It was young, not yet fully grown. It wasn’t very thin although it should have been. With injuries like those, it should really not have been alive at all. Yet it’s coat had a sheen on it, it’s eyes were bright and it’s nose was moist, all the signs of health.The dogs had alerted us to its being there. Their barking was a loud call to us to come and so we went. It was a young kudu cow.It happened many years ago but to this day, the memory of it is clear. There it stood on all four legs, but the left back leg, from the middle of the shin, was just bone. Nothing else. Just bone. Unbelievable, but true. It had probably been caught in the jagged steel jaws of a trap and in its frantic tugging to get free had left the flesh behind. The hoof and bone above it was still intact, though no flesh clung to it. How it had managed to survive is a riddle. No-one else I know has seen a similar phenomenon. If an animal can survive like this, why can’t a human being?Trapping in Southern Africa is a means to an end, the end being the alleviation of hunger. People are poor, and hungry mouths are a constant source of concern. If they work and their wages are not paid on time, they have no resources to fall back on. Many cannot find work. Don’t judge too harshly or criticise too emotionally then. When a beautiful animal like a kudu presents itself to you, very few are they, in circumstances of hunger, who do not kill it to eat.
There was a very real danger of it being hunted by a pack of dogs, and in its present condition it would not have been able to survive such an attack. There being no veterinary practice within 60 miles, and no means of tranquilizing and transporting it to a vet, we decided that it would be best to shoot it. When it came to be skinned, another miracle regarding its ability to survive was revealed. The bullet from a heavy rifle had passed through the centre of its back, from right to left, just beneath the spinal column. It had healed perfectly with only the memory of the trauma it must’ve suffered living on in our imagination.And so the struggle for survival between man and his surroundings goes on in many parts of the world even today.Where is one able to see animals roaming free and not endangered in their natural environment? There are not that many places left. In addition to its public game reserves, Africa has quite large tracts of scantily populated areas, but they are often inaccessible. Canada has Algonquin Park where moose may be seen. They come to the small lakes to taste the salt licks put out for them and to roll in the mud. A good way to view them is on especially designed canoeing trips. These days though, shooting them with a camera is the best way of capturing a memorable moment.Botswana has hippo, antelope, giraffe and many other types of wild life along the unspoiled Okovango Delta. It is possible to view them from a mukoro, a flat-bottomed dugout which is poled by a guide in the same way that a punt is propelled. The mukoro is ideal for swamps as the water cannot be deeper than the length of the guide’s pole. In recent years hippo have greatly objected to mukoros that came too close, posing a considerable risk to the unwary sightseer.The Yukon in Canada lays a table of variety for paddlers. The Amazon Rain forest in Ecuador can be explored by canoe. In New Hampshire along Magalloway River and Umbagog Lake there are varied experiences to be enjoyed by canoe. Tampa Bay in Florida offers the opportunity for paddling enthusiasts to see alligators and other wild creatures, a popular activity for canoeists as statistics show. All this is good exercise, new experiences, fresh air and an ongoing interest in one’s surroundings. Better than Peter Stuyvesant.
Typing ‘wild life and canoeing’ into a search engine or other terms specific to viewing wild life, will bring up both information and sites which offer organised canoe trips. Places mentioned in this article can also be searched for if any of them should be of interest to you.If you want to own your own canoe, here are a few examples of the wide range of crafts available:Pelican boats have the Colorado assembled family canoe. Designed with family fun in mind, it is safe and stable, versatile and easy to manoeuvre, carrying up to 800lbs.Old Town Guide have a 16′ canoe designed for the outdoor person looking for a canoe stable enough for fishing or nature watching, yet versatile enough for family outings.Real Canoe is 18′ long, built of strips of red and yellow Canadian cedar and encapsuled in fibre glass. It weighs around 55lbs (25kgs) and comes supplied with two oars. Carry it on the roof of your car to the waterside.