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Newsletter 102
05/12/14

Wilderness Man

Hello friends, 

The passing of Dr Ian Player should remind us of what the man stood for. Ian Player dreamt of an Africa where large areas had been set aside. Where wild animals would be safe and free to live out their lives as nature intended. These large areas should be protected by law in the constitution of the country i.e. National Parks.

So let's examine how Ian Player's dream under the onslaught of 7 billion human beings on the planet, of which 1.23 billion are in Africa, is faring:

Starting with Tanzania's famous Serengeti: The Serengeti has recently been threatened by a highway through this great wilderness. Richard Leakey has suggested that the highway should be raised above the ground to allow the animals to move underneath. Either way the wilderness is invaded and it will never be the same. It is compromised in the name of progress.

Tanzania's other parks Selous, Ruaha and Tangire are rife with poaching and Tanzania is reputed to be losing 30 elephant per day or 22 000 in the last 2 years.

Rumours of collusion between Tanzania Government officials and Chinese ivory dealers abound. 

Kenya too is under attack from elephant poachers. The worlds largest elephant bull Satao, was recently poached in Tsavo National Park.  His tusks measured more than 6.5 feet long.

Despite much talk, Uhuru Kenyatta, the new president, has yet to get a handle on corruption and poaching in his country.

The famous Masai Mara is trapped by its own success. It is not uncommon to see 20 cars pursuing a hunting cheetah or 60 vehicles jostling for position on a wildebeest crossing. Greed and money have overtaken the wilderness.

Zambia has 22% of its surface area protected by national parks. Sadly, many of these parks are dysfunctional. Luangwa Valley once had 100 000 elephant and 6 000 black rhino. The rhino are gone and the elephant greatly reduced.

Despite attempts to introduce the lion back into Luawa plains, the lions have all disappeared.

Once one of the richest countries in Africa, there are frequent times when the game scouts in Zambia parks, who are supposed to fight the poachers and protect the wilderness, do not even get paid. 

Zimbabwe’s national parks came under enormous pressure during the 15 year Rhodesian war. President Mugabe has frequently allowed his army to use the wildlife in the national parks to feed the troops.

Recently 50 elephants were poisoned by cyanide in a waterhole in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, making it the largest poaching incident in the history of elephant poaching. 

Botswana lost all its rhino, black and white, but is now confident that Ian Khama’s shoot to kill policy will keep the rhino safe. South Africa is giving Botswana large numbers of rhino.

Vetinary fences aimed at protecting the cattle industry in Botswana, are responsible for the death of millions of wild animals.

The great wilderness area of the Okavango has been frequently bombarded with D.D.T to combat the tsetse fly which is fatal to cattle.  

South Africa’s Kruger National Park has been turned into a war zone as poachers from Mozambique invade into Kruger, killing rhino for their horn.

Despite these invasions, Kruger have still granted permission to hotel groups to construct large hotels inside the park on the premise that Kruger Park must be financially viable. The message is clear. Kruger is no longer a wilderness set aside for animals and people. Kruger must make profit in the harsh commercial world.

South Africa has far more lions in captivity than in the wilds. Some 8 000 lions are bred in captivity to supply the canned lion industry to be shot in an enclosed area by a wealthy overseas hunter. This is a multi-million rand industry, but it has nothing to do with wilderness and everything to do with money.

On game ranches in South Africa, rare animals like disease free buffalo, roan antelope and sable walk around with tags in their ears, proclaiming the exorbitant prices they command. These animals are a far cry from the wild herds that once roamed across the African veld.

However, the private enterprise, seen as the shining light of conservation in South Africa, have found other ways to make money. They are breeding gimmicks. A copper springbuck fetches R25 000, a golden wildebeest R400 000, a black impala R530 000, a buffalo bull with 53 inch horns R40 million. Clearly this is not about wilderness and all about making money.

Inspired by his lifelong friend and game scout, Magqubu Ntombela, Ian Player greatly admired the great keepers of wilderness. Those who have lived successfully in harmony with the land and the wild animals.

Sadly these too are under threat.

The Kalahari bushmen were marginalized by the South African Apartheid Government when they took their hunting grounds for national parks. The ANC government has done little to improve the situation for the bushmen. 

The North American Red Indian remain in reservations. Some of them have made money from oil and casinos but they are far removed from the naturalists that once lived off the great herds of American buffalo on the prairies of North America (The estimate for the American buffalo that once roamed across the prairies, is 63 million). 

A low tolerance to alcohol, the Australian aborigines are still waiting for the Australian Government to restore their former hunting areas to them. 

In short, Ian Player's keepers of the wilderness are today scattered and marginalized. With their passing, great wisdom is lost to mankind.

Nelson Mandela said: "I have dreamed of a just and fair, non-racial, non-corrupt  democratic South Africa". Mandela's dream is fading in South Africa today.

Ian Player's dream of vast wilderness areas where rhino and elephant and all wild animals are safe from human beings is fading too. 

If we are to save the rhino and elephant and by extension all wild animals, it will be done by those who can win the war. History has proved that large numbers of soldiers operating in National Parks, creating war zones, are not compatible with wilderness. 

Rest in Peace: Doctor Ian Player

Tread Lightly on the Earth
JV


Response to newsletter:

ATTENTION JOHN VARTY 

John, thanks for the latest update on what is going on regarding the wildlife in Africa. It is truly disheartening. 

Having been there 10 times, we  grieve for what has changed so terribly in just the last 3-4 years. 

Your Father would be turning over in his grave if he knew what has happened. 

We would live to come back, but fear it would just not be the same.

Daryl, what say ye on this situation? 

Best regards, 

Stoney and Jan Edwards


Response from Daryl and Sharna Balfour:

Hi Stoney & Jan, 

I really think you are mis-reading and over-reacting to JV’s newsletter. In fact, the very places I was suggesting for your safari – Tiger Canyons, Tswalu, Phinda and Londolozi, are all privately owned reserves that are in the forefront of making a difference to conservation in South Africa. While JV makes the point that Governments are neglecting to preserve their heritage, it is very much the private land-owners who deserve your support and that of others to continue being able to make a difference. Should people such as yourselves, regular visitors to Africa over the years, decide to throw in the towel...well, the outcome for Africa’s wildlife would be the same as the outcome for Europe had the Allied forces decided to throw in the towel after the early setbacks in WWII. 

Africa’s wildlife cannot survive (the world’s wildlife in fact) without the tourist dollar. JV has frequently made the point that Governments will not save the tiger, private landowners such as himself and hopefully others who follow his example, will. Without tourism, places like Tiger Canyons, Londolozi and the many others scattered around Africa will wither and die...they need your support, not your boycott or avoidance. And in fact, not only the private reserves, but the national parks and game reserves will also wither and die. 

I can assure you that the problems facing Africa’s wildlife are not things that should spoil your safaris at all. In fact they are things that have been ongoing for several decades now, under the surface and behind the scenes. The best thing to help preserve them is for tourists to continue to visit them...and speak out vociferously. In the USA you can support and encourage efforts to ban the imports of wildlife trophies from Africa & elsewhere of things such as rhino, elephant, lion, cheetah, leopard, tiger and other endangered species.  

Should African governments find the tourist dollar from wildlife tourism declines, then wild places and wildlife will be even more imperilled and these governments will find alternative uses for both the land and its inhabitants. Already the Chinese are eyeing the huge herds of east Africa as a potential source of protein. The only way to stop this from happening is for Africa to continue seeing wildlife tourism as a major source of foreign income and employment for their people. 

Likewise, my recent visit to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge flies in the face of the wants of the oil companies (who seem to have USFWS in their pockets) who would rather that tourists do not visit places like Kaktovik & the Alaska North Slope...so they can continue with their nefarious oil prospecting & habitat destruction far from the public eye. Only by people such as me and my clients and others visiting and photographing and writing about these places will our and future generations be stirred enough to act to save them! 

A boycott mentality never helps anything – should I and other potential visitors to the USA stay away because of the lawless events and incidents in Ferguson and New York surrounding the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases? 

Come back to Africa Stoney & Jan...you will not be disappointed! 

Daryl & Sharna.

Tread lightly on the Earth

info@jvbigcats.co.za
Copyright 2007 @jvbigcats  All rights reserved


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Ambassador Cats

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Invitation
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Newsletter 81
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Big Cat Cub Safari


Newsletter 80
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Newsletter 79
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Open letter to Vice President Cyril Ramaphosa about rhino crisis

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Open letter to Min of Defense, South Africa about rhino crisis

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06/09/13
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20/07/13
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Newsletter 74
09/07/13
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Newsletter 73
02/07/13
The Evolution of the Tracker

Newsletter 72
02/07/13
An Open Letter to the Honourable Edna Molewa, Minister of Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs

Newsletter 71
06/06/13
Using flash or spotlight on cats at night

Newsletter 70
14/05/13
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28/09/12
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24/09/12
A Letter to John Hume, SA biggest Rhino Breeder

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05/09/12
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Majestic, breathtaking pictures

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26/09/11

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06/09/11
A Letter to the President

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08/08/11
The Body Parts Scam

Newsletters 45
11/07/11
Tiger Subspecies

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08/05/11
Talk to Me

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26/01/11
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20/10/10
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05/07/10
The Ethics of
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26/05/10
The Year of the Tiger

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Newsletter 21
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Interspecies communication


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Londolozi
Newsletters

Death of a Legend
17/08/09


Newsletter 20
10/02/09

Newsletter 15
17/08/08

Painted Wolves


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Response to Elephant Trust
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Newsletter 12
09/04/08

Elephant Trust