Lethal force: a game park ranger’s guide

You can arrest someone on a schedule 1 offence for having sex with your rhino, but if they kill it, they won’t be committing a schedule 1 offense.

He’s making a joke about loopholes in the law to break the ice, but this is a serious talk. I’m sitting in the back of a wooden hut, in the middle of a game reserve in Zululand, South Africa, listening to a lethal force expert give a lecture to a bunch of armed private security contractors.

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It’s hot and the room smells of animal skins and rooibos tea. I’m privy to this as I am currently training to become a game park ranger, though not an armed one. Yesterday was rhino tracking, today is gun law. Our lecturer is a man who was a private security contractor for 32 years. He’s old, tough and has the eyes of a man whose probably seen more dead people than most people have birthdays. He is white with a deep tan and a thick Afrikaans accent.

“I know exactly how you guys feel.” he says when the young hot headed rangers roll their eyes. “I was in the APU business for 32 years, I’ve been in firefights, and I’ve been in the bush. It’s not like I’m reading this from the books, I’ll try and give you relevant information that applies to your specific situation.”

“First thing your lawyer will say if you shoot someone is “Don’t make any statement.” But you can’t do that. You have to have a working relationship with the local police. If you refuse to make a statement, they will look at the smoking gun and send you straight in front of a judge.”

The law doesn’t seem to be on their side. Apparently, a private security contractor is just a normal person in the eyes of the law and has absolutely no license to shoot anyone. If you shoot someone without good reason you’ll just get sent straight to jail.

“Necessity allows you to shoot a dog attacking a child in a built up area, or shooting a black rhino attacking a visitor on a wilderness trail, though in the latter, it would be career suicide.”

The problem seems to be that although people are caught a lot, in the private sector, people are not usually charged. What this tends to lead to is private security rough housing or shooting at poachers to deter them, rather than making useless and expensive arrests. I mean can you really blame them?

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A full grown male Nyala can fetch $10,000 at auction, but are mostly killed for meat by poachers

“The old section 49 of the law said that you could shoot someone for a schedule 1 offence if you could not reasonably arrest them any other way. Also, you must have the intention of arresting the person in order to justify that they were fleeing from arrest. Never use the term “Ambush”” The lecturer says, “that implies that you were trying to kill them, not arrest them. Say “Lying in wait to arrest.””

As a summary to this part of the lecture, he gets a bit sombre.

“Taking a human life is going to be the biggest decision you ever make, so if someone is joking about it, then don’t believe they ever did it. These things will break up your marriage, will give you ulcers, you will be looking over your shoulder your whole life, waiting to get convicted.” Let alone the guilt of the actual act.

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The skull of a hippo. More fatalities are caused by hippos than any other mammal in Africa.

We had an incident here just last night with poachers digging under the fence. They let there dogs through to hunt and bring back prey to the fence, then they drag it under and sell it as meat. This method has been developed to escape the law, putting the poacher out of jurisdiction of the ranger and out of actual bodily liability.

I’ve sat through some pretty boring lectures in my time, but this definitely wasn’t one of them. They say travel is the best education. Well I’ve sure learned a lot since I’ve been roaming. If you’re interested in more unique insights follow the blog below. Who knows, you may want to pursue a career as a park ranger too. Just think twice before pulling the trigger.

 

 

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5 ways to “Super Charge” your adventures

If you’re like me and like to get more out of a trip, you’ll want to go off the beaten path, experience more and come out the other end with a truly amazing story. Some people like to come up with rules that they always follow, like always pack a map and sun cream, but rules are meant to be broken. Here’s some things I like to do to put an edge on my adventures.

1. Don’t bring a map

I’m not saying don’t know your terrain, but having a map generally slows me down. Always checking and second guessing yourself makes you frustrated and unsure of yourself, and often wastes time and valuable daylight. Just follow your gut and use your senses, navigate by line of sight and digest some breadcrumbs to find your way home.

Some top tips on how to navigate on the fly:

  • Pick a reference point on the horizon or up the hill and if you get turned around or have to go round an obstacle, you can always use this to get you back on track.
  • If the sun is out, look at your shadow. Which direction is it pointing in with respect to where you want to go? If you’re headed north west and its 1pm, your shadow will be behind you and slightly on your left, about 7 O’Clock (in the northern hemisphere.) If you can’t use a reference point, just remember to keep your shadow at 7 O’clock and you’ll stay on track for a couple of hours.
  • Path-finding. This can be a difficult skill to master, but there a a few simple ways to start. If you’re looking for a path, look for lines in the natural world. Paths often follow rivers, or natural depressions in the ground. The rocks might be slightly lighter where they’re exposed to more sun, or the grass or flora more down-trodden. You’ll get an eye for it eventually.
  • Look behind you. When you’re on your way home you’ll be going in the opposite direction and things can look very different the other way round. Remember to periodically look behind you and memorise what the terrain looks like that way.

It’s an incredibly fulfilling feeling once you get the hang of it and will make you more confident and independent whilst travelling.

2. Have a time constraint

I’ve often found myself running home after a long days adventure because I’m trying to beat the light, or the last lifts in a ski resort, and it’s these times when you really dig deep and pull out all the stops. It encourages you to push harder and gives you a challenge at the end of the day to keep you pushing on. I’ve often had the most fun trying to beat the clock, running down a mountain and leaping through bushes. It just feels so much more adventurous.

3. Try out new things

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Sometimes having too  much gear can slow you down, but there are things you might never be able to do without specialist equipment. For example: I would not have been able to climb half the peaks I did last winter in Andorra without my trusty ice axe “Bertha.” She definitely saved my life a few times, but then again, I wouldn’t have been hanging off all those cliffs without her in the first place.

Bertha is now my favourite thing in the world and I never go climbing in the snow without her, but I’d been on many climbs barehanded before. Snow shoes and crampons are another two things for climbing in the snow that I’m less fond of, but I tried them all out and found out which one was best for me.

You may want to seek advice or get help from a guide on how to use things for the first time, but that’s up to you.

4. Go nuts

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Don’t just stare longing at that tree, climb it! Many years ago my mother and I were hiking in the Himalayas and I leapt down from a tree in front of our group, having gone on ahead. A girl turned around to me and moaned, saying “err, why were you up there?” to which I replied “Why aren’t you?”  If you’re going to spend lots of money travelling and exploring the world, don’t let what other people think kill your buzz. After all, isn’t that why you’re there?

If you feel like climbing something, do it. If you feel like dive rolling in the snow, do it. If you feel like skinny dipping in a lake, do it! It’s your damned life. Just don’t get frost bite.

5. Don’t just take pictures.

I hate people who just go somewhere, take a picture and then leave. First of all you’re not really experiencing it, and secondly, a picture is a poor representation of a moment. You have at least five senses and sight is just one of them.

Whenever I’m alone out on a precipice in the middle of the wilderness, or in some peaceful forest by a lake, I take some time to really soak it in and remember it.

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Here’s how I do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable spot surrounded by as much space as possible (I like precipices).
  • Listen. Close your eyes and pick out all the specific sounds around you: the birds, the wind, the water. Try and visualise where they are around you.
  • Notice the feelings: the warm sun, the cool wind, the feeling of the rough sand, the smooth stone, the tickle of the grass. all the things that make this place unique.
  • Open your eyes and look all around you in a 180. Don’t try and remember everything you see, but pick specific things and solidify them in your mind. The way a rock formation looks like a face, the way the water swirls around a rock, the curve of a interesting tree.
  • Using all of these things, you can build a sensory map of your environment far greater than just a picture. Meld the sounds, the feelings and the sights together, then close your eyes again and try to picture it without seeing it.
  • This is the important part, because later on you won’t be able to see it. So imagine it, then open your eyes and check it, then close them and imagine it again.

Once you have a full map inside your head, you will be able to recall that specific moment and how it made you feel forever. Once you have some of these maps in your head, sit down at another time and repeat the process, going through each one and experiencing them again. This way you can revisit your adventures from anywhere in the world and draw from those experiences to super charge your life.

If you want some examples of my adventures why don;t you check out my Only in China, or Understanding Africa series.

Stay Strong.

 

6 signs of an average holiday and how to avoid them

No one wants to be average, so why spend your holidays doing the same thing as everyone else? I mean no one wants to sit on a beach all day, then go eat at the hotel buffet right?

I’ve been travelling the world for years now and I always try to do something different. Whenever I see myself slipping into the conventional, or falling for a “package deal” I keep myself in check. Here’s six easy ways to make your travels more interesting and avoid those tourist traps.

1. Are you lying on a beach?

We spend most of our lives sitting at a desk or lounging on a sofa watching T.V. make your holiday your chance to do something fun. Yea relaxing your stress away is one of getting out of work mode, but zooming along on a jet ski, or plummeting down a mountain is so much better.

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I always go to places I know there’s lots to do, whether it’s hiking in the mountains, snowboarding, diving, or horse riding, I want to do things I can’t normally do at home. You might discover a new hobby, or life long interest if you get off your ass and go do stuff.

2. Is there a buffet?

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If you’re staying somewhere there’s a buffet, don’t just eat pizza and chips. I’ve worked in so many places abroad where British holidaymakers just sit at their hotel buffet and eat stuff they eat at home. Whether it’s Paella in Valencia or Tagine in Morocco, its a chance to try out new things and explore new flavours. You never know you might just enjoy it.

3. Are there English people everywhere?

You’ve flown hundreds, maybe even thousands of miles to explore somewhere different, so why go to somewhere that’s just full of English people? The world is a vast and ever changing tapestry, so go somewhere you’re not familiar with, or better yet somewhere you’ve never even heard of before.

So many people end up in tourist traps full of other tourists and never even so much as converse with the locals. If you meet a bunch of English people and just get drunk with them, you might as well be in your local pub.

When you get off the plane at the airport talk to the guy in the bar of cafe and ask them whats going on, ask them where they hang out and what there is to do. Chances are there’ll be local customs and subcultures going on that are far cooler than whats on trip adviser and many locals are happy to show you round for free, just because you’re interested in their country.

4. Does someone have a megaphone?

If you’ve joined a tour group and someone is shouting over a megaphone, you’ve lost. If you’re being told where to go and what to take pictures of, you’ve lost the wandering that goes with wanderlust. Take off on your own, arrange your own transport to sights and spend time focusing on things that really interest you, not just a tour of the gift shop.

5. Are you taking a selfie?

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In this day and age everyone’s holidays photos look the same. Here’s a selfie with me on the beach, here’s a selfie with me on a boat, here’s a selfie of me with dinner. If you really want people to pay attention to your photos, buy a tripod, or mini gorilla pod and take photos with a difference. Craft a story (not on snap chat) that really captures the moment and then explain it to your friends.

6. Are you on your phone?

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We spend most of our lives staring at our phones these days, scanning other peoples lives for some source of fulfilment. The easiest way to know you’re not having a good time is that you’re looking at what people are doing back home.

When you’re travelling you are surrounded by sights and sounds, smells and feelings you can’t get through a small glass box, so leave your phone at home, or in the hotel and go explore. don’t let “what’s the wifi password” be the first thing you say when you arrive in a new place. Buy and watch and a camera and use these things instead. Besides, no love story ever started “I saw this cute guy staring at his phone…”


So what have we learned from this?

Be in the moment

Don’t go where everyone else goes

Meet local people

Eat great food

Leave your phone at home

Take good pictures

Go out and do stuff

If you’re committed to not being average, why don’t you follow the blog below to get more updates on living an adventurous lifestyle. Don’t just be yourself, be your best self.