“Guardians, not gardeners”

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SFR6_Lex_DSC8457Safari for Real guide and author Lex Hes reflects on this quote by Adolph Murie

One of the great joys and privileges of going on safari in Africa is that we have the opportunity of intimately observing wildlife and wildlife interactions in the natural world. This is because much of the wildlife has become habituated to the presence of the game-viewing vehicles and basically continues with their daily lives as though the vehicles do not exist.

This is an incredible privilege, as there are few places in the world where one can spend so much quality time observing large animals behaving naturally in the wild from such close quarters.

There are an unending number of joyous interactions that we get the opportunity to witness: a female leopard joining up with her cubs after a few days away hunting; hyena cubs interacting with various other individuals at the den; incredibly cute little dwarf mongooses basking in the sun on a winter’s morning; meerkats standing upright like little people; lion cubs tumbling, chasing, stalking and playing with each other; young impala stotting and running around in circles; baby elephants trying to use their trunks…

As we spend more time watching these animals, and in many cases getting to know the individual animals on an almost personal basis, it becomes very difficult not to get emotionally attached to them and then to be tempted to interfere with what we are watching, should it not be to our liking.

For example, what would we do if we saw an African rock python slithering over the rocks towards those very same leopard cubs that we saw join up with their mother? Should we stop the python or should we simply observe?

Or we start noticing that many of the herbivores are getting weaker from a prolonged drought and are even starting to die of starvation. It may cost a lot of money, but it is possible to supply animals with food to help them through the dry season.

For many people this becomes something of a dilemma. It is my deep belief that we should absolutely not interfere with what is happening out there in any way whatsoever. I try to rationalise this by thinking about what a natural ecosystem is and what attracts us to these places in the first place.

What we see in front of us every time we visit magnificent wildernesses like the Serengeti, the Okavango Delta, the Kruger National Park or the central African rainforest is the result of millions of years of evolution that happened without man’s help. We are drawn to this incredible diversity of life, these ecological processes and interactions and beauty because of the fact that it IS a natural world. The moment that we interfere with this I think that we lose something very fundamental.

Lex Hes is a renowned photographer, author, naturalist and guide, and is a director-guide of Safari for Real www.safariforreal.com

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Images copyright Lex Hes

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