Caprivi Strip, 2014 Part 18

by david on April 27, 2015

Buffalo? & Open Air Meat Processing.

Up at 5:30 to look for a buffalo for Johann. Nothing on our side, so it was back for a leisurely breakfast with the girls. It was nice to have breakfast with them after several mornings of rushed eating while trying to get out the door to hunt elephant. After breakfast, Byron took Johann, Angel, Patrick, and Hombrek back to the elephant to start the butchering process. The rest of us enjoyed another cup of coffee.

We arrived on site about 45 minutes after Byron and the crowd had grown from the original five people to well over a dozen. Each of the extra people worked feverishly to obtain a small portion of meat before it got delivered to the villages. As the day progressed, the number swelled to somewhere between 50 and 60 people, each with the same hope of going home with some meat. Their means of transport was simple – an empty feed sack was all that was necessary. Loaded with 20 to 30 pounds, it was easy to take back home. If there was no sack, a large chunk was simply placed on a sharp stick and toted back over the owner’s shoulder. To give you an idea of how much meat was available, if everyone walked out with 20 pounds or 1200 pounds in total, and somewhere around three times that amount was left.

An interesting side note about the meat constantly disappearing into the bush: there was a very good reason for allowing that to happen. When I expressed some concern to Hombrek about there not being enough to go to the three designated villages, he explained it to me this way. He depends on all the villages to report poaching and help keep it under control. Since there are no stores locally if the villagers can’t trade with other villages for meat, or it is not their village’s turn, the only other source for meat is poaching. To keep them from poaching and to breed goodwill, he allows them to take a little meat to tide them over until it is their village’s turn again.

The butchering process itself was interesting to watch. When I was younger, I helped my maternal grandfather when he butchered pigs or cattle on his farm. With the help of the hydraulic lift on his tractor, the butchering went cleanly and efficiently. With no such luxury in the bush, the process was more like field dressing a 10,000 pound deer. The Landcruiser was used to roll the elephant on its side, and the skin was removed on the upper side and down the back. The quarters were much too big to remove intact, so they came off in sections. Instead of a pocket knife or a hatchet, huge carving or butcher knives were used. Forget the hatchet – these guys were using full-blown axes. Maybe it was not so much like field dressing a deer after all. It was interesting when it came time to puncture the stomach so it could be removed from the body. The gasses had been accumulating for some time. When the stomach was finally punctured, everyone cleared out for several minutes. Interestingly enough, it was punctured from the back. After the hide and meat was removed down to the ribcage, a long, thin knife was inserted along the backbone and between the ribs. This allowed all of the gas to escape in a somewhat controlled manner. If the local villages were well represented, the local canine population was there in force. It seemed every dog from miles around was just on the periphery waiting for any errant pieces to hit the ground or any small leftover pieces. Johann’s daughter Zoe spent a good portion of her morning cutting up the stomach and intestines. Johann had offered a $50 Namibian reward for one of my bullets. Angel took him to heart. After digging around in the skull for some time, he actually found one. It was one artifact from the hunt I could actually take back home.



The work was well under way when we got there.  The work was well under way when we got there.


More help and more knives.  More help and more knives. Sometimes a knife was not enough and an axe was needed.  Sometimes a knife was not enough and an axe was needed.



The Elephants heart.  The Elephants heart.


The ladies were not afraid to jump right in and help out.  The ladies were not afraid to jump right in and help out.


The people keep coming.... The people keep coming….


...and coming.  Each hoping for a piece of meat for their family. …and coming. Each hoping for a piece of meat for their family.


Wednesday: Special Delivery

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