CATEGORY: Governor

AUTHOR: BOBBY

HED:Elephant acted like it was going to charge'

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON - Gov. Kirk Fordice said he never thought his life was in danger when a mother elephant acted like she was going to charge him during his recently completed African safari.

Fordice said he and his party were in a stalled "hunting vehicle, which is wide open" when the elephant acted like it was going to charge.

"An elephant could smash it like it was a toy car," said Fordice, who answered questions about his African trip after attending a Tuesday meeting of the state Bond Commission.

When asked if he was in danger, Fordice said, "I don't think I was. But when you are hunting dangerous game, there is always some danger or it would not be called dangerous game."

Fordice left for his safari on Sept. 1 and returned Sept. 24. This is his first full week back on the job after his three weeks "in the bush" in Tanzania.

During an impromptu news conference at the end of the Bond Commission meeting, the governor spoke almost modestly about the wild animals he "bagged" and acted bemused at the media interest in his trip.

Upon questioning, Fordice said he killed "several antelope, Cape buffalo and a leopard."

Upon additional questioning, Fordice admitted he "bagged" a Lichtenstein's hartebeest, which research by professional hunters on the trip revealed was the seventh largest ever known to be killed. The horns on the hartebeest measured 22 and three-fourths inches. Fordice had to remove a black book from his pocket to find the length of the horns to respond to a question about the size of the animal.

Fordice said his safari group "was in the bush" just about the entire trip.

During his few visits to African towns during the trip, Fordice said he was struck at "how people exist without any safety net. They don't have anybody helping them. They just get out there and root hog or die. And I find Africans very admirable because they are doing that."

In the bush, the Republican governor said he was pleased to see a herd of about 150 elephants. Fordice said he used to seeing herds of that size routinely when he first started visiting Africa in the 1980s.

But because of poachers, he had not seen herds that big in recent years.

"I am glad to see the elephants coming back," said Fordice, who looked tan and was sporting a necktie called "Rebel Yell," which depicted a Civil War battle scene with a Confederate flag displayed prominently in the center of the design.

This is Fordice's third trip to Africa since becoming governor in 1992. He went on a safari in 1994 and visited in 1996 as part of a group of governors on what was described as an economic development trip.

On both safaris, he has traveled with New Orleans businessman and friend Pat Taylor.

Before answering questions about his trip, Fordice spent about 45 minutes chairing the state Bond Commission. During the meeting, he voted against issuing bonds approved by the Legislature for a program designed to provide loans to help minority businesses.

Fordice said the U.S. Supreme Court in recent rulings has struck down such programs.

The other two members of the Bond Commission - Attorney General Mike Moore and Treasurer Marshall Bennett or their representatives - voted in favor of the issuing the bonds.

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