acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who Cares?

Who cares? well some people do apparently.

 Backed up against a quartzite cliff alongside the Olifants River in Balule Nature Reserve, is an extraordinary project called CARE. It is a baboon sanctuary for orphaned and otherwise unwanted baboons.  Baboons are problem children, especially when habituated or hand reared.  They can be aggressive and threatening in a wild situation, and they can definitely differentiate between human females and human males - they know which to confront if necessary.

For all the bad press baboons attract; we need them in the wild.  They forage and browse symbiotically with other species, who rely on the vigilance of the baboons to keep watch and  warn them of predators or approaching dangers. Thus they keep the other species more calm when risks are few.

Baboons can tell when you are looking at them, even from behind their backs, through a window far away!

We love to watch baboons interacting in a relaxed troop.  The antics of the young are hilarious and entertaining as they play-learn and explore their world. The groups of adult females, and dominant males keeping the hierarchy intact allow us to consider our own primate socialising from a safely removed distance.

Well, for now, I have no authority to talk  authoritatively about CARE. Hopefully, one of these days i will go and walk around with the volunteers and project managers, and discuss their hopes dreams and logistical issues.  But I did sneak a peek in there this week, on a rainy day with some pals who know the right people.  I have to say i found it somewhat disturbing - in the way that baboons watching us drive by from fenced enclosures made me cast them in an all too human light.  Wild baboons are omnipresent - even trying to enter the cages.  They communicate and vocalise with the baboon inmates which apparently is a good thing.

Baboons are much maligned because in many ways they compete with us for habitat, territory and food.  When pushed to the fringe they can become destructive to human property. There is a dichotomy though because as they are feared and hunted by people, they are also much loved, and an essential piece of the environmental well being.

That sneak peek at the CARE project has been tugging at my thoughts.  It was started by a Rita Miljo, who pioneered the successful release of baboon troops into new wild areas.  Sadly she died in a fire at her home, at the age of 81,  earlier this year.  But I feel that the people and volunteers she has left in charge of her work, still deserve to be recognised and supported. They  campaign for, and nurture, our wild things in remote and unsung corners of the continent, asking for so little and yet doing so much.

So, given the unauthorised nature of this posting, I invite you to visit their website and see for yourself. I will paste the links below.  In a world where everything bright and beautiful is under threat, I applaud and thank those who dedicate their lives to the preservation and making of forward plans for beleagured and politically incorrect creatures. 

If you would like me to find out more, or ask any specific questions when I do get to return there, please let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

September - Late Edition

September - a month between moons. If it was March we could have called it Many Weathers. But here in the southern hemisphere we watched September behave with adolescent confusion as winter turn to spring.

There was heat, and then rain, followed by wind, and clouds, and finally the haze of early summer.  Trees sprang flowers from dessicated branches filling the air with scent.

The monkeys left the roof to investigate and feast on the tiny pompom plumes of the acacia trees.  There were giraffe about the place doing the same thing.  Its strange how its easier to see a giraffe thats far away than one thats just about to step on your feet. 

Our month was one of travel. Meetings here and there, and things to be done in far flung places. We drove and drove from south east to north west.  Like a pendulum that has reached its furthers extension, we were there a few hours before we turned and headed back again.We diced with twilight donkeys, and lumbering cattle herds on their way home to the kraals. We dodged potholes - some of which are made worse by donkeys and goats that eat the calcrete beneath the tar. Alongside the road one of Africa's greatest rivers ran like a wise and patient elder spreading life giving tendrils to the kalahari sands.

There is upheaval everywhere - riots and strikes, and authority figures being challenged; systems threatening to crumble. Everywhere we look there are crimes against the planet. Outrage simmers below the surface breaking through in geysers of fury. These are times of change. We have to care.

Here on this continent, our wild things are under seige. The ancient remnants of jurassica are facing wholesale slaughter. If its not contained soon, very soon, our biodiversity will be safe in story books only. From tortoises, and crickets, through splendid birds, marine life and plants all the way to super predators, elephants and rhinos. Its happening right now. Here, and all about.  

To all those working tirelessly and at great personal risk to preserve our wild things - THANK YOU

It is incredible to think that those giant planetary forces that swirl about beyond the reaches of our cosy blue dome of sky, and beyond our imaginations, can have such an effect on us all.  Our comfort zone is a tiny bubble of blue in an infinity of darkness and dust. Frankly, moving to Mars does not appeal to me at all. We could spend some of the space exploration budgets on taking care of home.