The watcher eased himself to his feet, scanning the scrub to each side and in front of him. Silently he inched himself around the tree at his back. He heard the soft sound again, but this time he was in a position to identify from which direction it came. His eyes searched between the twigs and leaves. There was no movement.
Holding his breath he lowered himself slowly – slowly – to a crouch at the base of the tree.
“Must be a small animal,” he thought. “I would surely have seen it if it were the size of a dog – or a man!”
A flicker of movement caught at the corner of his eye. The infinitesimal movement of his head brought his vision round. There, at ground level – aaargh! His eyes lit with laughter held deep inside. An iguana was munching a butterfly, a wing protruding from its mouth.
Amos Mboya was a Game Guard. He was one of a handful of guards patrolling a section of the Park where poachers had begun making inroads. Each man carried a ration pack, rifle and a small two-way radio. Each man was a fully trained tracker.
The poachers were working along the line of the river, although it was not yet established that they were using the river for transportation. It seemed they had learned the importance of covering their tracks, coming and going, leaving only the evidence of their kill where the bones lay or the vultures gathered.
“Thank you, Mfundisi.” Game Guard Amos was a man with a deep trust in the protecting power of God. He depended on the Lord for guidance and wisdom every day. He was quick to express his gratitude, however silently, for every relaxation of the tension of his work. A butterfly-munching iguana was no threat to him, as a poacher would be. At the same time he was at pains not to disturb the lizard. A panic-stricken animal might well betray his position in the area.
Several days later the Guards were back at the Headquarters Camp to report on their patrols. Well to the east of the HQ camp three poachers had been taken while chopping the horn from a dead rhinoceros. A young calf stood nearby, waiting to suckle from the dead cow.
In another section the remains of two kudu were found, stripped of skin and horns. Hyena and jackal were squabbling over the bones. Several traps had been found and removed or disabled. There were insufficient guards to monitor the traps.
The Senior Park Warden was present to hear the reports and to discuss future movement plans.
Amos stepped forward. “Sir.” His request for attention was respectful but not obsequious.
“I think, sir, that some of the poachers are using the river.” He stepped to the map tacked to the wall. “I know we have not seen any evidence, but on the nights kills were made here, and here,” his finger and thumb rested on two places, “there was a heavy storm. The noise of the storm would cover the sound of the engine of a boat, and the rain would wash out their tracks, and hide the place where they landed. There have been more kills made during the storm season, and now there are fewer storms there are also fewer kills.”
The Park Ranger they called the Singer was standing at Amos shoulder. Lips pursed in a soundless whistle, he studied the pins, notes and dates recording the kills on the map.
Stepping back, he nodded. “He’s right, sir. As we know, these men are killing, not for food but commercial gain, so they will undoubtedly revise their plan of action. The outlook for capturing them this season is growing less likely every day. But this may give us the chance to reorganize our defenses ahead of them.”
At once the dispirited group straightened, drawn together in the renewed hope of doing something positive in the defense of the sorely threatened wild life of the Game Park. Amos was the animated center of the group.
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