3rd October 2015
We all know why we’re here, so I’m not going to bore you all with statistics and horror stories about poaching. We’re all aware of them, and the facts are easy to find.
But …… it was with total horror that I heard the news of nine rhino poached in Hluhluwe last Sunday night, the night of the full moon, eight dead, one seriously wounded. All had the horns removed.
My problem with this is …… if the poachers were aware of the location of the animals, got to them, attacked them and removed the horns in savage action, why weren’t the rangers there as well. Surely they too knew where the rhinos were.
It’s indicative of the fact that the authorities are not doing their jobs properly. This should never have happened.
- Let me get back on track here …..
Let me tell you why it is imperative that we do all in our power to keep these animals alive and well and living free.
Nature is wonderful. Here in Africa, there is a marvellous diversity of animal and plant life, all, in one way or another, dependent on each other for their existence.
Everything simply works, and works well. There are just enough predators to ensure that the number of prey animals stays in balance. There are just enough prey animals to satisfy both predation and their own numbers. There is just enough vegetation to ensure the continued survival and well-being of the grazers and browsers. It’s truly magical, and has been for millions of years …. Until modern man’s greed-gene kicked in.
And our precious wildlife is fuelling that greed, destroying our heritage and seriously upsetting nature’s carefully established balance.
The seeming lack of action by government and others, makes us wonder why this is going on with such regularity. We now have to demand accountability and that there be seen to be political will to actually do something concrete. There must be total transparency as to what the authorities are actually doing on the ground, rather than silly little statements that a committee is going to be set up to investigate the matter. Sitting around a table does nothing!
If the situation continues as it is, this country will be a very different place.
You know ……. In this modern world of ours, there’s really no such thing as silence.
There’s a lot of background noise. It surrounds us, it’s always there and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Try to imagine a place that is silent.
Try and tune out all the sounds around you. I know it’s not easy, but give it a go.
If there was a place, such as our imaginings have taken us, it would be an eerie and sombre place.
Let your mind take you there.
Can you hear the silence?
It is deafening.
And that is what our game parks, reserves and wilderness areas will sound like in the very near future.
Silent. Totally silent.
I see some bewildered expressions:
Well ….. it’s simple really…..
Rhinos and elephants are mega-herbivores, right at the top of the pile, with no natural predators to deter them from doing their job.
What’s the job?
They are Africa’s landscape artists.
For a long time, elephants were considered to be extremely destructive.
They seemed to enjoy pulling up young trees by their roots, eating the leaves, munching on the twigs and then casually tossing away the remains.
Those remains would rot away, thanks to an awful lot of small bugs, beetles and bacteria, putting nutrients back into the soil, and helping maintain the grassland.
If those young trees were not removed, the grasslands would become forests.
White rhinos are grazers, they eat grass.
The white rhino is quite good for the grassland. The longer grass is trimmed down, stimulating new growth and providing sweet new grass for all the other grazing animals.
Black rhinos are browsers.
They very neatly prune and trim the shrubs and bushes, keeping them contained and very effectively stopping the heavy bush from encroaching on the grassland.
All three of them are very, very good at what they do.
Take the elephants and the rhinos away and the landscape will change in dramatic fashion, and in a remarkably short period of time.
The grass would be over-run by bush and trees.
Savannah will become forest.
Shrubs would run wild, growing prolifically.
Without the grass, grazing animals starve to death.
Without the antelope, zebra, buffalo and other prey animals, the predators starve to death.
And that’s when we say goodbye to the lions, leopards, cheetah, jackals, wild dogs and hyaenas.
Never to be seen again.
A few of the browsers would survive for a while, but increasingly dense bush would make it more and more difficult for them to move around and feed, and without predation, their numbers would increase to unsustainable proportions and they too would begin to die out.
Very small animals, the rodents, mongooses, and so on, will thrive for a while, but they too, without predation, will suffer from a population explosion and they too will disappear as their numbers exceed the capability of the bush to sustain them.
So what have we got left?
A total, eerie, deafening silence.
A silence that will be difficult, if not impossible, to explain to our children’s children.
A silence that will, in all likelihood, be permanent.
We must not let this silence happen.
With every fibre of your being, please, do as much as you possibly can to ensure the survival of these iconic, dramatic and very special animals.
Finally, here’s a statement from Sir David Attenborough for today’s event:
“As the dominant species on this planet, it is our moral duty to protect and preserve all forms of life.
“For species such as elephants and rhinos to be fighting for their very existence due to human exploitation and interference is unacceptable, and we must do everything within our power to turn this dire situation around.
“We are responsible for the problem and we must be held responsible for the solution. It will indeed be a sad indictment on our species if rhinos and elephants are no more. And that day will come much sooner than we think if we do not take action.”