Two tragic accidents (one fatal) involving visitors and wild elephants, which took place in Mana Pools and in Victoria Falls in September 2018, have prompted Wild Zambezi to issue some cautionary words of warning.
By Wild Zambezi
• Wild animals are just that…. WILD…. and, no matter what some irresponsible individuals in the tourism industry will tell you, UNPREDICTABLE.
• Just because you’ve seen extraordinary close wildlife encounters in documentaries, movies, or on Social Media, don’t think it will work like that for you.
• Wild areas are not Zoos. And most tourism destinations in the Zambezi Valley (including the Victoria Falls) are in wild areas (even the towns of Victoria Falls and Kariba).
• It is not worth risking either life or limb for “that perfect photograph”. You are being irresponsible and are endangering yourself, those accompanying you, and the animal itself.
If you unexpectedly come face to face with a wild animal, there are many variables which come into play in a matter of seconds. Every wildlife interaction is unique and very contextual. Each wild animal has its own radius of discomfort which in itself varies according to its life-experience, its mood at the time, its family responsibility and its prior experience with people.
So the best advice is:-
USE COMMON SENSE When in the wild do not even think of taking risks – even for that perfect photograph
KEEP ALL YOUR SENSES ALERT always
DO NOT WALK IN THE WILD unless you are highly experienced in wildlife situations, or accompanied by a fully qualified, professional guide who will use his weapon only in an emergency situation
AVOID CLOSE ENCOUNTERS wherever possible.
If your safari guide leads you into a close encounter situation with a wild animal, where you feel nervous or uncomfortable, do not be embarrasssed to say how you feel and ask the guide to back off.
DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE TO APPROACH WILD ANIMALS. Disembark from a game-viewing vehicle only at a designated parking area or look-out point after making sure that no animal is close by. Even then, remain constantly alert.
RESPECT AN ANIMAL’S SPACE – whether you are in a vehicle or on foot. All wild animals have a “fight or flight” instinct. If you approach too close they may choose “fight” instead of “flight”.
ALLOW WILD ANIMALS RIGHT OF WAY across roads or paths
ALWAYS REMAIN QUIET, CALM AND RESPECTFUL when wild animals are near.
DO NOT DISRUPT ANIMALS WHEN THEY ARE DRINKING, OR MOVING TOWARDS WATER
AVOID CROWDING OR SURROUNDING ANIMALS – all observers should stay within the same quadrant (see graphic), at a safe distance preferably downwind where the animals cannot scent you
NEVER FEED OR BAIT WILD ANIMALS If you are camping in the wild, keep all foodstuffs securely shut away in your vehicle. If you are staying at a safari camp where the guides or staff are tempting animals in with food, in order to create that perfect “photo opportunity” please ask them to stop doing this. Feeding wild animals leads to over-familiarity with humans, dependence behaviour and trouble in the long term. Ultimately the animal which will have to be destroyed.
NEVER WALK AT NIGHT IN WILD AREAS This is when the predators hunt.