Colonel Sow and the Sultan

Colonel Mamadou Bhoye Sow of Guinea

Colonel Mamadou Bhoye Sow of Guinea

Colonel Mamadou Bhoye Sow of Guinea was a warden in Badiar-Niokolo Transfrontier Park, which is partly in Guinea and partly in Senegal, when he learned that preparations were being made for a visit from a Sultan from Arab Emirates, a great honor. It was 1996 and the park was newly formed. The Sultan was apparently a friend of the president of Guinea, Sow explained with the help of a French interpreter.

The Sultan arrived with an escort of vehicles that included a car full of local dignitaries from Guinea, including the governor of the region.  There was also a car full of commandos – body guards of the Sultan.

Sow was invited to ride in the Sultan’s vehicle. They had somewhat of a language barrier because the Sultan and his escort spoke Arabic and he spoke French. He was alarmed to see that the back of the Sultan’s vehicle was filled with firearms, and as they approached the park boundary it became clear that it was the Sultan’s intention to hunt in the park, which was illegal.

Through an interpreter Sow explained that hunting was not allowed in the park, and that he could show the Sultan other places to hunt.  The regional governor and other dignitaries said Sow needed to make an exception for the Sultan because he was important and they would all lose their jobs if he didn’t get to hunt in the park. He said: “I would rather have them shoot me than any animal in the park.” Sow said he would never accept the shame of having someone shoot an animal while he was there. He also explained that other rangers in the park would come running at the sound of a shot, and that any hunting would violate an agreement they had with their colleagues in Senegal who were joint-managers of the park.

The Sultan and his group got back into his car and sped off from the direction they came from, followed by the local dignitaries and the car full of guards.

Sow was left standing alone in the bush with no vehicle and no radio. This was before the time of cell phones. He started walking. He knew they had planned to camp on a hill a few miles into the park. When he got to the hill, he found a radio and called some of the other rangers, telling them to bring up a truck. He also found a great amount of food had been prepared for the Sultan, including the local dish mechoui, a roasted lamb.  Sow and the other rangers decided it shouldn’t go to waste. “We had a feast,” he said.

As for being fired, the governor was replaced within a month. Sow stayed on as the head warden and went on to a successful career. He is currently the Deputy Director General of the Office of Guinea Parks and Reserves.