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LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Maryanne Vollers
December 17, 1990
AS THE SLAUGHTER OF WILDLIFE CONTINUES ALL ACROSS AFRICA, TWO BRAVE AMERICANS FIGHT TO SAVE THE ANIMALS IN A REMOTE CORNER OF ZAMBIA
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December 17, 1990

Light In The Darkness

AS THE SLAUGHTER OF WILDLIFE CONTINUES ALL ACROSS AFRICA, TWO BRAVE AMERICANS FIGHT TO SAVE THE ANIMALS IN A REMOTE CORNER OF ZAMBIA

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Mark makes six more flights this afternoon. As he lands on the beach to drop off the last four game scouts, their leader walks up to the plane. He is dressed in clean green fatigues. All the scouts have new sleeping bags, boots and rations supplied by the Owenses. The lead scout tells Mark that his men cannot go on patrol because they don't have enough cornmeal and salt.

"You'll go on patrol, or you'll bloody walk out of this park!" Mark snaps as he climbs back into the cockpit.

Back at Marula-Puku, Delia hands Mark a beer. "How'd your day go, honey?" she asks.

He flops down in a chair by the edge of the river and wearily fills her in on the latest game-scout hassles. The Owenses have tried to motivate the scouts by offering them rewards for every poacher they capture. But most of the game guards are armed only with ancient carbines, while the poachers have AK-47s. Some scouts are less than enthusiastic about their jobs. And because they are civil servants, it is difficult to fire them for refusing to patrol. Last year the Owenses bought them new shotguns and field radios, but the permits to issue them have been held up in the government's tortuous bureaucracy.

You need permits for everything in Zambia. Permits to live in the park and permits to leave. Shuffling papers, repairing broken equipment and pampering the game scouts suck up most of the Owenses' energy.

They have sacrificed a great deal for their magnificent obsession with Africa. Their careers as scientists have taken a backseat to their conservation efforts. Delia and Mark are still writing up their research from the Kalahari and still haven't completed their doctorates. A sequel to Cry of the Kalahari is years overdue at the publisher's.

The Owenses' personal sacrifice is sharper. Delia's father and both of Mark's parents have died since the couple came to Africa. Delia missed her twin brother's wedding as well as most of the christenings and funerals and holiday dinners that hold families together.

Don't they ever think about calling it quits and going home? "That's not an acceptable option," says Mark. "If people like us give up, it tells the world there isn't any hope. We have a responsibility here. Besides, you don't quit when you're winning."

Mark and Delia quietly watch a family of zebras drinking in the Lubonga in the last safe moments of sunlight at the end of another African day. Just then, an elephant steps out of the tall grass and slowly crosses the river.

"It's Survivor!" Delia whispers. "He's come back!"

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