|Boabab Tree near Hoedspruit|
Back to my original blog entry…
[Pics at the end… somehow couldn’t get them inbetween! Go figure!]
It’s been two weeks since we arrived and met with Libby who protects the habitat of her urban Black Eagles west of Johannesburg. Unfortunately as our flight out of Paris was delayed by a passengers medical emergency we missed chatting with Christo (who is a wildlife hero I wrote about before).
We left the big city and the High Veld and dropped down Van Reenen’s pass into Kwazulu-Natal. Roz who within only two and a half years has organized a first response wildlife rescue and rehab center is our first stop. Her center has become a hub for country wide rescue and rehab information already. Not that the center tauts to address every wild birds or animals need, but they know the specialts and experts to get involved. Like Ben at the African continents largest and most advanced raptor rescues and rehab facility who we visited next.
Ben and Shannon are not only a create match as husband and wife, they established both the rescue and rehab center, with it’s main objective to return these magnificent birds back to the wild, but also a sanctuary to house those that can’t be and are used as ambassedors and trained free flying birds for Shannons marvelous educational demonstrations. There’s nothing quite like having a Horned Owl soundlessly skim the top of your head in flight. Or watching the Lanner Falcon soaring high only to return to catch the lure in full flight with his talons.
I still can’t help but chuckle as I think of our visit to the Jan and James and their Vervet Monkey project. This elderly couple is preparing for the thirteenth year to care for this springs injured or orphaned Vervets. They’ve not lost one of the 15 plus that arrive at their doorstep every season.
Along the way we meet ordinary people like Leon (banker), Shaun (health care administrator), Avril (outdoor adventure business owner), Thoko (high school teacher), Caroline (newly graduated conservationist), Andries (looking for job in conservation), Terry (Methodist pastor) who share their diverse experiences and understanding of what’s really happening with South African wildlife today. The puzzle pieces are different than we had imagined! (You may want to read: Wildlife Conservation: Does One-Size-Fit-All? and The Catch-22 of Protecting South African Wildlife.)
Will and Carol, retired from their former lives, are dedicated to researching the behaviors of the only free roaming preditor that remains in South Africa, the leopard. Their bush home is on a 5,000 hecter ranch. So Russ and I forfitted showers and took off shortly after first light to explore at the waterhole below and by following game paths to the hill above. We were richly rewarded by: Kudo, grey Duiker, Vulture, Impala, Zebra and numerous song birds. Sure beats a morning walk in the suburbs!
Then while eating breakfast on the deck a baboon troop and then a small herd of wildebeest pass by. What a life? However, Will and Carol don’t sit around much, the leopard project, safari TV (live online interactive educational program) and so many other protection efforts that would make anyone else’s head spin, keep this entrepreneurial couple hopping. Will is not only creating the first free roaming leopard database ever, he also grows the young people he surrounds himself with. Nothing stagnant about what Will does!
Down the dusty road we travelled. Climbing one hill and avoiding one pothole after another in our little car with tiny wheels. Michele and Ian’s bush school is really way out there! She wasn’t kidding me. Surrounded by nothing but bush and wildlife the kids and volunteers are invited into a once in a life time experience. It was a gift for us to spend half a day with them. Risette, a volunteer from Holland, said it’s amazing to see how at the beginning of the week the children arrive very quiet and heads bowed with little interest in the wildlife around them. By the time they leave their hearts are transformed and they cannot only name the wild animals but are excited to see them.
Off one of the main roads near the famous Kruger National Park is Donald’s reptile center. Now Russ doesn’t like snakes, but after talking to the enthusiastic Donald and getting our own private behind the scenes tour he had a change of heart. Donald’s center is full of rescued reptiles that cannot be released. Those that have been dropped off there or he and his staff have rescued from behind peoples cubboards to those about to be killed by an angry farmer.
What a ride! Each day is a new adventure as much of who we meet are those that are put in our path! This amazing tour of meeting such wonderful people beats any vacation I could wish for… except to go relax on the beaches of Hawaii maybe… not!
|Volunteers teaching the kids at the Bush School|
|Russ and Will at their Bush Home|
|Rescued Albino Python|
|A Black Headed Heron approaching the nest on a small island in an urban lake. Ermelo SA|