Be kind to animals - a novel concept

In 1995, Kenya was visited by 1,7 million tourists, and the number is rising. this is both a good and a bad thing. Good, because the Kenyan society - although rich according to African standards - is a very poor country, and the revenue generated through these visitors is the number one source of foreign currency and income of the Kenyan economy. Bad, because the same animals are visited daily by an ever increasing number of tourists, whose driving up right next to them at their resting places is bound to disrupt and harrass them. At one point my travel party observed just over 20 safari minibuses parked in a circle aroung what on closer inspection through binoculars turned out to be two cheetahs trying to get some rest.

[Cheetahs totally enclosed by minibuses]

The fact that is was cheetahs is significant, because these animals are - because of their inability to successfully defend their prey from jackals, hyenas and buzzards for long - forced to hunt more often than eg. lions, and therefore need their rest more than other animals.

[Impalas looking to see what's coming up the dirt track]

Sure, there are posh signs put up at the lodges telling about the ethical rules concerning game drives, which include that it is illegal to get so close to the animals that it will disrupt their lifestyle. Yet, on a daily basis, minibuses swarm around the animals, because the drivers know that when tourists are coming to Kenya, they are coming to experience the animals, and the closer they get, the happier the tourists are.

[Lions ignoring minibus]

Actually, the Elephants are by now so fed up that our driver managed to get the car more or less attacked by an angry elephant a day on average, because he didn't seem to want to learn from previous experiences. The close-ups before all! You should think that the three year course which future tourist drivers have to take in order to become drivers, which includes lessons in animal psychology, should give them some idea about how to best avoid annoying the animals. I have now been to Kenya twice, and my parents four times, and we still have to get a driver that is actually concerned about the well being of the animals.

So a tip for all future Africa travellers - bring along zoom tele lenses, preferably ones that can get you over the 200 (4 times magnification) size. The pictures taken here were only so-so at the distance at which we preferred to keep the animals, and the lens used is a 28-200 zoom. And believe me, it's annoying when you go to Africa, and your lens doesn't allow you to take the pictures you want.

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Hans-Henrik T. Ohlsen (ht@ohlsen.dk)


Write to HT.