Hunted: Where The Crawdads Sing Author Wanted For Snuff Film Related Questioning in Zambia

A story about an American family with a white savior complex, the first snuff film broadcast on national TV, a nameless murder victim executed in a Zambian National Park and a famous novel made into a movie.

Before she was a famous fiction author, Delia and her then-husband Mark were anti-poaching activists in both Zambia and Botswana, and are still wanted for questioning in Africa due to a murder which was recorded and broadcast to American audiences in an ABC News documentary in the 1990s. If you like our content, please become a patron to get our additional premium episodes each month, as well as our public episodes ad-free.

Mark and Delia Owens sold all of their belongings while in grad school at the University of Georgia and moved to Botswana in the 1980s to study wild animals in pursuit of their biology PhDs. But they found a massive poaching operation in which wildebeest herds were slaughtered en masse to keep them away from cattle which were being raised for export to Europe.

After failing to get the Botswana government to act against poaching Mark and Delia moved to Zambia, and took it upon themselves to provide anti-poaching operations to the local government. They recruited and trained scouts to patrol the North Luangwa National Park in Zambia to curtail poaching of elephants and black rhinos for their tusks and horns.

Their methods were a concern, which was confirmed with ABC News sent a film crew to interview and patrol alongside Mark and Delia's scouts. On film that was later broadcast to American audiences via ABC News, a scout and an unnamed individual killed a man returning to his campsite in the North Luangwa National Park. According to Jeffrey Goldberg's articles in both the New Yorker and the Atlantic about this incident, Mark's son Christopher may have fired the fatal shots that killed the man. The only evidence they had of his being a poacher, per the video, was a bag full of shotgun shells at his campsite. 1

Mark, Delia, and Christopher fled back to the US and moved to Northern Idaho after this incident, and are still wanted for questioning by the Zambian police. Ironically (or perhaps not?), Delia's hit novel revolves around a character who murders a man and is later acquitted of the crime, but the story's conclusion reveal's the character's guilt. 2

In short, Mark and Delia basically re-enacted the plot of Heart of Darkness in their own real lives, and then returned home to literary fame and fortune based on the experience. 3

Episode #Dubimeter: 10

1. Jeffrey Goldberg. The Hunted. The New Yorker. March 2010. 

2. Jeffrey Goldberg. Where the Crawdads Sing Author Wanted for Questioning in Murder. The Atlantic. July 2022. 

3. Alexandra Alter. Questions About An Unsolved Murder Linger Over ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’. The New York Times. July 2022. 

You must be logged in and have a username in your profile to view comments.