The Guardian and Al Jazeera both conducted investigations into wildlife trafficking and articles/videos exposing the top levels in the chain have been made public. Yet, still even now, nothing has happened to these people in power.
Please read this article, video and soundclip and let’s discuss what we can do to change this:
Sad to be leaving camp after these incredible 6 months with a fun and talented group of individuals. An absolutely phenomenal experience with memories for a lifetime. Have loved every minute of it with all the laughs, even the drama, and definitely the mind-blowing learning about animals, plants, geology and life itself. Thank you Stephanie, Yosta, Massimo, Graham and all the staff. Good luck to our new friends with all your next adventures and careers!
Our last night had the most intense lightning storm we’ve ever had with wonderful rains filling up the pans all over again. Which of course meant no power and no shower… just like our first weeks in camp and first days in monkey camp! Full circle.
Our last sightings were spotted hyena who had created the haunting ambience of our first nights in the bush. Our last sounds early this morning were the lions.
As we left camp, we had a leguaan (monitor lizard), shongololo (millipede) and leopard tortoise (skilpad) all cross the highways (hopefully all successfully), and a Wahlberg’s eagle in a roadside tree. What a wonderful close of one chapter as we start the next.
We stopped in at a local Afrikaans pit stop on the way out and saw this sign:
Be the change you want the world (and your family and friends) to be. That’s what we’ve started. Hope you’re inspired.
Still cannot believe there are people out there who do not “believe” climate change or global warming is real. It’s not about belief folks. It’s fact. Scientific fact.
The companies, governments and media who are saying it’s a hoax are funded by corporations whose entire existence relies on fossil fuels. They are the ones who can afford the media, and other marketing tricks to convince people to doubt.
The climate change deniers are akin to those who don’t “believe” that smoking kills people and those people around the smokers too. The climate change deniers are akin to those who know smoking is bad for you and all the advertising that was done way back when was driven by the big tobacco companies.
Get real people.
We need to change our lifestyles now and stop consuming stuff made from fossil fuels and palm oils etc .
This is a blog piece I wrote for the college about our days with the conservation team at the game reserve here. What a few fun days learning the stuff you don’t notice when you’re on a safari holiday!
At our course we had the opportunity to learn how to correctly handle snakes, and also see in real life the venomous snakes we have been learning about. This is an important skill as when we work as nature field guides we may be called upon to help guests with snakes in their rooms. With summer around the corner we will probably see more of these in the wild, but as yet, they have been quite shy. So we were introduced to these ones first.
Brown house snake. Non-venomous.
Brown house snake
Most venomous snake in Southern Africa – the Boomslang (pronounced Boo-em-slung)
This snake felt quite different from the smooth silky python. It was a bit rougher.
Southern African python. Non-venomous.
Southern African python
The forest cobra was sloughing: shedding its skin.
Learning to use the snake handling equipment on the forest cobra.
October 2016 – Snake Handling Course, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Detail of the stunning colouration of this puff adder. This colouration is typical of Eastern cape part allegedly.
If you’ve read some of our earlier posts then you may have noticed that this is a very important question to both of us.
In our urban lives we have both been working in very good jobs in many different countries around the world and with opportunities to go further up the ladder still knocking. So why leave it all and not get the house with white picket fence, SUV, children and all those things that seems to be the goal of our parents’ generation and even amongst our generation?
As informative as the news is, this last decade has been pretty downright depressing with destruction and disrespect for our planet and everything on it. All the warnings we’ve heard for multiple decades are now at a cataclysmic point where we are way too overpopulated with human beings. Then there is the social impact of the industrial revolution and engineering efficiency making it too easy for humans to be wasteful, demanding and not even think about every little action, decision and movement we make. All this has contributed to climate change being the reality it is now (seriously people, there can be no denying this… the evidence is clear) and one of these days something’s gotta give!
We as a species are over-farming and over-utilising this planet’s available resources. We as a human species are too many, and too greedy. Happily I feel that more and more people I know, are less likely to be duped by what media thinks it can get away with. People are slowly getting to grips with what activists have been saying for decades now and finally realising that climate change is real and cannot be denied.
But is it enough to just know? How many of you accept that this is our fault as a human species? How many of you realise that it is up to each and every one of us to rectify this change? How many of you are committing to true active changes in their lives? True active personal changes include major things like stopping use of further oils and plastics completely, stop using a car, stopping buying stuff generally (all you need is healthy, fresh, organic and unprocessed food, shelter and water), or living a life off the grid, and minor things such as going vegetarian, being energy efficient and switching off all unnecessary lights and power switches.
Mostly the new people I meet are in more sustainable circles. Of my family and large network of friends only a handful even attempt to cut down their shopping sprees and only 1 I know actively reduces his plastic usage and cleans up the beach of rubbish on a regular basis.
At times it can feel overwhelming to realise the extent of humanity’s devastating impact to this planet. Yes we’ve been pioneers, we’ve achieved some amazing things but at what cost? Was it really for the greater good? Isn’t it wonderful that fascinating research into stem cells means we can possibly be more like the lizard and grow limbs at the snap of your fingers without any rejection issues? Or does this mean us humans will be more like the X-men, we’ll have a form of immortality and our population will grow larger and live longer requiring even more resources than we have.
There are several things we can do to help ourselves together with our local community :
Reduce. Do you really need all that stuff?
Avoid plastic products and packaging where possible. There are so many whole foods stores now where you just need your tupperware box or previous flour containers and can top up directly to it rather than buying more plastic and transferring it to landfill.
Grow your own organic vegetables and fruit. This means you won’t be pumping yourself and family full of chemicals from pesticides and the like used in agricultural farming. The produce is also tastier. You will also increase your local food community such that you can swap different foods with your neighbours and reduce transport costs of the farmer and supermarkets interconnected industries.
This online article by Jill Suttie has also basically outlined another reason why we are out here, learning to be safari field guides. This is an incredible opportunity to really link or emotionally connect people to nature and hopefully inspire them into action. We’ve got a gazillion people out in the world with ideas on how to rectify our human folly but what we need is critical mass to turn the tide and reverse our impact. So this is one means to inspire more people into action.
I truly believe it is our responsibility to educate our family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and people we meet and to nudge them in a direction where they aren’t overwhelmed by the problem we are hurtling ourselves into and where they truly understand what they can do within their feasible reality (and then we need to work on expanding this comfort zone bit by bit!).
Having been here a few months now, I have learnt a great deal about nature and conservation and am keen to do more in this space. There’s some great work being done out in the world such as the Transfrontier parks which are breaking down the fences between parks and letting nature have free reign, research into so many endangered species, anti-poaching units deployed all over the place.
So watch this space, we will share more about the wonderful world we live in.
This magnificent elephant was digging for water with his trunk. Sensational to see the impact this creature can have on the environment, providing clean water in dry season to all animals that come after him.
Buffalo drinking by the hippos and elephants. Crocodiles on the far banks and so much birdlife. Love this waterhole!
Hippos sunbathing on the bank of this watering hole in typical Kruger style.
Bateleur, this bird of prey is called as such for his pretty face.
African fish eagle, its haunting bird call a sound of Africa one can never forget.
African fish eagle
Dainty nyala with stunning yellow legs.
Southern red-billed hornbill preening.
Gorgeous kudu browsing on leaves.
Spotted hyaena yawning in the shade whilst the rest of the clan bunker in a culvert under the road.
Larger than life Southern ground hornbill
I can’t believe I managed to capture this tree squirrel. They move so quickly!
Nature will always survive somehow, like this tree growing out of this rock.
My favourite of the big animals.
White-breasted cormorant basking in the sunlight.
Giant kingfisher inspecting the water below for its next meal. Largest of the African kingfishers, but not as big as it’s cousin the Australian kookaburra.
Elegant African darter relaxing by the water.
African buffalo. Notorious for its cantankerous nature making it one of the dangerous Big Five.
Amazing to see this white-backed vulture so close.
Waterbuck and impala at a watering hole
Beautiful saddle-billed stork. Love this bird!
Who are the vultures? The ones in the cars or the ones in the tree? All waiting to scavenge from the lion kill to the right…
An awesome lion and pride feasting on this buffalo.
One of the awe inspiring baobab trees of Kruger. Thousands of years old and impressively huge.
Smallest owl – African scops owl. He was just chilling in a tree by the restrooms at one of the Kruger camps.
Stunning steenbok. These creatures are so petite and usually alone on the big arid areas – you could drive by and miss them!
Another amazingly difficult animal to capture on film – the slender mongoose. Fascinating animals!
Natal spurfowl – I have since learnt how unmusical this bird sounds
Smile for a while nile crocodile.
Swainson’s spurfowl sashaying its booty. Have since learnt this is one bird I do NOT want under my tent early in the morning. What a screecher!
This Southern red-billed hornbill wasn’t shy to walk over to the car when we got to this severely dry pan. It has fused toes, making it a near-passerine foot structure and giving it a distinct spoor.
After days of not seeing any rhino, we were so happy when we finally saw one. We’ve heard so much about the poaching and it definitely feels like there are less out there than in previous visits 😦
We stayed a night in Olifants and on the way out we saw this carnivorous cricket and his mates hopping onto the road and cannibalistically eating their mates who’d be trodden on by cars before us! What a sight.
Capping off another wonderful trip, we saw this leopard with its impala kill in a tree! Amazing!
As the hot yellow ball sets below the dusky horizon in all its African splendour, the temperature drops suddenly. Ah yes it’s still winter.
We start up the bush TV and warm ourselves up for scrumptious bush dinners prepared by Nicholas our wonderful on site chef.
Night falls and we look up to the clear night skies remembering our astronomy lesson and clock the Southern Cross and her pointers. Yes, I can work out where south is now! And over there, yes it’s Scorpion and Antares. Check.
Those first few nights were just incredible.
It wasn’t nearly as noisy as lying down as a night in the amazon, but here the sounds were unfamiliar and there are plenty of dangerous game around and not a lot between us and them. If they wanted to get me it would be a simple jump over the fence or walk straight through the open gate, scratch through the tent canvas and hello!
Just after I’ve fallen asleep to the sound of quiet, there comes the whooping crescendo of a hyaena from the right side of camp.
A few moments later it calls again.
Then in the distance on the left back side of our tent we hear another similar call.
And another on the right front side farther from the first call. They must be locating each other. I lay my head again to hear some faint screeches way in the distance on the left side of the tent… probably in the plains somewhere a jackal has taken his jackpot.
About 3 am I am awake again to the sounds of baboons grumbling. There is a troop that lives on the other side of the dam from our camp. Sounds like a juvenile baboon is being scolded by an elder and he’s not happy.
There’s also something munching near our tents to the south. Is it the kudus we keep seeing around camp? I heard they really like the camel thorn pods that have been falling to the ground a lot lately.
I try to sleep again and fail as my exposed face is so much colder than the rest of me. I slip my sleeping bag over my head. Breathe in and out. I’m suffocating. Ok that didn’t work. Maybe if I keep the sleeping bag tucked in under my chin and pull the duvet over my head instead? It has a bit more structure so maybe there’ll be enough of a gap between my head and the duvet that I can breathe.
It must be close to dawn but it’s still dark. Just as I am almost settled enough to go back to sleep after what probably was an hour of adjustments, suddenly there is another sound.
It makes its repetitive grunting territorial call to the right back of my tent. It sounds pretty close.
A few minutes later it does it again but it’s moved. Closer. And to the back left. Still not at the camp perimeter but it’s definitely closer.
Minutes later again it calls. This time it’s very close. And to our left. I don’t know how close it is but I swear it’s just on the other side of our tent. I know logically it’s probably on the road towards the dam wall but at night, the air is thin and sound travels so clearly and they seem so much louder & closer than they probably are.
This leopard moves so quickly and steadily. It continues to make more calls at regular intervals moving away each time. It sounds like it is moving on the eastern side of the river and going further south. Just amazing to hear it’s definitive call.
Here’s video of baboon yelps and the repetitive grunting of the leopard taken elsewhere for you to hear – FYI it’s louder than what we were hearing from our beds!
The munching returns and again it’s close to our tent. I wish I knew how close these animals were. I lie in bed too cold to get up and check out the windows or open the entrance flap to verify.
Then the floorboards of our tent squeak as if someone is walking along them. Quin and I are both in bed. I’m pretty sure everyone else is still in their tents and I didn’t hear any zips close.
More munching and crunching of those seed pods and a few more floorboards squawk.
Kudu surely couldn’t have climbed up the steps onto our deck to get the umbrella thorn pods that fell there earlier in the windy afternoon? That just can’t be it… I go to sleep telling myself that it’s only kudu and even if it’s not, it’s a herbivore and doesn’t want to claw through our tent to get to us. So we should be safe. Right?
Gafaw! The baboons are at it again. Disagreements abound between the old and young.
The sunlight only just faintly starts to appear on the horizon and the cacophony of birds starts. Who needs an alarm when you have so many birds singing their dawn chorus to wake you up?
There goes the musical screeching of the crested francolin, soothing sounds of the cape turtle dove with its insistent “work harder” call, some Egyptian geese and a few other waterbirds I haven’t learnt the sounds of yet, the descending call of the water thick-knee follows and oh yeah there’s the scrawch of the natal spurfowl. I guess I can be thankful it’s not a Swainson’s spurfowl that early in the morning. More musical birds like the long-billed crombec come online, the burnt necked eremomela and many other bird sounds that I want to learn…
I’m so tired from listening to all the sounds… I try and go back to bed.
Thwomp thwomp thwomp… someone has just climbed the stairs of the deck of the tent next door. Duty team is coming with their wake up calls.
Good morning Africa!
It’s a frosty morning at camp and we awake to find out our friend, Andrew, who stays in the tent next door and loves getting up early, has found out who has been munching on the seed pods and hitting our floorboards. It’s the young hippo who comes into camp from the river. Mystery solved.
So, this is my first attempt at a blog post and I have a strong urge to go directly to the nub of things.
What is my purpose for being here?
Could it be that I simply enjoy spending time in the bush, tracking elephants on foot (as we did this morning) or perhaps I am trying to escape what I thought of as a mind numbingly monotonous existence in the corporate world, existing only to keep the wheels of commerce grinding on. Or, do I see myself as a man, a human, a member of the animal kingdom, who has attempted to take a step back, assess the world around him and in turn been both shocked and agonized by what we as the dominant species on our planet are doing to it.
If I am being truthfully honest with myself (and whoever is reading this post) I am not 100%, definitively sure. What I am quite sure about is that in the final answer, there lies a combination of all the above. The details, well, the details are still busy working themselves out and will make themselves clear enough in due course. For now I am simply immersing myself in what I consider to be the true African experience and all it has to offer. The good and the bad, sad and joyous, beauty and brutality, the sublime and the terrifying. All of it!
As a youngster I had an inkling that Africa was a continent of extreme contrasts, being bountiful on the one hand but lose respect for it or take it for granted for a nanosecond and it will eviscerate you. As I learn more about the place where it all started, where ~approximately 4 million years ago the forerunners to our hominid species took their first uncertain steps onto the African savanna, I can’t help but feel both awestruck and insignificant in the grandness of the story which is being unfolded before me. If there is a single occasion that truly warrants the use of the word ‘awesome’, it is to describe Africa. There is nothing quite like this continent and its natural wealth in terms of unique biospheres, incredible wildlife and and the possibility of being witness to some of the most primal of experiences.
The more I see, learn and experience, the stronger my belief and desire to be part of the effort to conserve what is left of humankind’s natural heritage. Habitat destruction, poaching, climate change, pollution and acidification of rivers and oceans carry our species’ grubby fingerprints all over them. And let’s not even get started with the booming global human population hoovering up natural resources at a rate impossible to sustain.
Where does this end? How far are do we as thinking, reasoning members of the animal kingdom let this go? Do we as the ‘intelligent’ species, (Homo sapien does mean ‘Wise Man’ after all – not a title we seem to be living up to) have the rational capacity, introspective understanding and collective will power to do something about the destruction of our environment and ultimately our home? As things stand, I highly doubt it.
As long as we continue to pass through this life, generation after generation buying into the ideological bull-shit fed to us by pandering politicians, fundamentalist preachers, irrelevant celebrities and bought and paid for ‘experts’ we will keep grinding this beautiful planet into the dust. Unfettered greed, limited rational inquiry, the corruption of the human spirit and our disconnect from what it means to be part of something unimaginably vast and complex will be the undoing of us all. Tragically, we may well end up taking virtually every other living species with us into our self made oblivion.
However; we must never give up! We must never stop trying to fight for and defend the environment we are so dependent on irrespective of where the threat might come from. Even the smallest efforts can contribute to success and in my opinion, the first step along that path to eventual success is the eradication of apathy.
We as a species need to begin caring again. We really have no other viable choice.
Put down that damn smart phone, get off of Twitter, Faceplant (you know what I mean) and other social media black-holes which tend to suck our very souls dry, and start paying attention to what is happing beyond our front doors. Nurture that unique human capability, the ability to empathize. It is empathy and not competition or ‘survival of the fittest’ or the need to dominate that will bring out the very best in us as a species.
We have work to do people, and time is running out.
“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.” – Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
Wild changes for life. Life for the wild. Conservation in action.