The Woman Who Walks With Wolves

Dynasties: Behind The Scenes | Earth Unplugged

Desirée Murray describes her experience working as a guide at Mana Pools National Park, where Tait and the Painted Wolves from Dynasties were filmed.

As one of the guides for the BBC Earth Dynasties series, Painted Wolf, Des was interviewed:

“When I was 19, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But even at that age, I realised you can never get time back, so, I always thought the job you get – make sure it is something you really want to do. So, I decided to give canoe guiding a try. The Zambezi is the 4th biggest river in Africa and this is just an amazing environment to be in. The people who are involved in wildlife and conservation are very generous and that’s what drew me to it.

The other guiding is the professional guiding which means you are allowed to walk on foot with your guests. Zimbabwe is considered the hardest place to get your guides license in Africa and I do not think that any woman has ever gotten those two licenses. It is a dangerous job. As a guide, you never want to put yourself or your guests ever in a position where there is a problem. I was taught “never guide as if you have a rifle, always guide as if you don’t” – because that puts things in perspective. But I have had some moments which were quite tense and you had to deal with them.

I was working in a camp and we had one of the young bedroom hands, his name was Timothy, he was only 19. He was attacked by a lion in the middle of the day and they ate him. The rule is that once animals make that connection then they become a problem animal and unfortunately they have to be shot and that’s what happened in that situation.

That’s the thing about this job I suppose, you have to make decisions sometimes that are not the best that you want to choose but at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do that. It’s great being married to a guide because we understand each other. We understand the tired days. We understand the exhausting situations and my husband, Nick has always respected me as a guide.

With the lion instance, when he came back, he walked up to me, shook my hand, said “I knew you would do a good job”, and walked off. That night he came and gave me a hug and said: “I hope you’re ok”. But that’s the respect that’s amazing to have as a husband and in this business.

We have this great saying in our family which is – “Protect the land and defend the defenceless” .We’ve got to stand up for the things without a voice and unfortunately, nowadays, it’s the animals. To save an elephant today – how wonderful is that? Elephants are the most amazing creatures. They are so intelligent and they need somebody on their side. It’s our privilege to be able to do that. It’s our privilege to be in this environment. If a young girl did ask me if this is a good life I would say this is a fantastic life. They have spoken to me about it and I have always said – “If you are going to do it, do it properly because people are going to look at you and assess you more than anyone else. So, if you are willing to do that, I’d say 100% because we need people with passion in this business”.

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