Stalking an African lion

An unknown adventure awaits the arrival of two Minot men. Mark Hamilton will be accompanying Dr. Robert Lagrone on an African safari in quest of dangerous game later this month.

The duo will share company where lions lurk in tall grass, where lengthy and ancient crocodiles pull villagers beneath the water of the foreboding Zambezi River and where cantankerous cape buffalo regularly rely on their unusually ornery attitude and tremendous weight to stomp the life out of even the best armed foe. Safari on the Dark Continent can be unforgiving. And exciting.

“Dr. Lagrone has got a huge safari,” said Hamilton. “He’s going to hunt leopard, cape buffalo, crocodile, hippo, sable and assorted other game. It’s dangerous game.”

Hamilton, who will be making his fifth trip to Africa, intends to be alongside Lagrone and record as much of the hunt as possible through video and still photography. The safari is expected to last three weeks. Hamilton has good knowledge of what is required to have a successful hunt in Africa. Leopard and cape buffalo are among his previous trophies.

Mokore Safaris, which Hamilton describes as one of the oldest and most established outfitting businesses in Zimbabwe, will be guiding the two Minot men.

“The guy who owns it is Barry Duckworth, a legend in Africa. He’s one of the very best,” said Hamilton. “They hunt all over Zimbabwe, which is about the size of Texas. Their main lodge is in southern Zimbabwe. It is excellent for plains game. Elephant, buffalo, leopard and lion, too.”

The population of elephants in Zimbabwe is estimated at 160,000, more than what the region can handle. The Zimbabwe government allows culling of the herd in an effort to reduce the elephant population to manageable levels. The U.S. import quota of Zimbabwe elephants is 500 per year. However, that number will be reduced to zero early next year.

“One of the reasons is that poachers poisoned about 300 elephants late last year so that they could take the ivory,” explained Hamilton. “The Chinese are buying all the ivory they can get. There’s no import restrictions in China. Nothing.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opted to implement a ban on all ivory from Zimbabwe and Tanzania. According to Hamilton, the result is that hunting and game scouts will be shut down. Game scouts are widely credited with deterring poachers.

“What’s going to happen now is that the hunter concessions can’t afford to hire the game scouts, so the poachers will come in. That’s the story. That’s what’s happening,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton is a U.S. booking agent for Mokore Safaris, so has an interest in seeing Lagrone enjoy a safe and successful safari. Certain areas of Africa are hotbeds of unrest and tribal rivalries. However, says Hamilton, those areas are far removed from where the upcoming safari will take place.

“People are leery of Sudan, Tanzania and Kenya but Zimbabwe is safe for hunters. Hunters are having no problems. Hunters are the source of American dollars there so the government takes great pains to protect hunters,” said Hamilton.

After Lagrone completes his three-week safari, Hamilton will embark on his own quest to fulfill a longtime goal – harvesting an African lion.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” stated Hamilton. “I’ve been doing research on it for two years. Lion has always been on my list.”

Hamilton’s lion hunt will take place in South Africa under the direction of Mabula Pro Safaris. The hunt was recommended to him by Craig Boddington, a long-time African hunter and television show host. Boddington told Hamilton that a South African lion hunt is among the most challenging hunts Africa has to offer.

“Lion hunting in Zimbabwe is over bait at night. How much hunting is involved in that?” asked Hamilton. “In South Africa you are going to get a magnificent lion, like the MGM lion.”

The exploits of Lagrone and Hamilton during their time on safari will be printed on these pages, provided no difficulties arise that would prevent timely dispatches from traveling from continent to continent. The first on-the-scene report from Africa, including photographs, is expected to appear in the June 22 edition of Adventures. Further reports will follow each week until the safari concludes in mid-July.