The UK currently reminds me of South African Safari that started my year off …. A whole year ago.
Now my novel is out and my year off is basically done. I have the school holidays left, and I’m fortunate in that they are filled with cool trips to finish off my sabbatical. But its basically over.
Reality is looming far to large ….
I started my blog a couple of months after the Safari and so I never did write a post about just how amazing it was.
The raw power of the African bush; its sheer, vast, wildness, is just something that’s difficult to put into words.
One of the bands we love summed it up best in a song they wrote (I think about Canada). I can’t remember the name of the song, but the line that resonates is ‘You’re not the master here’.
And we’re not.
Take away the guns and the awful weapons we use to rip out tusks and horns from sometimes still living creatures, and we are not in charge.
If anything the recent reports of what remained of poachers who strayed into a pride of lions illustrates that.
They take down these guys
If you don’t see them coming, you’re screwed.
And you don’t. Lions, Leopards, all the big cats are so well camouflaged against those yellow grasslands that when they hide, you cannot see them.
That’s kind of the point…..
This one had hunted a blanket that fell out of a Safari jeep… .
Whilst on the topic of poaching, though, there is a great new initiative to try to prevent it. It involves dyeing Rhino horns and Elephant tusks, rendering them worthless.
I’m not sure how this impacts on their sale value to the weird and pointless alternative medicine industries, but certainly any ornamental value is lost.
It’s a good initiative, but there are lots of great initiatives to reduce poaching.
One of the camps we stayed at, Ants Hill, is really involved with Rhino conservation and providing education for local communities.
A friend of mine is also involved in similar environmental education programmes for trainee teachers in Zimbabwe. These initiatives are great. The camps are offering employment opportunities to members of the local community, showing them the value of the local wildlife so that the community wants to protect it …. Brilliant.
There are also community-run camps like the beautiful Thakadu river camp on Medikwe reserve that we stayed at, which as the name suggests, are run entirely by the community. I have to go back to the African bush, it was the most mind-blowing trip of my life, and when I do, I will be trying to use as many of these camps as possible.
But you can’t employ everyone.
Most people in South Africa never get to see a Rhino, or a Lion, or an Elephant, and then there’s conflict between the animals and humans. Competition for land and food; the blocking of migration routes.
And you don’t get in the way of these guys. (Though these two were right posers!)
The underlying problem, as with everything, is poverty. Farmers are poor and can’t afford to lose livestock to Lions or crops to rampaging Elephants and majority of the people in urban areas are poor.
Driving back to the airport after our amazing Safari and between camps, we witnessed that poverty, allbeit from a pretty safe, sanetised, middle-class distance, but seeing it was important.
It makes you realise as a rich westerner, why poaching happens. That’s not to say we should accept it, we most definitely shouldn’t. We need to find alternatives, but you can see why people with so little might be tempted.
What is completely incomprehensible is the people with so much, i.e. the rich trophy hunters that go there specifically to pay to kill endangered animals. Lets hope more of them keep earning Darwin awards and furthering the course of evolution by straying into the paths of bullets and getting eaten by Lions. This was a Wildebeast, not a trophy hunter, but I’ll let you use your imagination