Carol Van Bruggen told me a story that illustrates the tension between village life and conservation.
Excited villagers came to tell Rachel of Conservation South Luangwa that a hippo had fallen down a large deep hole where someone was going to put in a tank and was unable to get out. From the frenzy, Carol could not tell if they were rooting for the hippo to free itself or wanted it to fail so they could kill it and chop it up for dinner. Crowds of local people surround the well chanting and yelling and throwing things down on the hippo. Rachel thought they should probably put it down so it wouldn’t suffer.
The Zambian Wildlife Authority, who has ultimate responsibility for protecting wildlife, brought a grader over and dug the hole down on the side, and they put a rope around the hippo and pulled her out.
One minute people were cheering, and then all of a sudden the hippo took off running through the village, and these same people ran after the hippo throwing bricks at her. Many hit her, but they also hit each other, and several people were bleeding. The hippo ran behind the village and right through Rachel’s compound to get to the lagoon behind her house.
Matt who runs the Zambian Carnivore Program came out of a nearby shower after hastily putting on a pair of shorts and screamed at them to get out of the way, and the hippo ran down back into the lagoon where she belonged.
Rachael and her scouts, Anna and Steve at Chipembele Wildlife Trust, and many others in the South Luangwa Valley work hard to teach villagers that conserving wildlife protects their future. Without visitors to see wildlife, no one will want to come to the valley. We help all these groups offer a better future.
Written By: Pat Cole