Elephant Trouble
Monkey Trouble
Lions in the Night
Mad Dogs
Swooning Italian
Potholes of Life
Dr. Boteler I Presume
Lions and Lions
Elephant Call
Roxy and Robert
Eagle and Python


Adventure enough for two!

My loving mwamuna wanga (aka my husband, Bill) arrived last Monday and found his wandering wife just where he thought I’d be -- no expedition involved, well unless you count the 42 hours of traveling. Bill even recognized me despite my month in the wilds of Zambia.  After all I haven’t been quite as out of touch as poor Dr. Livingstone.  My favorite little frog disappeared the day that Bill arrived.  I waxed romantic and told Bill the frog left because he realized I’d already found my Prince.  Bill said “Or maybe the bathroom cobra ate him!”

I’ve reminded Bill of the clause in our marriage contract that requires him to deal with any living creature bigger than two inches with zero or more than four legs.  That fine print includes the gigantic cockroach wiggling in the bathtub and the even bigger fuzzy gray spider in our bedroom.  Those two made it outside alive, unlike the tsetse fly inside our mozzie net that Bill dispatched with a shot of Doom, the local insect killer, in his best great white hunter mode.  We both tried to rescue the little aquatic frog swimming in the toilet bowl, but alas he swam the wrong way and had a real-life Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

The "snake" on the floor of our
posh bathroom

Bill is happy that he hasn’t had to live up to the legless creature removal clause so far, though the souvenir snake skin in our house gave us a fright when it was blown onto the floor of the bathroom while we were away.  Sadly, the local villagers have not been so lucky lately.  Yesterday, a young man hobbled into the clinic after being bitten on the foot by a puff adder the night before.  He had trouble finding transportation from his village 40 miles away, and by the time he arrived, his foot and leg were dramatically swollen and numb.  We did everything we could for him which meant giving a tetanus shot and injections of two different antibiotics before sending him off to find transport to Kamoto Hospital.  Last night with only the night nurse at the clinic, another man was brought in after a black mamba bit him on the leg.   Black mambas are the most feared snakes in Africa. Aggressive and able to “stand up” two thirds of its nine to twelve foot body length the mamba with its appropriately “coffin-shaped” head has a bite that is 100 percent fatal, within as quickly as an hour of the bite,  without antivenom treatment.  The closest available antivenom to reverse the neurotoxic effects of the venom is at Chipata General Hospital, a hopeless three hour drive away.  The nurse said this father of five cried to see his children before he died, but his family lived too far away.  He was only 33 years old.

Lest you all think that the ground here is crawling with poisonous snakes, I’ve learned that this father was exceedingly unlucky since many people who have lived here all their lives have never seen a mamba.  Living here I am struck by our Western perception of risk. We think nothing of driving down to Seattle on I-5, yet ten times as many people (about 50,000) are killed in traffic accidents in the US every year than die of snakebite in the world.  If those 50,000 were dying of an infectious disease or snakebite we would be beside ourselves with fright.


A nice place to rest a foot or a trunk


Elephant siesta in the shade

Fortunately, my encounters with the animals continue to be more entertaining than dangerous.  The elephants decided to have lunch on the trees between the Flatdogs office and the restaurant yesterday, so I had to wait for them to move on before I could get to my truck.  Last week, the ellies decided to have a siesta by the picnic tables in front of the dining room.  Several of them were sprawled out happily in the shade of the big sausage trees keeping us from enjoying the nice shady spot.  At breakfast we keep an eye out for the baboon whom we found with his face in the sugar bowl when we walked away for just a moment.


Baboon with a sweet tooth


Waiting to make his move

Being the doctor for the safari lodge guests and staff is the main reason I can be here to enjoy these amazing animals.  The mzungus suffer mostly from gastrointestinal illnesses and fever that brings worries for malaria.  Just like family medicine back home though, I’ve seen people with everything from a stress reaction from overwork to eye injuries to asthma.  And then there was the strange case of the naked Italian ... but that will have to wait for another time.




Sunset on the Luangwa

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This page was last updated 01/07/06