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One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 4: Spots

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Joe Riekers

Find out what happens when a problem leopard invades a garden in this part of the one-month odyssey with the Game Rangers.

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

Part 3 is here: One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 3: Pachyderms

At 8:00 a.m., we arrive at the Protea Hotel Cairo Rd. Lusaka.

“Stay here,” Johannes says. When I step out of the car he drives off, leaving me at the curb.

What the hell? – This is becoming my motto.

I go inside, and low and behold, they have a reservation for me for one day. There is a wake up call for 12:30 p.m.. Oh great, three and a half hours of sleep, at best.

12:30 p.m. seems to take a long time to get here. That was because when I thought it was 8:30 a.m., it was actually 5:30 a.m. Why didn’t I just set my watch ahead instead of continuously trying to add the hours?

Klaase knocks on the door, and since I have been pacing with anxiety wondering if they’d ever come get me, I open it immediately. As soon as I open it, he just turns and walks away. I grab my bag and follow.

Joe Riekers
Joe Riekers

 

Seeing spots

We get in the Toyota and drive a long way. Johannes’ cell phone rings and he starts speaking, partly in English. I recognize these words: “Yes, I know where, goats, now, the courtyard, male (with emphasis like it was a question), now, Kenneth, now, three times, courtyard.”

He hangs up and slams on the brakes, does a 360-degree spinout and stomps on the gas.

Soon we drive through several gates towards a huge house. There is a 14-foot entryway to a courtyard with arched ceilings that is at least 150 feet long. There are huge wooden doors on each end, and they are propped open.

Inside the courtyard there is a table and chairs to seat 16 people. There is a fountain with water running and a doorway to go into the house. The floor is made of red-tinted cement blocks. Through the courtyard, I can see there is some type of garden on the other side.

We get out of the truck and Johannes says “Shhh.” We walk over to the courtyard and he motions for me to stay put. He walks back to the truck and gets his rifle, and I get mine. He says “Leopard.”

The real stalk

At the entry way he points down and takes his shoes off. I push toe to heel and get my sneakers off. When we get on the other side of the courtyard I see there are a bunch of small goats and sheep in a garden that is surrounded by a wire fence. Beyond the fence a sidewalk separates the grass from the tan colored building with big eight-foot windows.

I notice all the goats are piled into one corner, motionless.

“Shoooot,” Johannes points and whispers.

What? Where? Then my eyes focus on a leopard no more than 20 yards in front of us. The leopard is chomping away on a goat, and I can hear him chewing on the meat.

Johannes pokes me hard in the ribs and with a sense of urgency points at the spotted cat. I aim behind the shoulder, and the cat is slightly quartering away.

Boom

I didn’t even realize I was pulling the trigger. The leopard quivers, and kicks its back legs a few times. All is quiet for a few seconds, and the goats begin to run along the fence back and forth.

“Put it by the motor shed, “Johannes says, and he turns and walks away. The motor shed? I hope he means the garage.

I am struggling to lift the cat when a young kid brings a wheel barrel over. He helps me get the cat in, and I follow him to the motor shed where I pose the cat on a tree for pictures.

The Game Rangers are disinterested, as this is just another housecall for them.

In the next part the Game Rangers take on a herd of Cape Buffaloes.

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One Month with African Game Rangers, Part 4: Spots