Bushpilot

Claytor, Tom

1996

Book ID 424

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18a
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

the border between Tanzania and Kenya

When Kaiser Wilhelm said to Queen Victoria that it was unfair that she had two mountains, she gave him one. If you look at the border between Tanzania and Kenya on a map, you will see how the line was redrawn to give Kilimanjaro to the German King. The missionary John Rebmann first saw the snows of Kilimanjaro on the 11th of May 1848. He said it was called the 'mountain of the caravans' by the Arab slave traders who used the mountain as a landmark while crossing the interior. The local Wachagga people call it Kibo (snow) and in Swahili, mwalima is mountain and ngara means to shine.

Extract ID: 3645

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18b
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

The Swiss airman Mittelholzer

I depart from Mkomazi and head West towards the tiny town of Moshi. I fly right up to the mountain, but I can't see it. She is like a shy lady with her clouds wrapped around her. I land at the deserted little airstrip near her base and push the plane off into the grass. I pull out my chair and sit alone beneath the wing. In the late afternoon light, the mountain begins to take off her clothes. The clouds disappear, and I look upon one of the loveliest sights in Africa - the white crested summit of Kilimanjaro.

The Swiss airman Mittelholzer flew over and photographed this mountain in 1930. I think the difference in elevation from Moshi at 2,800 feet to the summit at 19,340 feet must make this one of the highest free-standing mountains in the world. It is beautiful to look at. In the hazy air around it's base, you can almost forget that it is a mountain. Instead, you look only above the haze and see a shining white dome high in the sky. It could be mistaken for a cloud it is so far off and aloof. The Wachagga have a story about this mountain. They say that the two peaks Mawenzi and Kibo are brothers. Kibo is the bigger, but younger brother. One day, while smoking their pipes, Mawenzi's fire went out. He asked his brother, Kibo, if he could borrow some fire. He then fell asleep, and his fire went out again. Kibo became angry with him and beat him so badly that even today, one can see his battered and torn face. Mawenzi is ashamed of his appearance, so now he covers himself with clouds. It is rare to see Mawenzi without clouds.

Extract ID: 3646

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18d
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Kilimanjaro International Airport

I take off and fly along the slopes of Kilimanjaro before the clouds appear. Beneath me is the mine where all the Tanzanite comes from. If I ever find a wife, I will design her a ring with Tanzanite. I don't think there is a more beautiful stone in the world. It is sometimes referred to as a 'blue diamond' and the liquid blue stone reflects three different colors - purple, blue, and gray - as the light passes through it. It is much brighter than a sapphire, and it is only found here.

I descend low and follow the lush green forests past Kilimanjaro International Airport. This is one of the places where they could get me. I remember when the wildlife filmmaker, Alan Root, sent me to Kilimanjaro to pick up his plane some years ago. He handed me a fist-full of $100 bills and said in his normal understated way, 'Here, you may need these.' I was deposited at Kilimanjaro Airport and walked over to collect his recently repaired Cessna 180. The men in the office laughed at me. It appeared, I was about $400 short of what was owed. I spent a very long night inside of the plane being eaten by large mosquitoes. When that became too unbearable, I crawled out and lay on the tarmac beneath the plane. Then large rhinoceros shaped beetles would hit me full force in the face as they tried to fly in ground effect towards the bright lights illuminating the apron. The next morning, I was a wreck. It was time for my captors and me to make a deal. I suggested that if we reduced the number of days that the plane had been parked here on the receipt, there would be several hundred dollars left over that would not be accounted for. I think a proposal like this can raise some interest in a land where $2 a day is a good salary. I was soon on my way.

Extract ID: 3648

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18e
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

the 8th Wonder of the World

Ahead of me now is what some people consider to be the 8th Wonder of the World - the Ngorongoro Crater. The volcanic crater is a perfectly shaped bowl 19 kilometers across and it is teeming with wildlife. This crater used to be a mountain even higher than Kilimanjaro. When it erupted, it distributed its porphyritic ash far to the West. This is now the Serengeti - a treeless sea of grass with the largest ungulate (hoofed animal) migration on earth. I juggle my film cameras and follow the crater's rim around as my little plane struggles in the thin air. The crater is too big to fit into my lens. There seems to be no way to capture such a vast and enveloping place. I turn on my video camera mounted on the wing and start to dance along the edge. I play with the drama of trees moving swiftly beneath me, and then the sudden chilling emptiness as we spring from the edge and seem suspended above the crater floor. I am loving this moment, and for a while, I can imagine no better way to appreciate the grandness nor beauty of such a place.

Extract ID: 3649

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18f
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Rian Labuschagne

On the southern edge or the crater rim sits the Ngorongoro airstrip. Landing here feels like coming in to land on an aircraft carrier. The wind currents flow up the inside face of the crater rim and push you up just when you want to come down. I touch down with my eyes peeled for any wildlife that might dart out in front of me at the last second. I am given a lift to Rian Labuschagne's house on the crater rim. Rian's address is Box 1, Ngorongoro, and he shares this with about 40,000 Maasai. The postcard that I sent him from Malawi said that I was coming 'anytime from now,' so he and his family are pleased to see me.

Rian and his wife Lorna are from South Africa. They live with their two young children here on the crater rim in a house called baridi (because it's cold). Previously, South Africans were not allowed in Tanzania, but now the Tanzanians are pleased to learn from their wildlife expertise. The first thing that struck Rian when he came here is that there are no fences. In South Africa, wildlife is over-managed. Here, there isn't much money, but there are wide open spaces. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is 8,300 square kilometers, and the Serengeti Park is 14,760 square kilometers. Rian is working as an advisor for the Ngorongoro Rhino Conservation Project.

When Rian first arrived here, he felt a little ignored and frustrated. No one really spoke English, and no rhino had been poached here for the last ten years; he felt that nothing was wrong. Then in April 1995, a rhino with a nine month old calf was poached. Its horn was cut off, and the carcass was cut open so the lions and hyenas could eat the evidence faster. Rian and his two children take me to a steep path over the edge of the crater rim. A few meters down the path, Rian is nearly finished constructing a blind. This structure is for watching the foot patrols and vehicles at night during their rounds on the crater floor. 'They can't get away with hacking around now,' Rian tells me. I recall some of the smart anti-poaching operations that I had worked on in Namibia which were run by South Africans, and I can't help but smile. Rian tells me that he has organized different group leaders who are only in for a week at a time. They draw coins with different numbers stamped on them to determine what duties they will have. This may seem extreme, but I also have come to learn that the rhino's biggest enemy in Africa has always been his askari (guard). In North Yemen, Rhino horns sold for $35 a kilo in 1970; nine years later, they were selling for $500 a kilo. The rhino population in the crater dropped from 78 in 1976 to 26 in 1978. The number of black rhino remaining today is kept secret. There were also a number of spearings by the Maasai. Between July 1959 and December 1960, the Maasai killed or wounded 31 rhino with spears; 8 of these were in the crater. This was primarily due to their resentment of being removed from the Serengeti Park. They knew this was a good way to get back at the government. Rian explains all sorts of population statistics to me from over the years, and I can see clearly how valuable all these statistics become through the course of time in trying to determine the best strategies for saving the rhino.

Extract ID: 3650

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18g
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

anti-poaching

We drive down nearly 2,000 feet to the crater floor below. I feel like I am on a journey to the center of the earth. I have never been down here before. Rian explains that foot patrols are the most important defense to poaching. He says that a horse is good, like they use in Etosha Park (Namibia), but then you need backup. He says motorcycles are also good, like they use in Kruger Park (South Africa), but they give you away and you have to watch the road. 'There is no such thing as a bad field ranger,' Rian tells me, 'but they are only as good as their leader.' We arrive at the anti-poaching camp, and group leader Corporal Mbelwa assembles his men for me to inspect. There is a map of the area on the wall, and bunking quarters for the scouts. I like the scouts. These are the guys who make their living by trying to save rhinos. They are formal and disciplined on the outside, but behind all the guns and camouflage uniforms are the warm smiles of Africa. The thing Rian has learned the most since his arrival in Tanzania has been patience. It can cost up to $50 to send a one page fax or up to $100 to telephone his parents on a bad line, so communications are difficult. He also reminds me that he is just an advisor here, so all of his ideas and thoughts have taken time.

What I enjoy the most about Rian, is that he has been interested to learn the ways of the Maasai. He tells me that they are very proud people, but they are useless for manual work. The Maasai warrior has five different age groups, and the weapons carried by the different age groups are all different. They will also have two different leaders - a diplomatic leader and a war leader. Today, there is a certain amount of racism towards the Maasai. They are considered to be underdeveloped by other Africans. In the past, the Maasai used to raid cattle. They can't now; the times are changing. I find it interesting to see how a previously superior race is now becoming inferior to a modern day system. Now, when you steal a cow, you go to jail. Clement is a traditional Maasai, and he speaks English with an American accent. He spent some time assisting an American researcher studying baboons in the crater, and now he is Rian's advisor on traditions and practices here. He is 50 years old, and he explains to me that when he was 13 and the Maasai were living inside the crater, they used to play a children's game. One child would place something on a sleeping rhino, then the next child would have to take it off. The Maasai are fearless in the field; they have no problem with walking from here to Serengeti with just a blanket, even at night, and this is learned at an early age. Each day about 70 Maasai are permitted down into the crater with up to 1,000 cattle. They must have a permit to go down, and they must be out at night. There are 3 water holes down there, and it looks good to see the Maasai living as they must have for so very long - surrounded by wildlife. Time are changing though. In September 1992, the Maasai were allowed to cultivate inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This was an emergency measure due to the drought, but the Maasai are now demanding cultivation so that they can continue to grow their corn and potatoes to sell outside.

Extract ID: 3651

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18h
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

the Grzimeks

It was the German Veterinarian, Bernard Grzimek, who said, 'Must everything be turned into deserts, farmland, big cities, native settlements and dry bush? One small part of the continent at least should retain its original splendor so that the black and white men who follow us will be able to see it in its awe-filled past glory.' His battle cry was, 'Serengeti, at least, shall not die.'

Bernard and his son, Michael, landed in Serengeti after flying 4,000 miles from Frankfurt in their Dornier 27 bush aircraft. There was no mistaking their aircraft; it looked like a gigantic zebra with black and white stripes across its entire length. I have flown this type of aircraft before and it is perfect for landing anywhere in the middle of nowhere. I remember looking at pictures of this famous plane surrounded by thousands of game is a vast open treeless plain. Bernard and Michael had come out to study migration patterns in the Serengeti and demonstrate that the proposed excisions would be disastrous for the Serengeti ecosystem. In Bernard's book, Serengeti Shall Not Die, he stressed that it can be easier to work with a dictatorship on matters of conservation than it is to work with a democracy, because you don't have to deal with parliaments, and you can get on with the job.

Extract ID: 3652

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18i
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Bernard Grzimek's plane

Rian stops the land rover on the crater rim, and we walk a short way through lush forest. The early morning mist is hanging in the trees. Rian pulls back some tall grass, and there is Bernard Grzimek's plane. I find it hard to speak. There is a moment when a story that one has only read or heard becomes a sudden reality. You can touch it. It is true. Michael Grzimek was flying in the Olkarien gorge northwest of here, near the Gol Mountains. The Ruppell's vulture nest there. He hit a vulture in flight, and it went straight through the window and killed him. I can't recall how many times I have stared at a vulture in the air. They must think it strange that such large birds can fly. The trick is to pull up and go over them. Perhaps, they can't judge distance well, but it is always at the last moment that they fold their wings in panic and drop down right in front of you. Michael and his father are buried on the Ngorongoro crater rim.

The askari tells Rian that four hyenas were spotted around my plane last night. I go out to inspect, and I can see all the tracks. One of the great dangers for an airplane in the wilds of Africa can be lions and hyenas chewing your tires. Normally, I can cut thorn brush and pile it around my wheels. This is usually enough of a deterrent to keep the tires full of air. I didn't want to cut thorn brush here, so I took out my can of pyrethrum mosquito repellent and sprayed it all over the wheels. I followed the tracks of the hyenas as they came and smelled the tires, but fortunately it worked. It is also not a good idea to leave any food in the plane. A thin aluminum airplane would be little match for the powerful jaws of a hungry hyena. Sometimes, when I write these stories, I can imagine that they may seem very strange to people who live in other parts of the world.

Confusion here: They find Bernard's plane on the crater rim, and then go on to describe Michael's crash. The remains of his plane are still on the valley floor north of Ol Karien, and not on the crater rim.

Extract ID: 3653

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18j
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Bhejan knives

I have loved my time spent with Rian and his family in this place. Rian is a man of passion. When he was in Kruger park, Fritz Rohr showed him how to make knives. There is a secret balance between the chromium and carbon in the steel which is important. If you have too much chromium, the knife won't hold the edge; if you have too much carbon, the blade will be too brittle and not 'stainless'. Rian has made about four or five hundred knives now. He enjoys making things and the organization and creation process involved. He calls his knives Bhejan which is the Shangaan name for black rhino. I met many Shangaan trackers when I was in South Africa, so I know he respects their knowledge of the bush. As I load my kit up into the plane, Rian hands me one of his knives. I have never seen this design before. It has a beautiful ebony handle and perfectly shaped blade designed for skinning animals. The case has Bhejan stamped on it. He looks at me and says, 'Maybe this will help you get home safely?'

Extract ID: 3655

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18j
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Rajabu the rhino

Rian tells me about Rajabu the rhino who decided one day to climb up the steep crater rim and walk to Lake Ndutu and then on to Moru kopjies. There are some wonderful names here: mto-wa-mbu means place of the mosquitoes, and koitoktok is a spring which means bubbling water. I get a brief tour of Rian's workshop behind his house. This is where Octa works. Octa is an Mbulu from the Ngorongoro plateau, and he is a mechanic who has never had any mechanical training. Rian shakes his head as he tells me how one day Octa can have a gearbox on the floor in hundreds of pieces, and a few days later it will be back together in one piece; and it will work. Rian writes me a letter to present to a conservation officer in Ndutu who can sometimes be difficult. Rian smiles and tells me that he and Octa keep his land rover running, so he shouldn't give me any trouble.

Extract ID: 3654

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19a
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Oldupai

All across this land remain the names of places that the Maasai have given them.

Ngorongoro means the place with mountains and gorges.

Oldupai is the wild sisal that grows in the Olduvai gorge, and Siringet is the Maasai word for a vast place.

From the northern edge of the Ngorongoro crater, I follow the 90 meter deep and 50 kilometer long Olduvai gorge west into the Serengeti. The first time I ever came here, I didn't have a map. A bush pilot and filmmaker named Alan Root drew me a map on a piece of scrap paper. There was a bump on the horizon and a line for a road. He put a dot where the road intersected a river, and that he said was where I would find the airstrip.

This place is not so different from his map. It is simple. There is a sea of yellow, and a sky of blue. Perhaps, it is because the colors are complimentary to each other that makes them so powerful together; the one magnifies the other in a surreal way that makes me feel like I am floating between heaven and earth. Amidst the endless tawny yellow below are the distinctive island kopjies of the Serengeti. These little rock islands are mini ecosystems with birds, lizards, hyraxes, and sometimes, a resident leopard. There are no trees, and you can see the wind flowing like waves across the grass.

Extract ID: 3656

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19b
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

visiting Baron Hugo van Lawick

I land at lake Ndutu to visit Baron Hugo van Lawick. I first met Hugo when I was working on a film called 'Serengeti Dairy' for National Geographic. The film was a celebration of his 25th year living and filming wildlife in the Serengeti, and I was part of the crew that tried to capture this place from the air. I park the plane in an empty cage designed to keep the hyenas and lions from chewing the tires, and soon a vehicle arrives to collect me. When I arrive in camp, Hugo comes out to greet me. He is in a wheelchair, and we sit by his tent looking out over the lake and drinking tea.

The nice thing about this part of the world is that traveling is so difficult that one does not usually get a lot of visitors. A visitor brings news from the outside world, and this is something that one can yearn for. Hugo first came to Africa in 1959, because he wanted to film animals. He came for two years, and he never left. He made lecture films for Louis Leakey and at age 24 shot the photographs for the articles on the Leakey's work in Africa. He was married to Jane Goodall for 10 years, and he has spent most of his life observing and recording wildlife through a lens. He is having trouble breathing with his emphysema now, but he wastes no time in filling me in on what has been happening. It seems all the wild dogs have all been exterminated by rabies brought in by the Maasai dogs; the lion numbers are down due to feline distemper, and so the cheetah numbers are up. The bat-eared foxes have been hit by rabies, and the poaching is still bad on the western boundary. According to Hugo, some people there have never tasted cow meat, only wild game meat. There are snares everywhere along that boundary, and the park used to feel very big when there weren't so many tourists. Hugo relays all this news as one might talk about the traffic jams on the way to work, and I have to quietly smile as I listen.

He then tells me about the pilot Bill Stedman who crashed his motor glider while coming in to land here last year. He was working on Hugo's film 'The Leopard Sun'; the plane just dropped out of the sky, and Bill was dead. We both pause and looked out across the lake. I ask Hugo if he remembers when we landed on that lake and built a fire on the edge as part of our 'camping scene' for the film. He remembers and chuckles about this. I was arrested shortly after that back in Seronera by armed scouts. They took me to the park warden's office, but I had no idea why. I was asked what I had done the previous day, and I explained that we had been filming by the lake and had landed on its edge. A little man confirmed that I had landed on the edge of the lake, and then I was released because I had told the truth. I was still a little confused by all this. I was told that they were going to 'compound' me and the plane, but that since I had told the truth, I would now only have to pay a fine. I shuddered to think what this fine would be, but it was only 1,500 Tanzanian Shillings (about $3).

Extract ID: 3657

external link

See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19c
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Chimpanzees

I ask Hugo what he has learned out here. He tells me that he is calmer and more self-assured now, but this is probably due to age. 'You are alive thanks to luck in many ways,' he tells me. 'How fragile life is.' He explains to me that if you are out here full time, it is not good. 'You get tunnel vision and you lose your perspective.' Hugo has seen a lot of scientists and researchers pass through here. When they arrive they have a lot of fear of Africa for about six months, then they go completely the other way and become fearless. It is the same with pilots, he says, and that is the most dangerous time - when they become fearless. Hugo spent many years observing Chimpanzees when he was with his former wife Jane Goodall. He tells me the good Chimp mothers would discipline their young with a hit or a bite on the hand, followed by a hug afterwards. This is how you should treat human children, he explains. Hugo and Jane have a son named Grob, and he tells me that they never ignored his crying. If you ignore their crying, they will become insecure. I am always interested when anyone has advice on how to be a good parent. Silently, perhaps, I must be longing for this.

Chimps, to Hugo, aren't animals; they are so close to humans. He tells me about the tame Chimpanzee named Washoe in USA. It was asked to sort different photographs into humans and animals. He put the photos of himself with the humans, and he put the photo of his mother, who he didn't know, with the animals. Hugo asks me, 'If Neanderthal man were alive today, would we call him human?' In captivity, Chimps that haven't been brought up in a group don't know how to mate. Robondo is an island in Lake Victoria west of here. It is the only successful complete rehabilitation in the world of domestic Chimpanzees back into nature. Domestic Chimps know your strength; they will attack you. Wild Chimps think you are stronger, so they will run. Robondo was set up as a refuge for certain endangered species by Bernard Grzimek in the 60's. The Chimps were just dumped there. All the original adults are now gone, but when Markus Borner went there and pointed a camera lens at a female with a baby, she attacked and injured him, so perhaps they haven't forgotten everything.

Extract ID: 3658

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19d
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Tim Ward

The mention of Robondo reminds me of a pilot friend that I had met in the Serengeti. Tim Ward was one of those friendly people who would take the time to help you. I only knew him briefly, but he helped me find my way around the Serengeti during the film. I was shocked when I later learned that he had crashed taking off from the 900 meter airstrip on Robondo. Everyone one board was killed. I had filed this somewhere in the back of my head and was very surprised to meet his widow some years later in South Africa. I got to know him better by listening to her, and she said to me, 'God takes young, those he loves the most.'

Extract ID: 3659

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19e
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Sarah cheetah

I leave Hugo and fly north to Seronera. This is the location of the park headquarters and the research camp. Everyone in the research camp seems to have a nickname relating to what they are researching or doing. There is 'John wildebeest', 'Jane of the Serengeti', 'Tracy balloon', 'Sarah cheetah', 'Sarah rabies', 'Sarah simba', and 'the hyenas'.

Sarah Durant has been here for five years researching cheetahs. Her project is a long range one which involves tracking known individuals by spots and markings. The mortality, birth rate, and different aspects of cheetah behavior are recorded to predict how the population will behave and how the cheetahs fit into the ecosystem. Sarah uses a sound system to play back lion and hyena sounds to cheetahs in order to record their reaction. Sarah has observed that the most successful cheetah mothers are the ones who move the farthest from the lion calls. We travel out into the plains and set up the equipment near some cheetahs. When the lion sound is played, the female cheetah looks up and analyzes the sound. It then usually takes her about 15 minutes to then get up and move from 500 meters to one kilometer away. Sarah takes a lot of time recording the smallest details of behavior in her notebook and the times that they occur. It almost seems to be over-analyzing their behavior to me until she explains that only 5% of young cheetah cubs reach maturity due to predation by lion and hyena, so the little details matter. Sarah plays hyena 'whooping' sounds through her speaker. This is a contact call which they make as they are moving around. The 'giggling sound' they make only when they are on a kill. However, neither of these sounds seem to disturb the cheetahs as much as the lion calls. The furthest distance that Sarah has been able to locate a cheetah is 7.5 kilometers. She has to find them with binoculars first, then she can follow and observe them. 90% of the cheetah's diet is Thompson's Gazelle, so most often, you will find them perched up on an old termite mound surveying the horizon. Sarah tells me that she wants to find out what is best for the cheetah in the long term. 'You don't want to encourage them being pets. This is what wiped them out in Asia; the Maharajas used them for hunting.'

Sarah tells me that the Tanzanians have no concept that tourists should get something for their money when they come here. 'Just look at the menu and how much you have to pay to stay in the lodges here,' she says with a smile, and yet, this is also what Sarah likes the most about this place - that it just doesn't matter. 'I think people need something beautiful in their lives and wilderness is beautiful - like art and culture. This is why this place is important,' she says. When you sit out in the wilderness all day looking at nature all around you, you begin to realize this. She tells me that Coco Chanel once said, 'Nature gives you the face you have at 20, but it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50.' We all earn our face.

Extract ID: 3660

external link

See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19f
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

Ballooning

Long before the sun rises, Tracy Robb and I have left camp to prepare her balloon. The clients arrive and we are airborne drifting across the Serengeti. From up here, the Serengeti comes alive. It is covered with animals. On the ground, the wind is from the south, and as we increase in altitude the wind comes from the east. The higher we go the more we turn to the left. This is how she steers. In the northern hemisphere it is the opposite; you will turn to the right with height. Tracy is from South Africa, and ballooning is her passion. I find my eyes are fixed to the ground as we drift along. The wildlife below is looking up at us, not knowing whether to watch or run as we pass.

Back on the ground, I am starting to notice that there are more female researchers than male researchers here. I feel a little bit like a Thompson's gazelle surrounded by cheetahs, and I am not sure that I am very comfortable about it. This surprises me, because I would have imagined that I wouldn't mind the attention, but this is different. I think males naturally like to hunt their prey or their mates, but they aren't so keen to have it the other way around. I find myself trying to avoid places and situations where I might be hunted. This is certainly a new experience for me, and I soon find security with John wildebeest.

John tells me that before the Drought of 1993, there were 1.6 million wildebeest. Now, there are .9 million. There are a quarter million zebra and a half million Thompson's gazelle. John conducts his research by putting grass on a one meter square platform sled and dragging it up to a group of gazelle. He doesn't stop his vehicle, so as not to frighten the gazelle, but he releases the sled. The idea is that the gazelle will then come up and feed off the sled. He can then compare the weight of the grass before and after they have fed. So far this hasn't worked, because the gazelle haven't fed of the platform, but John remains optimistic.

Late in the afternoon, I sit east of Seronera and watch the sun set over the horizon. After the sun goes down, the sky turns a brilliant red as the sun shines up on the base of the clouds. Normally, the sun sets quite quickly along the equator, but this red glow continues for a full 15 minutes as the surrounding darkness envelopes me. This is taking far too long. I study this until I become convinced that I have made a great discovery. The sun must surely be reflecting off of Lake Victoria like a mirror and bouncing back up into the sky. I cannot imagine any other explanation for what I am seeing, but unfortunately no one thinks this is possible.

Extract ID: 3661

external link

See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 19g
Extract Date: 1996 08 Jul

National Geographic Air Force manoeuvres

Markus Borner is preparing his plane to go and track lions. He tells me that last night an elephant wanted to sit on my plane. The askaris had to fire shots into the air. It was the same elephant that had wrecked the boats and the land rover. The boats were wooden canoes confiscated from poachers all lined up in a row. The elephant walked down the whole row and crushed them. The land rover it turned over with its tusks. He is a solitary bull, and he is a bit mischievous. Markus works for Frankfurt Zoological Society here, and during the 'Serengeti Diary' film, we flew together in formation across the wildebeest migration. I could only see him half the time as he was beneath my nose, and I had to watch him on a small television screen through the camera as we were flying. He called these film runs the 'National Geographic Air Force maneuvers', and we would whiz past kopjies and trees and wildebeest like feathers in the wind.

Markus is old fashioned. He believes there should be places on earth where man is not. He also thinks that conservation or a national heritage is a sounder base than just revenue. 'It should be pride, not money,' he says. Markus knew Professor Bernard Grzimek, and he says that Grzimek trusted the Africans and believed in them; it was not just money for them. At the time of independence, there was just one national park in Tanzania. Now, there are 12 national parks and 1 Ngorongoro conservation area. Markus says, 'I learned through Grzimek to listen to older people. It is worthwhile to listen. Wilderness is an emotional thing, and emotion is important for us. We always try to find a rational reason for things; emotion is more important.' He refers to Grzimek's chapter heading - 'listening to a lion roar'. 'We have had a wave of rationalizing since then, but now emotion is coming back.'

Extract ID: 3662

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See also

Claytor, Tom Bushpilot, 1996
Page Number: 22
Extract Date: 1996

Sandy Field

Just before I arrived in Kenya, Sandy Field went missing. He was 78 years old and the oldest licensed pilot in the country. The weather was bad. He had waited several days for it to clear, then finally he thought he could make it. There is a saddle of rising ground between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares that can block the way up to Nanyuki in bad weather. Sandy tried to swing around the east side of Mt. Kenya and was never heard from again. The whole flying community joined in the search for over a week. He disappeared in June, and it wasn't until August that his wreck was found. He had come down in the bamboo forest, and the plane was invisible beneath the canopy. Sandy's great fear was always the thought of ending his life in the Nanyuki Cottage Hospital. He loved hunting elephants, and he was interested in the Third Reich. It was strange that the person who finally found Sandy's remains was an Embu honey-hunter named "Hitler". All that remained was a piece of his skull and some hair. His body had been eaten by a leopard, and I am told that he would have been pleased that his body had gone to the animals he had loved so much.

Extract ID: 3893
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