African Medical Emergencies
September 24, 2010
Traveling to many places in the world, in pursuit of big game exposes us to all types of potential harm. However nothing catches our attention more then the risk of being injured by the very game we are pursuing. Nowhere does this occur more often then on the continent of Africa. Classic hunting literature is entitled Death in the Tall Grass and never Death over the Corn Pile. There are many people with vast more experience facing African dangerous game than us, nonetheless, we are going to take a look at the medical consequences of a hunt for dangerous game gone wrong.
We very highly recommend that anyone going to the Dark Continent should always carry a first rate medical evacuation insurance policy. Your medical insurance at home will not cover you there. Besides if you are hurt, do you want to have your medical needs met locally or back home? Medjet Assist is who we use and trust our lives to and so should you.
What follows may sound repetitive and at times er...awkward, but that is the reality of it. In the African bush, regardless of what you are hunting, if you draw the attention of elephant, buffalo, rhino or hippo you may elicit a charge. Unless they stop on their own, you or your PH will have to stop them with lethal force that is directed at their central nervous system. Nothing short of that will do. In this circumstance a perfectly placed heart shot will ensure that creatures death but not before it does permanent damage to you. Each of the above animals has their own unique way of inflicting injury.
An elephants may elect to gore you with tusks, beat you up against trees, or stomp and pummeled you into unrecognizable blood spots. Rhinos gore folks with their head on charges. Hippos bite with such ferocity that they can literally severe someone into two pieces. Buffalo's tend to hook folks with such force, anger and determination that they drive their horns right through their victims as they fling them into high into the air just to repeat the process or drive them into the ground with brutal strength.
That having been said, there are very limited medical responses to such a disaster. First off, determine whether the person is still alive. If the victim survives the onslaught then rapidly apply pressure to the points of the most significant blood loss and bandages are in order. The next and only thing to do is to immediately contact Medjet Assist and rapidly transport that person to the first place where they can land to pick them up. We all have heard about the horrific injuries and deaths that fellow hunters have sustained over there. Any of the survivors have one thing in common and that is they were immediately evacuated.
It's not much better when you get to the great cats. Novels have been written about these felines and arguments rage constantly over which is the most dangerous. It really makes no difference to the unfortunate hunter if it is a Lion or a Leopard. Each can inflict massive damage and death unbelievably quick. Being attacked by an unprovoked Leopard is highly unusual but about guaranteed if you are tracking a wounded one. A wounded Leopard seems to draw the most precautions by everyone involved then any other animal.
Each member of the tracking party ends up looking like the Michelin man. You get all wrapped head to toe in heavy, bulky, padded clothing with almost nothing exposed. It is not if, but who is going to get 'scratched' by the Leopard today. Obviously, the injury will be anything but a scratch. Leopards are known to shred folks in seconds with their razor sharp and highly contaminated claws. Surviving huge blood loss one looks to massive infection as expected. Lions are just brutally powerful and agile, a perfect killing machine. Chances of survival are slim if one gets hold of you. Not to be repetitive, but in these circumstances immediate pressure and bandaging are in order and then immediate evacuation.
We won't even delve into the last of the dangerous seven, which is the crocodile, other then mention you have no business in their environment, which is water. If you feel comfortable wading or swimming with them then there is nothing more to say. Just don't expect others to jump in after you if you find yourself in this situation.
As always, prevention and preparation is the key to surviving one of these incidents. So how do you prepare for these kinds of trouble? First and foremost listen to your PH. Second, when hunting dangerous game, carry a weapon that is sufficient to stop the animal in an emergency and be familiar with it intimately. Learn to shoot it rapidly at close range at a moving target without jamming the action. We do this by practicing with a .22, shooting at a ball rolling down a steep embankment directly at us. It is a fantastic drill and teaches you to control your shots until the head shot is a certainty. High powered scopes have no place in these close encounters and that must be thought of in advance. Knowing the anatomy of your prey is also crucial.
Lastly, the time for false bravado is long since past. Everyone has a point beyond which they should not exceed. If you feel uncomfortable in any situation let your PH know. In a rapidly deteriorating encounter if anyone does not hold their ground and breaks to run, you almost guarantee a severe injury to someone in your party. Remember, the trackers depend on the PH and hunters to protect them. We have had the experience of being charged multiple times. Three Cape buffalo charges and two lion charges (one male and one female) all ended with very close frontal shots. Numerous false charges by elephants and buffalo's have also given us a rush of adrenaline but luckily ended without shots being fired. One hair-raising experience tracking a wounded leopard provided everyone with an unforgettable memory.
There are numerous other dangers that are present in Africa like most other places. Any of the plains game animals can be dangerous if you approach them before they are finished. Like any animal, they will defend themselves especially given the fact that they must do this on a daily basis given the constant threat of predators. But not to worry, any good PH will never allow you to approach a potentially dangerous animal.
Snakes are also a potential problem but unlikely since most reading this will be hunting in the African winter and most likely in a southern country. We have, over our numerous trips, seen a few snakes which rapidly did what most snakes do and that is get away from us as fast as they could. Never the less, a bite from one of the African poisonous reptiles is almost certainly lethal unless antidote is administered within a quick period of time so yet again, rapid evacuation is paramount.
A basic emergency medical kit is always recommended for the normal cuts, bruises, scrapes, sprains and strains but as above a complex serious emergency kit is not necessary to carry with you. Serious emergencies are treated by seriously trained personnel with serious equipment.
So as usual, be safe and enjoy the outdoors.