How to Be Robbed in Africa

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Kilimanjaro.

The cloud covered peak appears like a soft cake from above in the rickety plane that could fall apart at any moment. A thick white frosting is overflowing from the center and it reminds me that I haven't had a good pastry in a long time.

The grasslands are gold and green and as the plane descends you can see the landscape dotted with animals of all shapes and colors. Roving masses of wildebeest, Thomson's gazelles that dart off the plains and disappear in the tall grass, some sort of deer with white underbellies that look from one direction to the next before dipping back into the grass for another bite. 

I look for the lions and hyenas but don't see any. They grow rare because of the encroachment of man and by poachers. I heard a story that a whole pride of lions was slaughtered because a wealthy Arabian businessmen wanted to kill a pride and they paid off some park officials and were allowed to do it. I thought of the little bouncing lion cubs with their sweet faces, walking close to the party of people out of childhood curiosity and being shot to death in return.

The plane lands and we get off. My guide was behind me and he whispered in my ear, "Do you have any money on you?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Hide it in your ass."

"What?"

"You need to hide it in your ass. If you hide it in your boot or in your crotch they'll search you and find it."

We get into a car and drive for what seems like forever and I'm thinking about why I should shove cash in my ass. I decide my guide is being way too cautious and hide my cash in the inside pocket of my vest (yeah, I wore a vest because I saw someone in an Indiana Jones movie wear one).

We step out and a crowd of people swarm over us. I thought we could slip by but we're spotted as tourists right away.

"I want to see some lions," I tell my guide.

"We can find some. But it's not as easy as it used to be. They're dying out. Now try not to get everything stolen. And don't fight back. These are hungry people and they are just doing what hungry people do."

Dozens of hands cover me. They find the pocket on my vest and take my cash.

"I told you to hide it in your ass," my guide says.

"I thought you were messing with me."

We get in another jeep and drive out on the plains. We sit for a long time while the guide looks through binoculars. We drive a little more and then get out and sit behind a bush.

"What are we doing here?" I ask.

"Look right there."

He points to shapes moving underneath the shade of a tree and my heart drops into my stomach. A male lion, its mane swaying in the breeze, is falling asleep as the rest of the pride finish their meal of zebra or whatever they had killed. Once it's torn open, all animals look the same.

We watch them for a long time and then get back in the jeep and begin to drive.

"You have a daughter?" my guide asks.

"Yeah."

"She will not see lions when she is older unless they are imprisoned in a zoo. They will not live that long. The poachers pay good money to hunt them."

I look back to the pride. Many of them finished with the food and are lying happily under the tree. Two little cubs playfully jumped on their father and then ran away before running back and jumping on him again.

I turn back around.


If you wish to donate to the World Wildlife Fund and help save our lions, please visit their website at www.worldwildlife.org






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1 comment:

  1. The name of this totally caught my attention. Did you actually experience this?

    I love that you added the World Wildlife Fund's link at the end. I'm tweeting this. :)

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