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The American Embassy warned the Owenses not to enter Zambia until the controversy was resolved.
In the letter, he said that it was the ABC producer—he does not name him, but Andrew Tkach was in charge of the filming in Zambia—who insisted on filming poachers. But the person who alerted locals to look for poaching was Mark Owens. Adrian Carr, a white Zambian, is one of the leading safari operators in the valley. In , Carr recalled, in the days before filming began, Mark Owens paid him a surprise visit. A cameraman went on a patrol in Zambia, during which a suspected poacher was shot.
The dead man was never identified. At the time of the filming, Owens says, he had just learned that three corrupt policemen, dressed as scouts and armed with AKs, were coming to the park to kill him and any scouts they encountered. This is absolutely exaggerated.
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Owens also wrote, in his letter to the Zambian attorney general, that the AR automatic rifle he is seen carrying in the ABC broadcast was a fake. What was he going to do if the elephant charged? But give me another solution. Years passed, and though no charges were brought and no warrants filed over the killing of the poacher, the Owenses never returned to Zambia.
Investigators there are still eager to talk to them. I recently visited the headquarters of the national police in Lusaka, where I met Biemba Musole, the deputy commissioner in charge of criminal investigations. In , as a young detective, Musole had led a team of three investigators to North Luangwa, where he spent a month searching for clues about the identity of the dead man and his killer.
The team travelled from village to village with a generator, a television set, and a VCR, and played the ABC videotape for hundreds of villagers. But they still could not identify the shooting victim. I told Musole that I had spent more than a month travelling across northern Zambia as well, trying to learn more about the killing. A letter from the Zambian inspector general, sent in , acknowledges the difficulty of the case.
Gore-Browne arrived in Northern Rhodesia during the First World War, as a member of a commission drawing the borders of southern Africa. He had dreamed of being the lord of a manor, and by he had completed the construction of a Tuscan-style mansion on twenty-three thousand acres of farmland. Thousands of Zambians depended on the semifeudal Shiwa plantation for their existence, but Gore-Browne became known over time for his advocacy of African self-rule.
When he died, in , he was hailed as a Zambian hero. When Mark and Delia Owens arrived in northern Zambia, they visited Shiwa before establishing their camp in the park. The Owenses say that they had a falling out with the Harveys after they reported their father, John Harvey, for poaching and Mark Harvey for running substandard safari tours.
Charles Harvey and I spoke on a night drive through the enormous Shiwa estate, passing herds of zebra, impala, and wildebeest. Delia wrote of one of her first conversations with Justice, who was in his early twenties at the time. All morning I have noticed Sunday stealing glances at the plane. I myself always wanted to talk to someone who has flown up in the sky with a plane. I explain that on earth we are so far from the stars that being up a few thousand feet does not make any difference in how close they look.
On one of my visits to North Luangwa, I came across Sunday Justice, who was then working as a safari guide. I used to fly to Lusaka all the time with John Harvey. Mark Harvey told me that the Owenses earned a reputation in the valley for their intolerance of local people. He loves the elephants, so all the killing made him very upset. As Mark Owens assumed more authority over the valley and the game scouts, he extended his campaign against poachers beyond the borders of the national park.
The Owenses at one point asked the U. In a proposal for funding submitted to the U.
More than fifty firearms were confiscated during a single sweep in August of In a village near Mpika called Chita, residents awoke one night to the sound of truck engines. Scouts swarmed the village.
Deadly Little Scandals
They were armed with rifles. They beat them hard with their hands and rifles. Some of the villagers told me that scouts turned their houses upside down, searching under beds and sleeping mats for weapons and in the rafters for dried meat. It is against the law in Zambia to raid a house without a warrant, but the villagers I spoke with said the scouts offered no documents that would have justified the raid. Another witness, Agatha Chipole, said that her son was among the men the scouts were looking for. She admitted that he had poached in the North Luangwa park, but only to provide meat for his family.
Four men, a villager told me, were taken to the hospital in Mpika for treatment after the raid.
The Owenses have denied harming poachers, or encouraging scouts to do so. But many scouts told me that poachers captured in the park, often local residents who were working as meat carriers, were taken to the Mano compound, or on occasion to Marula-Puku, for detention and questioning. One man, who described himself as an Owens scout and asked to be identified only as Mvulu, said that prisoners were sometimes brought to Marula-Puku, tied to a stake, and left out in the sun.
They had to be stopped. Mark Owens said we had to do anything to stop them, or else the elephants would all die.
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Owens says that during his cherry-bomb campaign he spread rumors in the valley that he was firing live ammunition. The Owenses also denied that poachers were held under arrest or questioned at Marula-Puku, or that anyone was tied to a stake in the sun or beaten. Poaching is, was and always will be a risky business. The Owenses, through their attorneys, said that Mark Owens could not be responsible for what the scouts did, because he did not command them.
But scouts I spoke to in a number of villages in the Luangwa Valley told me that Mark Owens had clearly been their commander. The scouts capture three poachers, but the main gang splits up and heads for the escarpment. Mark radios headquarters to set up ambushes along the exit routes from the park, but it is too late.
On my three trips to North Luangwa, I made several visits to the Mano camp and interviewed a dozen veteran scouts about Mark Owens. They were complimentary, in part because the Owenses had outfitted them with superior equipment and rations. He was an expert in combat. Although Owens did not serve in the U. Fouche, the hunter who manages a concession on the edge of the park, told me that scouts would salute Owens when he appeared. He was always armed, and he always seemed ready to fight. The Owenses maintain that Fouche was upset with them because their U.
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Fish and Wildlife grant application competed with his. I asked him if the scouts killed suspected poachers in his area. Fouche handed me a letter that he said Owens had faxed him in This has worked to such a degree in the park that we have recorded only a single elephant poached in North Luangwa Park since the beginning of the year, and a buffalo and warthog as part of the same incident.
In this way we not only take care of poachers attacking the park, but also the ones who are punishing the [game-management areas]. Believe me it is already working. Jones had no knowledge of these activities. He abhors murder and would never condone such actions. Over the past several years, the Owenses and their attorney Robert Ivey have threatened legal action against a number of people in the U.
This is an apparent reference to Malcolm Boulton, who has denied any knowledge of this letter or involvement in its writing.
Then, last week, Mark Owens wrote to say that he might have written the letter after all. Although he had no specific memory of the fax, he recalled that around the time it was sent he had talked to a group of scouts who had been fired on by poachers, and he surmised from their behavior that they had shot back. Not long after, he said, Fouche was frightened by an attack on his camp.
I may have decided that it would be more satisfying to Mr. I do not know. The second shot—the first to be heard in the video—came from a thin black man in a green uniform.
The third came from offscreen, fired by an unidentified shooter. On my visits to the North Luangwa region, I had asked about the scout in the video, a man I eventually learned was named London Kawele, but I was told that he had been transferred to another part of Zambia, or that he was dead. In the intervening years, supporters of the Owenses have put forth various other explanations. Mary Dykes told me that the scene might have been filmed in Zimbabwe; she also suggested that ABC News could have staged the shooting with actors. Gordon Streeb, the former U.
Ambassador to Zambia, also said that this was possible. According to Chris Everson, though, the documentary did not present the whole truth. I reached him early this year at the winery he owns with his wife in the Cape Province of South Africa. On the day of the shooting, Everson said, Mark Owens flew him, along with Christopher and the scout, London Kawele, to a remote location within the park. It was an unusual group; scouts rarely went on patrol without at least three other scouts.
According to Everson, Mark Owens left the three men in the park and returned to his headquarters.