How do we create our future if we don’t understand where we come from?
All of who we are today is an accumulation of around 3.4 billion years of life’s evolution on earth. Yet, look at the negative impact we are inflicting as a single species on this finite home of ours. I believe we have lost our connection to what we depend upon for our very survival. How do we re-connect, feel and protect this sacred Earth?
One simple way is to go back to our early ancestors and see how they understood that everything is connected. They simply interpreted the signs around them and acted accordingly. They knew that the arrival of some specific insects predicted the rain or that following the flight path of certain birds will lead you to water. Nature shows us the way to go. And nothing has changed!
I was very fortunate, while presenting for the SABC2 TV nature program, 50/50, to interact with a ‘modern day’ group of people who understand our ‘foot prints’.
Alex van den Heever, who runs the Tracker Academy, was my host at a beautiful game reserve called Samara in the silent Karoo. Alex, with his special and highly talented team, showed me the silent signs that connect us all. Alex’s team are made up of two remarkable men; Karel Benadie and Renias Mhlongo. Karel is from the arid Karoo while Renias is from the Northern Savannah region in Londolozi. I have mentioned two of Alex’s team. But there is a third and most vital team member…Mother Nature herself. For without her, Karel and Renias would have little to teach us!
I walk with Karel and Alex at first light. The cold Karoo air is dry and my breath blows clouds of steam as the sun glints through the trees, heralding a new day. We are looking for signs of the previous night’s activity.
Tracking is not about finding the ‘Big Five’, and taking photographs. It is about something much more subtle and personal, to feel the animals’ presence and understand the way the bush works as a unity, in perfect balance. Tracking is about learning to be part of this ancient system again and to be able to hear, smell and see in a completely different way.
We find rhino spoor: a mother and her calf. Karel estimates the calf to be about two years old (they stay close to their very protective mothers for approximately three to four years). He knows they are fresh, as millipede tracks are covered by the rhino track and the millipede is still moving along the dust path a few meters from the rhino spoor! I feel my gut tighten as I am reminded of the horror of what I have witnessed lately in the current rhino war, and I fear for the mother and calf’s safety. The recent scourge of rhino poaching is just another symptom of our disconnection from nature, from real values and it exemplifies our species’ egotism and cruelty.
We see other animal activity in the vicinity. Kudu and giraffe have been here last night. There are a lot of kudu in this area. It is here that I learn this amazing lesson…not just of connectivity but also of balance!
The acacias are stressed because of too many kudu browsing them. They mount an alarm response and start releasing chemicals called tannins. These tannins are carried down-wind to the other acacias, which in turn release tannins also. The tannins are distasteful to the kudu, making their leaves bitter, and may even poison them if they don’t move on and feed on other resources. If no other resources are available, the poison keeps kudu numbers in balance by keeping them from multiplying beyond what is available for them to feed on. This is a perfect example of balance and co-evolution! Nature ensures inter-species harmony.
Everything in nature is connected and in relationship with each other. Hence, when even just one species is removed from one of these intricately intertwined networks, the whole system will suffer or even collapse.
Everything in nature has its purpose.
So when I see a wild dog spoor, or a cheetah, or a rhino, I don’t just see one animal, I see the animal in its perfectly fitted position in a web of other animals that interact with it and around it.
And without even just one of them the African bush would not be the same with its sounds and smells and the feeling one gets when hearing the lion roar in the dark of the night. And that’s why all species deserve our protection, and especially those species that have been driven to the verge of extinction by our actions. This is our small contribution in an attempt to restore balance and create a world where we can be part of nature and appreciate her for what she provides for us every day.
Our future wellbeing will be determined by the decisions we take now in reconnecting with the biodiversity that we take so for granted and indeed, that we depend upon for our very survival.
#DOT…Do One Thing…help protect our endangered wildlife by getting a MyPlanet card and selecting one of the credible charities as your beneficiary.