Margrit’s first impressions and experiences back in Africa… beautiful yet vulnerable.
The weather is mild, the birds are singing, the fruit is to die for, the people are pleasant and “stay left” is our mantra on the road.. yes we are in Africa!
When you are in one country trying to understand what is happening in another country no matter how hard you try you just can’t totally get it. Coming home, again, brings with it bitter sweet moments and also insight into myself. Strange how in my sixties I still continue on this journey of self discovery without even trying.
Being here has shown me how much I’ve adapted over the years, gotten used to the hustle and noise of city life, running to the grocery store late at night, pumping my own fuel to fill up the car to name a few.
It reminds me of the story of the two frogs. One jumped into a boiling pot and immediately hopped back out. While another never noticed the slow rise in temperature of the water in his pot and got cooked.
Here in Africa (and probably in most countries) both ‘frogs’ reside. Some people are like frog number one, aware of the dangers that surround them and the African wildlife. They jump out of the ‘pot’ and holler, inviting others to join them before it is too late. Then there are far too many like frog number two. They feel relatively comfortable and don’t pay attention to the slowly rising ‘temperature’ for them and the wildlife.
I hate to admit it, I was a frog number two for far too many years. Just last night I was reading again in Julian Rademeyer’s book “Killing for Profit” and I was reminded that this onslaught on Africa’s wildlife was not so recent, it has been going on for years. The players, awareness and intensity may have changed, but the ‘temperature’ is now rising to the ‘boiling point’ for the rhino, elephant, lion and other wildlife species in Africa.
Being here at the very beginning of our Africa Wildlife Conservation Tour 2014 we’re being slapped in the face with the reality of the struggle wildlife conservationists and activists face. Horn, hides, fur and bone (supposedly from buffalo, cattle and other ‘legal’ species) are fashioned into jewelry, purses, rugs and souvenirs, and openly sold in the markets and shops.
Poachers lay snares in reserves, public parks and even private gardens… and this in the middle of Durban. On one particular day a group of Honorary Rangers found 65 snares, several with dead Duiker (tiny antelope), genets (small feline) and birds brutally trapped.
The Beachwood Mangroves Reserve, a small parcel of land at the mouth of the Umgeni River is home to endangered crabs and other small marine species. Here the dedicated rangers deal with poachers and ordinary ignorant citizens on a daily basis. People who would destroy this safe haven for these small creatures by tromping on their mud holes and sloshing through their breeding spots.
I must admit for a split second when I found out we were invited to speak at a reserve that protected crabs, unique trees, and fish, I was disappointed. After all, everyone wants to hear stories from people protecting lions, elephants, rhino and the iconic species. Who cares about the little creepy crawlies any way?
Well, each species, whether big or small, popular or not has its place, its purpose in nature, in its ecosystem. We learned about the crabs and the mangrove trees and the role this estuary plays in sustaining fish and other marine species as it is a crucial breeding ground for many of them. We watched the Red Clawed Crabs hidden in their burrow wait till all was still before racing out to be the first to grab the yellow mangrove leaf and pull it quickly to the safety of their holes. Frequently a tug-of-war ensued, until one let go to disappear in her burrow, usually when someone in our group moved.
What was the most remarkable of all, was our guides’ enthusiasm, knowledge and love for these little critters and the reserve. I couldn’t help but leave with an appreciation and respect for crabs and their kind and the wonder of mangrove trees.
These Honorary Rangers are ‘Starfish throwers‘ of the very best kind.
Lesson number one – Everyone and every species matters
Every species is important and skillfully designed to serve its purpose in nature.
My hat off to that wonderful group of Honorary Rangers who are dedicated to protecting the mangroves for the numerous small species who rely on this reserve for their survival.
[Thank you Heidi for inviting us to speak to your group. Thank you Jane for being a delightful guide.]
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