This blog post has been coming for a while now, since finding out more of the shocking statistics about the increase in Rhino poaching in South Africa and Africa in general of late, and since reading an article by world-famous widllife filmmakers/photographers/conservationists Dereck and Beverly Joubert about how lions, once thought the least endangered predator in Africa, are now facing extinction in the long run.
Recent blog posts by Shem Compion and Gerry van der Walt (click on their names to go and read their posts) have also served as catalysts for my thoughts in this blog post.
For me, the privilege of being able to capture forever moments of natural history in the wild places of Africa really boils down to leaving a legacy...something tangible that might still be able to be enjoyed long after all that we've seen and all that we've come to love in Africa (and other wonderful locations around the world) has passed away and been replaced by garbage dumps and concrete living quarters. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those "tree-huggers" who will chain themselves to whaling ships or despise all technological advancement (although I do think whaling is disgusting and that some technology cripples us more than it enables us to better conserve our planet)...in fact I do drive an SUV (maybe not as big a gas-guzzler as a Hummvee but one that at least gets me where I need to be in Africa, potholes in the roads being more dangerous than the wildlife these days), and I do live in a bustling town of industry and I do in fact work in a field that creates a bit of pollution. But one thing I know...I love Africa. I love her vibe, her cadence, her charisma, her unbridled energy and most of all, her natural beauty.
I find myself longing for days long gone when explorers such as Livingstone and Hemingway stood atop the kopjes of the African plains, and looking out in all directions all they saw was a mass of animal life as far as the eye could see. Large herds of elephants with tusks thrice as long as a man...buffalo herds that made the great wildebeest migration look like a flea circus...clans of wild dog that roamed vast grasslands and outnumbered even large predators like lions. These men could only but capture their fascination with Africa in their writing, and boy do these tales excite...grand sweeping prose that makes you yearn for times gone by with a thick lump in your throat. These days we have the tools to make those memoirs even more vivid...our cameras. The majesty and elegance and beauty of this continent of ours is now in our hands to portray to all who would perhaps stop by our blogs, read our books or stumble upon our images on a calendar or in a magazine, and if I can evoke those same feelings in at least one other person, I would be ecstatic.
The fact that poaching of rhinos (for the supposed medicinal value of their horns) is rising at an alarming rate all over Africa, and more specifically in the national parks and wildlife reserves of South Africa, has sparked these ideas into another direction. What if the only rhino/cheetah/leopard (fill in the blanks) that my children will ever get to see, are the ones that I have had the privilege of taking photos of during my lifetime??? What if I can never take them to the places I've been and show them the things I've seen, save for showing them a large print of a photo that tries in some meager way to capture the essence of the animal/bird?
This rhino bull was captured in stunning morning sidelight, and I deliberately underexposed with a moody black-and-white photo in mind to convey my concern over this species and others. I hope with all my heart to show this one to my own children one day, and then get into the car, drive to a nearby reserve and show them the real thing...
As Gerry rightly put - we need to take action on a grander scale than merely joining a Facebook group or signing up for a newsletter at Conservation organisation. How and what that involvement will be is up to each of us to determine, decide, and put into action. Until I have the funds to invest in conservation efforts and sponsor large-scale projects, I will continue to try and share the images I have the honour of taking with whoever wants to see. And I do hope we all desire very much to SEE...