talked to Cass County Historical Society June 18 about her 10-day safari, she returned to Africa in January to see Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia and poverty that convinced her “how blessed we are. Mozambique doesn’t have enough schools, so they go in three shifts. All the kids have to wear uniforms. I took a picture of a little boy wearing his sister’s” — a skirt, blouse and carried a pink knapsack. “They walk several miles because parents think education is so important. We in this country don’t take education seriously enough. They see this as the only chance they have to improve their lot in life.”

To cross from Zambia to Botswana requires a boat trip.

There are four ferries, so trucks sometimes wait two weeks.

Her host from Durban had been a foreign exchange student in the United States in high school. “She had very fond memories and was a delightful individual. We were on a study tour geared to travel agents,” said the former Pokagon Township supervisor and Southwestern Michigan College trustee, who traveled with her sister, Mary Jane, fording rivers infested with hippos and crocodiles during the dry season last October.

Each room came equipped with a balcony and a sitting room with fireplaces. “Luxurious beyond comprehension,” she said. “During the world soccer tournament, which South Africa hosted, this is where President Carter and other heads of state stayed. The rest of the places we stayed were Sanctuary Retreats,” 13 safari camps and lodges in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Mosquito netting swathed beds. They ate meals on a veranda overlooking the pool.

Avians abound, from lilac-breasted rollers, “the national bird of Botswana,” to weaver birds, which build decoy nests to fool predators.

Hippos leave rivers at night to snack on sausage trees, named because they appear to be draped in meat products.

Leopards hunt at night, though one Cook photographed with a hare clamped in its jaw had been stalking impala.

Another leopard dropped from a tree and disappeared through a culvert underneath the road.

The safari raced after through a herd of startled elephants.

The game warden fitted a red lens on a spotlight so tourists can photograph wildlife at night without flash.


Telephoto lens

startles lioness


She made many close-up images of a pride of lions with her “point and shoot.” The five included a male cub and three lionesses. “I was within 10 feet. I’m not saying they’re tame because they’re not, but they’re used to people being around. As long as you stay in the van you’re pretty safe,” though that platitude was tested when a lioness dozing in the shade of the vehicle “reared up and snarled” when a zoom lens poked out. Other lions went on high alert. Occupants froze, including Mary Jane, whose leg was within four feet of those powerful paws. “That was scary,” Cook said.

Elephants travel considerable distances single file to the water hole. Bulls and cows alike are protective of their young. Egyptian geese exhibit no fear of mud-packed pachyderm feet squashing them, though a young bull approached the van and “tested the frame with his tusk. He seriously thought about turning it over.”

Giraffes are vulnerable while drinking because they have to splay their legs to bend down. “They’re clumsy and can’t get up out of this position to take off,” said Cook, who also photographed kudu (antelope species) courtship and painted wild dogs which their guide had not spotted since May 2012.

“They’re running fools,” she said. “They split into three groups

to hunt in teams.”


Wild dogs attack

a baby elephant


Yipping of wild dogs followed by “the scream of a baby elephant” signaled the start of “World War III,” she said. “The whole herd stampeded,” making trees thrash to and fro. “Bushbucks (another kind of antelope) evaporated. The ground was shaking as far away as we were. They didn’t get it. Parents make a tight circle pointing outward and attack anything that approaches.”

Lunch was served at 2 p.m., followed by a second game drive of 30 to 40 miles from 4 to 8, with dinner about 10.

The sisters don’t like to eat that late, so they confined evening calories to two of five courses, soup and salad.

A rubber snake decorated the breakfast buffet to discourage monkeys from making off with food.

They rode a boat down the Zambezi River to Victoria Falls, the world’s mightiest sheet of falling water, though a shadow of itself in dry season. They saw a statue of David Livingstone, the pioneer medical missionary and explorer.

Young lodge workers entertained Cook’s party of 15 at night with native dancing, which they learn at age 5.


 Dowagiac Daily News