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September 4, 2019
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September 4, 2019

Game Ranger tells his story

 • By : Peter Martin

Gordon Bailey was a game ranger at a number of game reserves in the Zululand and KwaZulu-Natal (then Natal) areas during the period 1962 to 1975. He is now 78 years of age and lives in Chintsa East with his wife, Molly.
His recently released book “Game Ranging A Life Worth Living” records the period he worked at Hluhluwe and iMfolozi Park and Giants Castle soon after he left school.
Throughout his narrative, Bailey keeps the reader’s attention, with sometimes most amusing anecdotes all connected to living on a reserve and the excitement it entails.
Firstly, he had to learn to ride a horse , learn to speak Zulu, and be an accurate shooter.
But Bailey’s entertaining story is not just about the animals.
“Conservation is a field asking the full spectrum of skills, and then demanding you give extra,” Bailey says. “Fencing, soil erosion, game capture, rhino capture, patrols, horse work, wilderness trails, game counts, filming, starting up new game reserves and meeting with people from all over the world,”
The reader will be astounded at the number of times he experienced very narrow escapes. Two of his horses, however, were not so fortunate, one was taken by a crocodile and another was gored by a bad-tempered rhino.
During his career, Bailey was stalked by lions, leopards, crocodiles and worse of all, the ferocious black rhino which on occasions would explode from nearby bushes and charge at him. He quickly became friends with Ian Player, a renowned conversationalist, brother of the famous golfer, Gary. Bailey once asked Player, “where is conservation headed?”
Player replied: All conservation will one day be the preserve of the rich and famous. He was right.
Bailey recalls: “Gary was master of ceremonies at the fourth World Wilderness Congress. He opened with the following; ‘You all know that Ian and I are brothers and I want you to know that we truly love each other. There is nothing I would not do for Ian and there is nothing Ian would not do for me. So we spend our lives doing nothing for each other.’”

Bailey tells of the love of his life, Molly, to whom he’s been married for well over 50 years.
He relates their courtship and the changes marriage brought to his life. They built a cottage on the reserve and the couple brought up three young children while working there. They also raised a variety of animals, including Soelie, a tame hyena, which sometimes scared the wits out of visitors with hilarious results.
“When I sign the books I frequently inscribe them with the following; “To be seated on the back of a trusted work horse at the start of a new day, when the whole body is one sense, surrounded by wilderness, is to know the very essence of completeness,” says Bailey.
“It was something I experienced so many times while working in iMfolozi. I so appreciated the working horse and the bond that grows during the hours spent together. They are also the best source of helping us humans maintain our humility.”

Would being a game ranger these days be a good career move?
Bailey: “At all my talks there was always someone who would say afterwards how much they would have loved the life of a game ranger and that feeling is still strong among many. When asked by people about to embark on that career, I always suggest that they ask some questions of the internal management/ownership to make sure that they will be happy with what they are going into.”
Bailey is an accomplished speaker and is available to give talks on his career and offer copies of his books.
Bailey’s book narrative is a real eye-opener, particularly to city-dwellers. But you don’t have to be a lover of the great outdoors to enjoy his book.

To order a copy of Bailey’s book or contact him to give a talk, email him on : [email protected]