As we slowly made our way in the old, rattly Land Cruiser, I glanced at our guide for the morning. His thin hands gripped the wheel with an intensity that made his bones and veins pop out at various angles. His skin was shiny with both age, and long exposure to the elements. We didn’t share a language, but we shared something much more visceral. As young children our fathers had taught us to hunt. Gorchie’s taught him to recognize the paths that small and large animals – Sunis, Duikers, Sables, Nyalas, Zebras – followed as they browsed or grazed through dense forest, open woodland, and floodplain.
“Eighteen years.” Gorchie’s English was better than my Sena, but we still had to communicate in fragments. I had asked how long ago he turned from Poacher to Anti-Poacher. He is now second-in-command of the Anti-poaching units active in Coutada 11.
The despicable nature of the poacher’s repertoire hit home hard when we came to the next stop on the tour. Gorchie pointed to a patch of sand and vegetation along our path located between two bushes. I didn’t understand what he was showing us. The patch was clearly a part of the path we were following. Gorchie spoke to the prisoner and gestured for him to do something. I still didn’t follow. The young boy picked up a thick branch, approached the empty space between the bushes, pointed the tip of the branch toward the ground, raised his arms above his head and suddenly plunged the tip of the branch into the center of the sandy spot. The explosion of the Gin Trap out of its hiding place reminded me of the sandworms from the movie Dune. Huge metal teeth clashed together, snapping the thick wood in two. Gorchie turned to me and stated flatly – “Zebra, Hartebeest, Nyala, Sable.” I could only think, “And, an ignorant tourist if you hadn’t stopped me from walking between those bushes.”
Excerpt from Mike’s Upcoming Book: BRINGING BACK THE LIONS: International Hunters, Local Tribespeople, and the Miraculous Rescue of a Doomed Ecosystem in Mozambique