By Shaun Smillie
The man with the big feet would leave his flip-flops at the fence. Barefooted he’d slip across the fence into Kruger National Park, alone, carrying a .375 calibre rifle fitted with a silencer. On his back was a bag filled with bread, water and an assortment of pills he would later crush up and smoke with tobacco. Some of the pills were for heartburn, and he never really explained why he smoked it.
For protection against the rangers, a muti string hung from his rucksack.
On the Mozambican side of Kruger National Park, the poacher’s big feet were well known. His barefooted tracks in and out of the park had been seen often.
Anti-poaching units working the Mozambican side of Kruger had wanted to catch the man to see if he was as big as his feet promised.
But before the poacher with the big feet got near the fence, he had to pass a test.
As a young man wanting to earn money as a poacher he headed to the shebeens of Mugude. There he met the middlemen who looked for recruits willing to chance the section rangers, dogs and helicopters.
But could he shoot? In the bush he was handed a rifle and told to shoot at a Coke bottle. He hit the bottle, so was asked to demonstrate his tracking skills. Children learn to track from an early age in this part of Mozambique. As herders they know their cattle not by name but from each unique cloven imprint left in the dust. Bigfoot knew how to track.
In the area where Bigfoot operated, Kruger’s rusting fence is sometimes nothing more than four strands.
After slipping off his flip-flops – barefoot is quieter – Bigfoot would make his way to a pre-arranged meeting site to the other two members of his poaching crew. More....