The American chef and food writer James Beard described food as “our common ground, a universal experience”. Those who have been on an African bush holiday know that food around a campfire, combined with the back-to-nature experience, has the power of a common language.
Rhino bought,rhino sold
with promise of cure
to the wealthy and old.
for trophies on walls,
for tour operators to be paid.
stripped of horn
Under surveillance and guard
from the moment they’re born.
To trade, to hunt,
to farm, to breed
Oh the shame of it all
Ranger vs poacher,
politican vs NGO-
fighting in the bush,
fighting the status quo.
Drones and poison,
Is this enough
to fight a government with no political will?
By: Tisha Wardlow
After the stresses and strains of the election, a rest cure is just what the doctor ordered, whether in hospital or in a game reserve, writes Justice Malala
NO SOONER do you think the elections are over and the madness will finally subside, than along comes SACP chairman Senzeni Zokwana. Yes, this worker champion, who has now been elevated to agriculture & fisheries minister by President Jacob Zuma, is also the immediate past president of the NUM.
He pays his cattle herder the princely sum of R26 a day. Yes, dear, that’s R26 a day. And the herder is on duty on Saturdays and Sundays, too. Zokwana is the same guy, mind you, who every second day rails against business and its poor wage increases. Watch this space. Before you can say “promotion” this minister will be on the ANC committee that is investigating the introduction of a basic minimum wage across the country. Before you can say “red tape” there will be a law introducing a basic minimum wage in SA. And before you can say “hypocrisy” you will find that our dear Zokwana is still paying his herder R26 a day.
After all, the SACP did come out guns blazing when the story was published, saying that newspapers were being “petty”. No-one said a word about the fact that Zokwana has been enjoying an annual salary of R1m since he became NUM president 14 years ago. I really am not surprised that Zuma arrived at an ANC national executive committee meeting on Friday looking ragged and had to be sent away by party secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Then, on Saturday, it was announced that Zuma was admitted to a Pretoria hospital.
I don’t blame the guy for being so stressed. With the Zokwanas of this world in your cabinet you would also need a rest. And the election was exhausting too, according to Mantashe. “I must say these elections were quite punishing. I was told to go and sleep for nine days. I slept for nine days,” says Mantashe. We all need a holiday after that election campaign and the appointment of the Zokwanas of this world. Which is why it was such a pleasure to hop onto a Federal Air flight to Inyati Game Reserve out in the Sabi Sands, Mpumalanga, the other day. Like Mantashe and Zuma, I needed a break from the madding crowd.
Here is the thing about the bush. The minute you enter those small planes, or drive out of the city, the tension just flows out of you. There are no fences between Inyati and the other lodges in the Sabi Sands. The animals roam free. And there are plenty of them: on my first game drive we saw a leopard with two cubs, two herds of elephant and a testosterone of three male lions who were having their afternoon nap.Ask your game ranger not to park downwind from them: they let rip so often we had to either move on or die of asphyxiation.
There are three things you need to remember if you ever go to Inyati. First, the barman, Levi, is phenomenal. Second, the view from the reception area could make an Ernest Hemingway out of a pedestrian writer such as me. There is nothing like sipping a gin and tonic, writing your piece, and seeing animals come down to the river and have a drink. Or a leopard passing through the premises. Third, try to make sure you have a meal out in the bush on one of the days you are there. The staff build a huge fire, a bar is set up and a braai is laid on. The pap is phenomenal, the drinks flow, the stars are fiercely out in the night sky, the meat is delicious and all is good with the world. And I managed to put in a solid nine hours’ sleep, resting just like my hero, Mantashe. Divine.
**** Inyati Private Game Reserve
Sabi Sand Reserve Mpumalanga Tel: (013) 735-5125
Justice Malala is a weekly columnist for the Financial Mail.
Khimbini Hlongwane from Inyati Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand was captivated by animals from an early age.
“Growing up in a village in the eastern Transvaal (now Mpumalanga) got me exposed to wildlife from a young age and I was fascinated by the behaviours of various animals,” he says. “I loved being out there with brothers herding cattle and goats while interacting with wildlife. It was really fun, yet challenging, because every day we had to try to find food with without becoming food!”
Hlongwane says he battled when he grew older and had to divide his days between going to school and spending time having fun outdoors.
When his community was separated from wildlife, he knew he had to find a way back to live closer to and learn more about animals. However, guiding wasn’t his first choice. “I was terrified of being responsible for entertaining people of different cultures, coming from all corners of the globe,” he says. “You have to understand why that was a challenge for me – I was raised by people who couldn’t read and write, never left the Transvaal and hardly had any exposure to the outside world.”
Initially, Hlongwane had his sights set on becoming a wildlife veterinarian but says after graduating from high school, it was clear this wasn’t going to happen. He moved on to plan B and started as a tracker at Inyati Game Lodge in 1994.
“The training went smoothly because the man training me happened to the same man who taught me the ins and outs of surviving in the bush as a herd boy, Simon George Hlongwane, an older brother, a friend, a mentor, a custodian and a role model to many of us in the community.”
“One of the first things Simon told me was: ‘Remember, we used to see lion tracks and we would herd the livestock in the opposite direction to protect them? Now when we see lion tracks, we follow until we find the lions, so be more vigilant!’”
Hlongwane spent five years as a tracker before becoming a ranger. “I enjoyed the sense of accomplishment I got when seeing the astonishment and excitement on my guests’ faces after successfully tracking a leopard where it seemed impossible.”
He didn’t think he would like guiding as much as he did tracking but Hlongwane says, 15 years later he’s still loving it and has found a new passion in the form of wildlife photography.
While he has had a few close calls with wild animals, the incident that stands out involves guests. “One of the biggest fears as guide is losing a guest,” he says.
One afternoon, after tracking for about half an hour, Hlongwane found a pride of four lionesses and 10 cubs. Because the lions were still resting, he continued the drive and returned to the pride at dusk.
“As we arrived, the lions started yawning, indicating that they would soon start moving. We followed the lions and, as we negotiated our way through the bushes, it became difficult to keep up. I was focused on keeping an eye on the movement of the lions while warning guests to mind the branches coming their way.
“All of a sudden there were loud screams behind me in the vehicle. I turned around to find that, of the party of six Germans, only four were left in the vehicle. Two were standing on the seats, two were on the bars we used to embark the vehicle and the other two had jumped out of the vehicle.”
Hlongwane stopped the engine, picked up his rifle and hopped out the vehicle.
“Trying to figure out what was going on was difficult. Even though we had all been speaking English earlier, suddenly the guests were only speaking German. In the midst of the shouting I heard the word ‘schlange’ which sounded like the Afrikaans word ‘slang’, meaning snake.
“With the tracker watching the lions I decided to open the tailgate of the vehicle. Sure enough there was a harmless variegated bush snake underneath the seats.”
Hlongwane reckons he could fill a book with the strange questions some guests ask. One of his favourites was at a leopard sighting.
“We followed drag marks and found a leopard in jackalberry tree. Beside the leopard was a half-eaten impala carcass. It was the guests’ first leopard sighting so I waited for the excitement to die down a bit before talking more about leopards.”
“The guest sitting at the back asked: ‘What was the impala doing up there in the first place?’ I turned to look at my tracker and before I could answer she hit me with another: ‘Is the impala dead?’.”
Hlongwane politely explained that impala don’t climb trees and it had been dragged up the tree by the leopard.
The most valuable lesson Hlongwane has learnt is to never allow yourself to think you know everything, because that will be the day you stop learning. “Especially in wildlife there is so much to learn. Animals continue to prove to us that they don’t live by the theories we write about them.”
According to studies, children’s academic performance in science, math, English and social sciences increase when they have experience with nature and the outdoors—not to mention their sense of ownership and responsibility to their surroundings.(Wildlife Federation)
There are organizations throughout Africa who give the opportunity of conservation education to children. But Kenya has taken it a step further, getting with the times by introducing anti-poaching and conservation curriculum to secondary schools in the Masai Mara and Serengeti areas.
“We decided to introduce lessons on wildlife conservation to these schools to sensitise communities that neighbour the Mara and Serengeti parks on the need to end poaching. The students will visit villages to educate locals on the dangers posed by the menace,”
said Nick Murero, the Mara-Serengeti…
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China – the mere mention of the country sets animal lovers on edge. It’s no secret they bear a huge responsibility for the demand of horn and ivory, paving the destruction of rhinos and elephants, among other animals.
But there is reason to hope. The animal welfare movement is alive and well in China. The younger generation is aware, and becoming less tolerant of cruelty toward animals. With increasing attention from social media, animal protection issues are pushing to the public forefront.
The past couple of years, Chinese animal welfare advocates have
* banned the U.S. rodeo from entering Beijing
*demonstrated against the import of seal parts from Canada *
*ended barbaric live animal feeding in zoos
*prevented the construction of a foie gras factory
*rescued thousands of dogs and cats from the meat trade
*made stricter terms on harming endangered species(anyone who eats endangered species…
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