Bet you didn’t know the “Big Five” refers to the five species of game hunters favor shooting; rhinoceros, leopard, Cape buffalo, lion, and elephant remain prey to human hunters in Tanzania and South Africa. Luckily, Kenya banned hunting in the 70s.
Didn’t see rhino (since they’re now protected by armed guards within confines of private game parks, mainly in Laikipia). Shaba National Reserve is remote and in the past been was visited by more poachers than tourists. The reserve now teems with KWS-trained armed rangers.
However, most species of game in this park, spooked by presence of vehicles, remain wary and elusive. All five lion prides supposedly padding around Shaba National Reserve seemed to elude us the two days we were there. We did see some lion spoor, however. Under the super full moon we glimpsed small herds of shy elephant and never shy Cape buffalo.
The dry environment suits gerenuk, which we saw plenty of. The Swahili term for gerenuk is “swala twiga” which means “gazelle giraffe” describing their unusually long necks. They’ve evolved to find their own niche for food by standing on hind legs and stretching their necks to eat leaves on acacia trees. No competition for food.
We stayed at Joy’s Camp, named after wildlife behavioralist, Joy Adamson. The 1966 film, Born Free, depicted her efforts raising a lion cub she named Elsa. The camp is classic old-style safari, but with cavernous canvas tents and floaty silk curtains inside.
Somewhat creepily, Joy Adamson’s life came to a violent end in 1980 not far from where our tents sat on a bluff over-looking a spring fed water-hole. (Hint: don’t piss off the mpishi). Her ex-husband, George Adamson, was murdered 9 years later in another national park. Legend has it that he was killed by poachers as he tried rescuing a tourist. No sign of Joy’s ghost, mercifully, only lovely photos of her on safari and meeting the Queen of England.