A True Tale of Lions Eating Man

“The Man-eaters of Eden: Life and Death in Kruger National Park,” by Robert R. Frump just went into publication by Just Done Productions located in Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. South Africa is where the book is most needed for reasons that will make themselves clear shortly. Unfortunately, here in the states, people generally don’t want documentary material on news they consider obscure. Africa has always been a place we like to ignore. If it’s ethnic cleansing of white people, we need to send in the troops. If the violence is black on black, or in this case, lion on black, does anyone care? Frump cares. If you read this book you may care as well.

Robert Frump has found an avocation in life. A former investigative journalist for the Philadelphia Enquirer, a maritime reporter, an occasional investigative book writer, with various awards and credits to his name, Frump calls Summit, New Jersey home.

What causes a man to leave his idyllic setting to spend considerable time in impoverished nation studying scarcely documented events of the last half-century? The fact is that lion eats man and does so to this day.

Frump’s journey began as an ordinary tourist safari. I suppose as a reporter he probably asked more questions than the rest. Evasions on the part of park rangers and guides, the story of an unattached arm waiving from a thicket, and some truth from one local were the things that hooked him. He decided it was time to investigate.

The truth is told simply and unflinchingly. It is written in the first person, other than the side trips into history that explain the political and psychological background to these horrific events.

For the North American reader, the context can most easily be compared to the migration of impoverished people from Mexico to the United States, only with the added incentives of natural disaster, disease, and brutal civil war to their rear. And to their front, a national park wildlife preserve 50 miles wide, a border patrol, a fence, and the hope of a living wage and survival. And, oh yes, the lions are there also.

Kruger National Park is long and narrow and covers the whole border between prosperous South Africa and Mozambique. It is beautiful, rugged place where tourists, hunters, and environmentalists can revel in the pure earthiness of it. Let me share these words from the official park web site:

The world-renowned Kruger Park offers a wildlife experience that ranks with the best in Africa. Established in 1889 to protect the wildlife of the South African Lowveld, this national park of nearly 2 million hectares, is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.
A flagship of South African National Parks, Kruger is home to an impressive number of flora and fauna.

There are also many archaeological sites worth visiting highlighting man’s occupation in this area. Bushman rock painting and restored iron-age villages add to the thrill of visiting this area.

The greater Kruger Park area covers the Kruger National Park and the surrounding private game reserves. Fencing has been taken down between these game reserves to form a huge area where animals are free to roam and migrate.

The private game reserves offer excellent accommodation, a good many being rated five stars. Game viewing is also very good in the private game reserves where you are most likely to see the big 5.

The Kruger National Park offers a range of different accommodation to suit the traveler from luxury 5 star to modest caravanning.

Oh, and if interested you can: Join our Wacky Wildlife Wonders mailing list. Once a month we send out a short, interesting or wacky fact from our amazing African animal kingdom, highlighting these remarkable animals.

The remarkable animals referred to on the Animal Resources page are the Elephant, Giraffe, and Cheetah. You have to go searching to find the Lion.

On the park site map, I see no mention of safety. I suppose that for the park visitors that regularly use the web, it is rather safe. They travel in vehicles during daylight hours, with guides and rangers to assist them and keep them safe. Or, they are permitted hunters with knowledgeable guides armed to the teeth, also hunting during daylight.

http://www.krugerpark.com/index.htm

As Frump explains, there are two sides to this park, the Disneyland side for the gentry in their buggies, and the dark, menacing side that comes to life when the sun goes down.

The book is thought provoking in many ways. It is a sociological study on the views of the relatively privileged in South Africa, both during and post apartheid. It reveals the interests of the stakeholders of the park, the tourist, the hunter, the guides, rangers, and profiteers. The green lobby also has a role in minimizing any human impact on the park and its animals. Then there are the Untouchables in this saga, whose interests are not represented by anyone with power, save a charitable ranger or two. Where have we seen this before?

The history provokes thought, the politics provoke thought, the naturalism provokes thought, but what captures me is the psychological that is revealed in many ways.

I remember years ago at a zoo, when I was at the end of a tiger cage and the tiger walked along the front fence directly at me. Though obviously as domesticated as a tiger could be, I was protected by an impenetrable boundary, and yet that tiger looked me in the eyes as he walked at his own stately pace. He did not look away. I was chilled to the bone. I broke eye contact, turned, and quickly walked the other direction.

Frump explains, “A part of the brain called the amygdala contains unconscious memories and fears of predators that threatened our ancestors.” I believe him.

In addition to various detailed, but not sensationalized, accounts of killings to which there is witness, there are two sections where I felt my pupils dilate, my pulse quicken, and the intellectual side of me bombard my thoughts with questions. The first is in about the middle of the book where Frump discusses the experiences of some who lived and some who died but did so in a different state of consciousness. These are contrasted with the witness accounts of the dead who went with haunting cries of pain and fear, then sudden silence.

I wonder what the difference was? Those in a different state of consciousness describe feeling no pain, yet having awareness of the tearing and consumption of parts of their bodies, even feeling a bit euphoric and fully accepting of their presumed fate. It calls to mind the states on consciousness achieved by master meditators, who can achieve states with intense awareness, a loss of sense of time, a loss of sensate perceptions, and a detachment from either cravings or aversions (fear). Might a predator attack be a precipitating event for immediate entry into such a state, though not a recommended one?

But why is there peace for some and not for others? Might it have to do with their state of mind, or their spiritual views before the event, or the fullness or lack in their life already lived? Mozambique has been proselytized by Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim missions, but is still heavily influenced by indigenous superstition involving evil spirits and witchcraft and associating lions with demons. For the less fortunate, I am reminded of Renaissance Paintings of sinners being dragged into hell and I wonder if this fear is part of the mind state of those who suffer until death? Perhaps they feel a shoulder in the mouth of a lion and a leg being pulled into the inferno.

The second section occurs near the time that the Frump family was together in Kruger. They were on a bus safari trip when they came across a pride of lions on the side of the road. Normally the lions have no interest in vehicles but something different happened this time. A lioness heard a scream from inside the bus, from a small child. That triggered a predator instinct in the lioness and she approached the bus with that intent stare of aggression. Though safely inside, the people’s fear surfaced and many went into panic, begging the driver through tears to drive on. Frump had a spotlight and shone it in the eyes of the lioness to blind her, but still she seemed to look right through, her sense of hearing acute enough to hear the building chaos of the bus. Eventually the driver went on and heart rates gradually returned to normal.

Perhaps such events are material for further study. They certainly raise my curiosity.

However, while I focus on these curiosities I have perhaps distracted the reader from the primary topic of this work: the state of affairs that occurred in Kruger over several decades, when some humans became prey. Frump more then adequately explores the conditions that lead to such anonymous catastrophe. An entire class of people, virtually a nation, fell into a position of impoverishment, malnutrition, and desperate weakness that compelled them to cross the Kruger at night. Why at night? Because another class of people did not want them to cross, and during the day would fly helicopters and employ border guards to prevent crossing into South Africa and to ship the unwanted back to their own hell. But that hell was such that they would try again, this time at night, the province of the stalking carnivore. What easier prey is there than truly defenseless refugees who know neither crossing tactics nor the skills of Bushmen who knew the ways of the lion and could navigate around them? So lion behavior changed and they truly began to stalk human prey.

This true chronicle has no happy end. The purpose of this book is to cast light on the continuing situation where refugees become meat. It’s printing in South Africa provide some hope that by educating people of power about their own shame, about looking the other way, what they have not looked at, a history as ignoble as that of slavery, where the privileged close their eyes to the suffering in their back yard, looking neither right nor left at the need around, but tending to the status quo which provides them with fat pocketbooks, safety, and false comfort. Perhaps the author would not agree with the intensity of my condemnation, seeing it instead as the natural if flawed workings of society. But it is his book, the Man-Eaters of Eden that stirs this anger within.

I will not tell you the numbers of possible victims that have been calculated. You need to buy the book for that. Suffice to say you will be surprised, alarmed, disgusted.

Frump is a very objective reporter, non-sensationalistic, yet clearly descriptive of events that could be depicted in a more disquieting light. In doing so he has hit the mark. Upon reflection, the facts are sufficient for outrage. I do not intend, and Frump certainly does not intend, to make the lions the villain. Clearly the magnitude of this catastrophe was entirely within human control. There is blame to go around. The political leaders in the region, the warlords in Mozambique, the opportunists and entrepreneurs and even to some extent their customers, natural disasters, and many more are to blame because they, we, have the capacity to awaken, to see, to act, and we did not.

The book is available at: http://astore.amazon.com/ecoafricacom/detail/1592288928

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