A lion attack claimed the life of a heroic guide who put himself in harm’s way to protect the lives of the tourists under his charge.
Guide Quinn Swales was fatally mauled by an adult male lion while protecting a group of tourists on a wildlife tour of Hwange National Park.
Swales, a Zimbabwean Professional Guide working in Hwange National Park, was leading a half-dozen tourists on a “bush walk.” A bush walk is something of a nature walk where tourists see and learn about flora and fauna they encounter.
During the walk a male lion charged the group and Swales, age 40, died in the attack. But he also prevented any in his party from injury by a selfless act of heroism.
Camp Hwange, a tourist safari operation located in the Hwange National Park, described the attack that killed Swales:
Quinn and his group of six clients had come across the tracks of a pride of lions while walking down the edge of an open savannah “vlei line” and soon thereafter came across the pride lying down some distance from them. At this point the adult male rose and began walking purposefully towards the group. As he had done numerous times in his career, Quinn immediately briefed his guests on what to expect and instructed them to get behind him and not move.
At this stage the lion did not charge the group, but unusually kept walking purposefully towards them. Once it had breached a certain point, both Quinn and his party of guests began shouting at the lion in an attempt to intimidate it. This had the desired affect and the lion stopped to watch them, allowing Quinn the opportunity to set off a “bear banger” (very loud fire bang) to further dissuade it. This caused the lion to move off obliquely, away from the group, in a manner which suggested it would return to the pride, but it suddenly turned and instantaneously charged and attacked Quinn who had continued to place himself between his guests and the animal.
Quinn bore the full brunt of the charge and, unable to fire his rifle due to the speed of the attack, literally stopped the attack of the lion on his group by placing himself directly in harm’s way. Having been thrown to the ground, bitten in the shoulder and neck Quinn sadly died at the scene, the shouting of his guests driving the lion away from his body and allowing, ultimately unsuccessfully, emergency first aid to be performed.
Using the handheld radio, the guests – themselves unhurt and now out of danger – then called camp for assistance.
Hwange National Park is the habitat from which the lion known as Cecil roamed and was killed outside of several weeks ago. The killing of that lion sparked a viral Internet outcry.
Swales, who was also a pilot and off-road motorbike enthusiast, reportedly posted a photo of Cecil the lion on his Facebook page a couple of weeks before his tragic death.
Those in the conservation and hunting communities have praised Mr. Swales, although his selfless sacrifice alone also reveals the kind of man he was.
Longtime Professional Guide David Carson, General Manager of Camp Hwange, said, “Only praise and admiration can be given to Quinn in the professional way he unflinchingly faced the charging lion, thus ensuring that he protected the clients all of whom were unharmed in any way. He paid the ultimate price in pursuit of a job he loved, in an area he knew so well. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, colleagues and friends at this sad time. It would be appreciated if the family be given the privacy to mourn the loss of a fine man.”
Shelley Cox, of African Bush Camps said of Swales, “Quinn’s actions in successfully protecting the lives of his guests is heroic and reminiscent of his outstanding guiding skills, experience and training. It is certainly a tragedy and a loss to the guiding fraternity and tourism industry.”
Unfortunately, Swales’ tragic death has somewhat reignited the ire of many in the online anti-hunting community, a small though vocal minority of the population who raged over the killing of the lion referred to as Cecil, who virtually none of them had even heard of before the story broke.
Here we have Quinn Swales, a man who worked most of his life to help conserve and support sound wildlife management, who gave his time and energy to preserve dwindling habitat and to combat poaching and wildlife abuse and who, in his last moments, placed himself directly in harm’s way to save his fellow human beings.
And yet, we see many comments from the anti-hunting community that are either disparaging or dismissive of Mr. Swales’ untimely death and sacrifice.
Regardless of the inhumanity of much of the online anti-hunting crowd, the support and heartfelt condolences from those who knew Quinn Swales or who simply know the general character of many in the African professional hunting community, was overwhelmingly supportive and kind.
Condolences and support poured in on the Camp Hwange Facebook page, as the following examples attest:
- Mark Homann: “Quinn was a great guide of the old school, always happy and was brilliant with clients. May he always have dust on his feet, the sun on his back and his soul in the sky.”
- Gail Duvenhage: “I had the pleasure of working with Quinn at Chokamella in the early 90’s…..he was a true bushman!. Sincere condolences to his family. Sadly another wildlife warrior has been lost.”
- Billy Doughty: “This is just tragic and unreal. We only left Quinn yesterday. What an amazing guide and a wonderful human being. My children will forever remember their first safari experience with this wonderful man!! Our thoughts are with everyone at the camp and all of Quinn’s family.”
- Nick Dawson: “Three weeks ago Quinn took us on a 6mi/10k walking safari around some of his favorite pans. He stopped to explain each species of grass, every foot print and every dropping. To see someone so proficient and so utterly propelled by the their work is to see what true passion looks like. After we left Hwange, our group talked about who we’d want nearby if the end of the world ever came. Quinn was top of the list. I’m so unbelievably sad at this news —for Quinn, for his family, for Camp Hwange and for any visitor to Zimbabwe who will never get to meet him. I hope time replaces some of the pain with good memories of a wonderful, brave, intrepid man.”
Incidents like this highlight what the hunting community is up against in the anti-hunting crowd: ignorance, emotionalism and a dramatic disconnect from both humanity and the natural world…even callousness at the death of another human being who spent his life working on behalf of African wildlife.
It’s a shame, because in their emotionalism many anti-hunters blindly condemn and ridicule the very people who are doing the most for the cause the antis claim to cherish – the preservation and protection of our shared wildlife – people like Quinn Swales and his fellow hunter conservationists.
He deserves their gratitude and respect, not their unseemly mocking or cavalier dismissal.
But Quinn Swales certainly has the respect and gratitude of the conservation and hunting community, as a man who not only cared deeply for wildlife but who clearly, by virtue of the heroic manner in which he gave his life, cared for and valued all life.
Images from Quinn Swales’ Facebook page.