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More animal encounters

A troop of baboons
Despite overcast, warm and humid conditions this morning, not usually the best for running, I felt quite good for my 13km loop.  I expected to be a little tired and sore from Sunday's long run, but coped with the hills well and maintained a good pace.  The only cloud on the horizon was that my sore right knee gave way unexpectedly on two occasions while running down hills.  This was unusual and hopefully not a sign of things to come.

While grinding my way up the first hill this morning, I was baled up by a dog who snarled and barked at me for a while but eventually backed off.  There was no sign of an owner, though I suspect they would have heard me yelling at the dog.  I'm of the view that I should be able to run around the suburban streets without having to deal with domestic animal threats and I've written a post before about Canine Challenges.  Of course, when you run in the domain of the animals, you accept the risk of, and responsibility for, dangerous encounters.

The Zambezi River above Victoria Falls
I have previously written about the threats from snakes (Reptilian Encounters), bison and bears (Yellowstone).  However, the wildlife encounter that scared me most was with a troop of baboons while running near Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in 1985.  We were visiting the area with friends and I had gone for a run of about 10km on my own along some of the local rural roads.  I rounded a corner to find a large troop of baboons, comprising adults and infants, scattered across the road.  I had seen some baboons in the wild earlier on the trip, and also read about the damage caused by one in a village soon after our arrival in Zimbabwe.  They possess an impressive and intimidating set of teeth, which they tend to bare when angry.

I briefly considered turning back, but decided that, living in the area, they were probably comfortable with humans, so continued on.  They stopped their foraging to watch my approach, and I began to regret my decision to proceed, reinforced when some of the adults began snarling at me.  Bluff seemed to be the best option, so I choose a route through the troop that didn't go too close to any individual baboon and ran through, ready to start snarling and lashing out myself if necessary.  They continued snarling, but didn't make any moves towards (or away) from me.  I kept running, held my breath, and soon they were behind me and foraging again.

A lion in Hwange National Park
The same trip to Zimbabwe yielded some other memorable wildlife encounters and non-encounters.  Just a few days before the baboon scare, my friend, Keith, and then wife, Barb, and I had gone for an evening run along a foot-trail through jungle bordering the Zambesi River, upstream from the Victoria Falls.  Keith had warned us the river was inhabited by crocodiles and that someone's pet dog had been taken by a crocodile the previous year from the very path we were running along.  Our senses were heightened throughout what was a spectacular sunset jungle run, but we all jumped every time we startled something in the undergrowth or heard a splash in the river.  The biggest jump came, however, when Keith yelled loudly as bat flew out of the gloom and into the side of his head.

Earlier during the same trip, we stayed in a small compound in the Hwange National Park, protected from the wildlife by a high surrounding fence.  It was not safe to run in the Park outside of the compound because of dangerous wildlife, and particularly the lions which had been sighted nearby.  One day, Keith and I were keen to go for a run, so drove from the compound to the Park entrance and ran a somewhat boring out-and-back 10 miles along a road bordering the Park.  Keith pointed out that there was no fence around the outside of the Park and therefore absolutely nothing to stop the wildlife from venturing on to the road where we were running.  In fact, we had seen some wild elephants nearby.  As Keith said, if a lion spotted us, one of us was dead (and he was fitter and faster than me at the time).  Nothing happened.