An Open Letter to Head of United Nations
The Honourable Ban Ki-moon
Secretary General of the United Nations
I request that you as head of one of the most
powerful organizations in the world, consider the below:
Each country in the world is given a cruelty
rating. This would be similar to the credit ratings that various
Zimbabwe sells wild elephant calves to China.
Zimbabwe's "cruelty status" is reduced by a certain number of
China as the receiver of elephants, is also
deducted points from its "cruelty status."
In the case of the Swaziland elephants to USA,
Swaziland and the USA are both deducted points from their respective
The United Kingdom bans the use of wild animals
in circus acts. Points are added on to the "cruelty status" of the
Fox hunting is banned in the United Kingdom, then
its "cruelty status" is increased.
Bull fighting is allowed to continue in Spain,
then this country loses points from its "cruelty status".
Canned lion hunting is allowed to continue in
South Africa, then its "cruelty status" is decreased.
Now Mr Ban Ki-moon, if I am a
traveler wishing to visit a certain country, I can simply dial up
the "cruelty status" of the respective country and if it has a poor
"cruelty status", then I may consider not visiting that country.
I trust you will give my recommendation serious
Tread Lightly on the Earth
Founder and co-owner Londolozi Game Reserve- South Africa
Founder: Londolozi Productions (made 42 wildlife documentaries)
Founder: Tiger Canyons South Africa –2000
Founder: JV Images -2010
Founder: Extinction Foundation
Dear John Varty
This is an open letter to yourself should you wish to share it with
I have been receiving your information emails for the last three
years and am a keen follower of the work you do. In fact, I am not
just in awe of your achievements with Tiger Canyons, but admire the
work you have done over years and years for wildlife conservation.
However, I happen to be a sheep farmer myself. Over the three years
of receiving your information emails, I have noticed over and over
how you criticise farmers as if they are your enemy in the
conservation process. Down to the ones who helped fight the fire
back when lightning lit the veld. The way you are going, it sounds
like they have a personal agenda to do nature and yourself in.
I notice that you love to mention "bankruptcy" and how you bought
the land for Tiger Canyons from "bankrupt" farmers. That is not
entirely true. In fact I know some of the farmers that you bought
land off a few years ago who sold because you could pay a premium
for the land. Nothing to do with bankruptcy. In fact, between
investors and tourism, your business is not doing too bad if it puts
you in that sort of bargaining position.
The next topic where you love to generalise the old stock farmer, is
overgrazing. I am a conservation oriented farmer along with many
other farmers I know. The amount of money that goes into erosion
prevention, fences to prevent overgrazing in vulnerable areas, bores
so animals does not run out the veld etc. is astronomical. It seems
like you don't have a clue? Yes there are farmers that should never
have been given the opportunity to own a piece of the planet because
they cannot look after it, but the same counts for any occupation
including some game rangers and some self proclaimed wildlife gurus.
Fences are being put up in the Karoo to prevent overgrazing. Bores
are being sunk in the Karoo to prevent overgrazing. How can you
criticize tools and efforts to conserve the environment? For
interest sake, does Tiger Canyons have any active bores or perhaps
drinking troughs anywhere or is the property so fortunate that all
the animals can drink form the Orange river and natural springs?
Also, the new lodge that you have just built on the edge of the
gorge, is there a comfortable path that leads to it so rich tourists
can get there by motor vehicle, or does everyone hike up there like
the Bushman. I am sure no vegetation or natural earth was disturbed
during the construction of this project, otherwise Tiger Canyons
would be just as bad as the farmer in destruction and potential
creation of erosion.
You blamed farmers for the one time when your tiger escaped Tiger
Canyons and had to be put down. Let's turn the situation around.
Lets say the farmer next door was farming animals that could kill
your tigers and it escaped his land. Would you demand that the
animal is captured straight away or being put down? Yes you would,
because you are protecting the enterprise you are running.
According to you the farmer destroys, ON SITE, Baboons, Bushman,
caracal and jackal. I am a farmer and I can assure you that I have
never destroyed a baboon or a Bushman. And despite a constant battle
to control (destroy in your words) caracole and jackal, their numbers
has multiplied over the years. But a good idea would be not to
control jackal and caracal at all in the Karoo. This way the farmer
would be extinct within the next 10-20 years and we can turn the
whole Karoo into a natural predator sanctuary!
Finally, if we remove all the fences off the earth, fill in all the
bores and kill all the domestic animals that harms nature according
to yourself, what do you think is going to happen. Is your rich
investor type going to buy a bow and arrow and live off smoked
springbuck meat and herbs along with all the rest of the earth's
population? It is an ideal world in your eyes, but it will never
happen. There is a place in the world for the farmer. Many, many
farmers are conservationists like yourself and do their bit to look
after nature. So many farmers, including myself supports your effort
in saving the Tigers and other big cats. Stop criticizing and
wrongly accusing farmers in general as these people are the ones
with a true connection to the land and the creatures on it.
All the best with Tiger Canyons and the financially well oiled
Londolozi. Keep up the good work you do and while "Treading lightly
on the earth" make sure you respect the people around you.
Stefan van Schalkwyk
JV's reply to Stefan van Schalkwyk
Thank you for your email. I have nothing against
farmers personally. Some of my best friends are farmers. When I was
in mauled by the tiger, the farmers were the first to visit me in
hospital. My fences and my lodge are being constructed by farmers.
I have long admired the farmer's tenacity and
their ingenuity. A "Boer Maak 'n Plan" is a cliché, but it is true!
Farmers are generous and courageous. They have stood behind me
during fire, flood and drought.
In a symbiotic relationship, I have created a
huge market for them for dead or injured domestic stock. I also pay
them for warthogs which they shoot. These were previously shot and
left to rot in the veld. To say that myself and the farmers are
interrelated, is an understatement!
Although I have tried to become vegetarian
several times, my second favorite meat after venison is Karoo lamb.
I also consume large quantities of mango and apple juice which are
grown by fruit farmers.
Therefore it is not the farmers I criticize, it
is the land use systems which we have inherited, which I query.
Like all of us, farmers can learn from nature.
How did the Karoo once support between 100 and 300 million
springbuck with no desertification?
Today we support 9 million sheep on fenced areas,
many downgraded and with lowered water tables.
Perhaps if farmers joined their farms together in
low rainfall areas, they may have a better chance of combating the
drought. If they created more mobility, the chances of animals
reaching the rain, are greater.
It's a fallacy that I regard my form of land use
as superior to farming.
If the present government continues to mismanage
the country and crime continues to rise and unrest grips urban and
rural areas, then no one will be interested in visiting and
photographing my tigers.
Zimbabwe is a classic example of how tourism
suffers when a country is mismanaged. No tourists = no income = no jobs.
Under this scenario, I would quickly become a
farmer, a game farmer.
Again nature can teach us many valuable lessons.
How wise was it to destroy 100 million perfectly adapted springbuck
and swop them for non-indigenous sheep, goats, cows and horses?
The farmers that I know are clever, resourceful
and opportunistic. They have to be to survive in the Karoo. They
know that buffalo bulls are selling for R40 million. A rhino for
R250 000. A roan antelope for R300 000 or more.
Increasingly they are incorporating wild life in
their farming management strategy. They are hedging their bets with
domestic stock and wildlife. This is smart. This is learning from
Thank you for your email. You make many valuable
points. I invite you to visit Tiger Canyons.
Tread Lightly on The Earth