The veld in Kruger is all brown and amber, because it’s the end of winter. But I love the dust and the smell of the dry earth. During my third week, I had another great leopard sighting, this time near Pretoriuskop. A young female leopard, full of sass and attitude. I found her sitting at sunset on a boulder in this south-western part of the national park. What made it extra special was that I was alone with her. Well it’s always special being alone with a pretty lady, but this was extra special.
It was the highlight of my week in terms of sightings, so although I didn’t see anything else to match the leopard, I am just happy to be out here in the bush, taking photos of the regular suspects like zebras, lilac-breasted rollers and hyenas, which can be so easily overlooked. I did see a pair of cheetahs, but they were pretty far away, and there were too many vehicles. I really don’t enjoy the traffic jams at sightings. I’d much rather spend time photographing a kudu or hyena on my own, than being with a leoaprd or lion and surrounded by other vehicles.
From Pretoriuskop I moved to Satara camp, famous for it’s predators, especially lions and hyenas. And it was great to see that the local hyenas are still using the same den on the Nwanetsi Road to raise their pups. When I was last in Kruger two years ago, they were there. It was like going back to familiar neighbourhood.
I guess all this time out here in Kruger sometimes allows me to think too much. And some bad news from Namibia made me a bit despondent. I’ve been following the amazing “migration” of a rather famous lion in north-west Namibia. Have a look for yourself at XPL-68’s story here. This remarkable lion once trekked several hundred kilometres from Namibia, north into Angola, and back again.
Dr Flip Stander of the Desert Lion research project has spent years studying this and other lions in the area, and has done enormous amounts for their conservation. Anyway, the “Terrace Male” as he was known, was shot this week, and the news made me angry and sad. But I’m heartened that people like Dr Stander are still there, doing there good work.
It could be seen as an isolated incident, but it certainly isn’t. Part of my job is to keep abreast of all the African environmental news out there, and I tell you, sometimes it’s hard to be optimistic. This past week, a very disturbed person drove into Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape and threw down a whole lot of the highly poisonous insecticide Methomyl which ended up killing at least 36 black-backed jackal and several birds. Read the press release here.
And as readers may know, I’ve been researching intensively the rhino poaching story here in Kruger, and it seems very disheartening at times.
But I’m inspired by people like General Johan Jooste the anti-poaching chief in Kruger, who is slowly but surely getting his rangers to combat the poachers effectively. And someone like conservation manager John Adendorff in Addo, who lives and breathes for that park, and won’t rest until the bastard who laid down the methomyl is found, locked up and brought to the courts. We owe all our support to the men and women working to conserve our continent’s natural heritage.
So that’s the world we live in here in Southern Africa. Surrounded and amazed by unparalleled natural life, but always there is loss. If you think about it too much, you go bonkers! So I reckon the trick is to try transcend it somehow – either through spiritual means or a glass of whiskey in the evenings – because if you try understand the scope and breadth of all the damage, you’ll only end up making yourself very depressed.
Oh, and remember to simply enjoy the good stuff while it’s still around. And to never stop doing our own bits to look after Africa’s natural heritage. As the American author and environmentalist Edward Abbey once wrote:
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”
So, I’m off to find another leopard to photograph. Enjoy the pics.
For more, go to www.yearinthewild.com and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Check out my Flickr photos at www.flickr.com/scottnramsay and my Instagram photos at www.instagram.com/wildscotty. Twitter on www.twitter.com/yearinthewild.
Conservation partners BirdLife South Africa, Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, CapeNature, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Gorongosa National Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Namibia Wildlife Resorts, Parque Nacional do Limpopo, South African National Parks and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.