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One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 3: Pachyderms

Elephant 4
Photo by Chris Troskie

The Game Rangers deal with problem elephants in this exciting part of this one-month odyssey.

Read Part 1 of the series here: One Month With African Game Rangers, Part 1: Meet the Rangers

 And Part 2 can be found here: One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 2: Hospitality

The problem elephant

Klaase grabs his rifle and runs into the veldt. Johannes pulls his out of the truck and checks the wind. I ask if I can bring my rifle and he ignores me and starts to walk away. I pull the 45-90 lever action rifle out anyway.

Quickly, I catch up with Johannes and he pushes me in front of him. We stop and I can smell something.

I see the elephant standing about 20 yards away. Johannes and Klaase are making a series of clucks and whistles. Without saying a word, Klaase gets 90 degrees from the bull and Johannes and I get right in front of it.

“Aim,” Johannes says out of nowhere.

I am thinking, Oh boy –  he’s going to let me do this!

Joe Riekers
Joe Riekers

The bull takes a step out from behind the trees and Johannes says “Shooooot now!”

In a split second I pull the trigger. The bull goes down on his rear but holds his head and I realize this is not a good sign. I immediately shoot again at the first crease in the trunk and the bull snaps its head back and slams it to the ground. I look around and Johannes has walked out already. Klaase is leaving too.

Some of the locals come over to the elephant. I am trying to get one of them to take a picture but they don’t understand. I offer them a dollar but they take my dollar and shake their head without taking the camera to take a picture.

I hear the Toyota start so I snap a quick picture of the bull and run back to the truck just in time to just in. The entire moment was over in what felt like a few seconds.

Joe Riekers
Joe Riekers

No time to savor the moment

We drive several hours. I have no idea where we are. I’ve asked questions about the whole elephant incident, but Johannes has said nothing but sings to himself in a language I don’t understand. It is getting dark when a clattering and a cloud of dusk engulf us as Klaase turns onto the road in front of us, barely missing the Toyota. Johannes has no reaction.

We stop and talk to a man and a woman at a tavern or hotel out in the middle of who knows where. We trot out into a field and Klaase climbs a big wooden tower. He climbs down and speaks to Johannes and off we go.

Johannes stops to pull a chute of some kind out of the ground and he puts it in his mouth and sucks on it. For the first time in two days he initiates conversation.

“Tastes like sugar,” he says to me.

Suddenly Klaase is yelling and Johannes has his rifle u.! Trees are literally falling down as an elephant comes our way. We all start shooting and the bull goes right down.

Johannes turns around and loads his rifle as we head back to the car like nothing happened. Another elephant is down. This is just another day at work for these Game Rangers. Out of what seems like nowhere, dozens of villagers come with buckets and knives and in less than two hours the elephant is reduced to a wet spot on the highveldt.

Find out what happens when a leopard invades a garden in Part 4 of this series.

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One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 3: Pachyderms