By Kapungwe Bwalya
We followed a path where elephant and leopard, kudu and buffalo, duiker and bush pig had trod the night before. No one so much as whispered, coughed or sneezed.
Like phantoms, our six-man unit moved in crouching position, keeping to the shadows, using only hand and finger signals occasionally and visual communication.
Shots had rang out in the early hours of the morning, in the still woodland death had struck from a poacher's bullets.
In front was Francis, our tracker scout. Hardened field man, wise in the ways of poachers stopped. He moved as silent as smoke, we followed steadily. Our quarry were no fools, they were just as toughened to the bush conditions and would fight savagely if need be to escape arrest, escape jail.
There was the sound of breaking branches, coughing and the sharpening of knives against knives. Francis motioned for us to stay put; he advanced carefully over loose stones. He returned and we knew what had to be done. We split up, took positions in thick cover, keeping always to the shadows.
Five men surrounded the carcass of an eland. They were quick, professional as they worked the knives into the carcass. A hind leg was removed, then a foreleg. As the belly was opened up a hiss of air erupted from the belly.
It sent an aroma of still wet undigested leaves and twigs. A smallish stout man raised an axe and with it he severed the head from the neck, and then he did likewise to the neck, separating from the rib cage. Soon the entire eland was dismembered. They laid out the pieces neatly on cut leafy branches.
They took their rest, lighting crude cigarettes, laughing and talking. Three more characters filed onto the scene. One had a rifle slung over his left shoulder, obviously the hunter; he grinned on seeing the results of the efficiency of the workmanship. More....