The philosophy of action, no less an authority than the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi famously said, is that no one else is the giver of peace or happiness. One’s own actions are responsible to come to bring either happiness or success or whatever.
The answer in this case, as it turned out, was “whatever.”
Suspected rhino poachers broke into a South African game reserve late at night this past week — hoping, no doubt, to bag themselves a couple of rhinos. Rhino horn fetches more than its weight in gold or cocaine on today’s black market, and that has led to a thriving illegal trade in the horn.
The poachers no doubt expected to make an easy killing — rhinos, after all, are near-sighted, none too bright and make a tempting target. The poachers were looking to make a quick buck — but lions got them instead.
It sounds like one of those apocryphal tales the African wilds are famous for, but anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of bushcraft knows that truth is often stranger than fiction where lions are concerned.
The story was first reported by local news outlets near Sibuya Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province, but anyone assuming it was just another case of fake news was quickly disabused of the notion. The reserve’s on-duty veterinarian darted the offending lions so that police forensic investigators could isolate the evidence — this, after human remains were found last Tuesday, alongside discarded wire cutters, a high-powered rifle, three pairs of boots and three pairs of gloves.
A pride of half a dozen lions was found to be resting nearby — one likes to think well fed and sunning themselves under the winter sun.
Sibuya is a private reserve; owner Nick Fox told local media that one of his security staff heard a loud commotion coming from the lions sometime late last Sunday night or in the early hours of Monday morning.
Fox concluded the poachers must have stumbled onto the lions in the dark, never to be seen or heard from again. Lions, unlike humans, can see well in the dark — their night vision is six times sharper than that of humans — and do most of their hunting under cover of darkness. Daylight is for sleeping, where lions are concerned.
Once police confirmed the evidence and entered the incident into the official record, the story was quickly picked up by the international news agencies Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, and from there to BBC, CNN International and al-Jazeera, among other cable-news outlets. (
This isn’t the first time hunted animals have had their Day of the Triffids moment, of course, nor will it be the last.
In May of this year, South African big game hunter and prototypical fat man Theunis Botha, 51, died after being crushed by an elephant that had been shot on a private reserve in Zimbabwe. Botha cashed in his chips — and I am not making this up — at the aptly named Good Luck Farm, near Zimbabwe’s world-famous — and now infamous — Hwange National Park.
Hwange was where Cecil the lion met his end at the hands of a fat American dentist, Walter Palmer, in July, 2015.
In February of this past year, a poacher hunting big cats was mauled to death by lions at a private gamed reserve in South Africa. The unidentified poacher was killed at the 3,000-hectare Ingwelala Nature Reserve, an hour’s drive outside Hoedspruit, in South Africa’s Limpopo province.
The incident happened just months after a poacher in Namibia, identified as Luteni Muhararakua, was charged and killed by a rhino he was hunting for its horn.
This past January, a Russian man was shot dead by his own dog during a winter hunting trip on the banks of the Volga River in southwestern Russia. Sergei Terekhov, 64, died after letting his two hunting hounds out of his car. As the dogs began to frolic, one of the dog’s paws caught the trigger of Terekhov’s hunting rifle, which was on the ground at the time, with the barrel pointed toward his chest.
According to a story in the UK newspaper The Independent at the time, investigators told the Russian Vzglyad-Info news agency, and I quote, “An experienced hunter was killed. He was sober. There was a permit for weapons. Everything was OK. There was an accident.”
Also in January, a Croatian hunter, Pero Jelenic, 75, was killed by a stray bullet while hunting lions during a so-called canned hunt at South Africa’s Leeubosch Lodge, a four-hour drive from Johannesburg about 50 kms. from the Botswana border. A friend of Jelenic’s told Croatia’s Jutarnji List newspaper that Jelenic, “died doing what he loved — his office, a hunting hall, was full of trophies, deer and bear specimens and everything that could be hunted in Croatia and Europe.”
Clearly, Africa proved too big for him.
Then there was the young bull elephant that crushed professional hunter and Ian Gibson to death after Gibson, 55, tried to shoot it in Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Valley little more than a year ago, in June, 2017.
Would it surprise you to learn Gibson was a little on the heavy side?
Think of it as a recurring theme.
As late-night comedian Bill Maher said at the time, “You know the elephant is the nobler of the two because, when the hunter wins, it’s the greatest moment of his life, and when the elephant wins, it’s, ‘Eww, what did I step in?”
These karmic moments are few and far between, of course, given the scale of the destruction being wreaked against the natural world today.
Still, every little moment counts. There’s always room for hope.