Reflections of the human bond with the natural world by Leonie Hofstra

As I drive towards the dam I catch a glimpse of something that I was eagerly hoping to see. One of our black rhino named Wozani is going through his regular ritual of wallowing neck deep in his favorite waterhole. Sometimes I wonder if Wozani has an identity crisis as he seems to behave more like a hippo than a rhino! His gentle and curious personality causes for many great moments whilst on duty, working as the rhino monitor of the reserve.

Suddenly I see two more rhinos approach, Buza and her calf Bongani. Bongani is Wozani’s daughter, and just like her father Bongani has inherited his chilled out, friendly personality. They greet each other in such a gentle manner, a moment that, even after monitoring rhinos for a few years, is still an uncommon and unique sight. Males do not get involved with raising the calf, but Wozani seems eager to get to know his daughter. She places her head on his and there I was, watching a little black rhino family spending quality time with each other.

Therefore you can imagine the shock I went through when I got the news that all three got killed by poachers and their horns taken…These amazing animals with their personal story to tell, their lives brutally taken away.

Due to our work and having to deal with regular stories as told above, it starts making you think. It is hard to find the balance between protecting an “asset” and fighting a battle because we anthropomorphize a species. But with the continues battle of protecting a species like rhinos, elephants and many other creatures it is easy to lose focus on both. Why do a lot of people feel the need to protect these animals? Even from overseas? The people that are on the ground fighting the so called “war” against poaching? We all have a different view and motivation to do so. But are we losing sight?

Whatever your reason might be to be in this “game”, at the end it should be about the human race and its understanding of responsibility towards the planet and its inhabitants as the so called “intelligent species” but also about understanding that every individual animal (which includes humans) has a personal life, with emotions, struggles, and finding our place on this planet. Even though it might be driven more through instinct than anything else, no creature on this planet should be denied the opportunity to exercise what is necessary to fulfill their lives to the fullest.

Since the rhino is the hot topic at the moment, what angle are we looking at? To the consumer of rhino horn, rhinos are a product, to people on the ground it could either mean to fulfill a need for action and participate in the “war” or to feel the need to protect a species because they understand the bigger picture. But as long as the human race does not feel an emotional connection between the individuals of different species on this planet, then personally I am not sure if we are able to consider ourselves the guardians of the planet. In a natural system species go extinct all the time, but it is unnecessary for a lot of species in our time to go extinct. We cannot claim to be the intelligent species if we do not understand that each species has a role to play and each animal has their own personal lives that they should be able to live out to the best of their capabilities.

For many humans the connection with nature is far gone, let alone feeling a connection with an individual animal (besides maybe your cat or dog). At this point we are nothing more than parasites on the earth, using and abusing each natural resource. As long as we cannot connect to “Wozani, the loving rhino” or Ezulwini the big tusker elephant, then the human psychology will never have the drive to protect another species that is close to us, as we do not see them as one of our own.

Not every human is privileged enough to put time and mind aside for this, but the people who can, and do have the opportunity, there should be no excuse to tolerate the damage we are causing. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t protect our own planet from our own race. Let’s use that same drive to understand our place on the only planet we live on. To explore, feel empathy and to nourish every living thing on this blue and green planet in space.

About the Entry

  • Blogger name | Leonie Hofstra
  • Site name | Transfrontier Africa
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  • Why should someone visit your site? Have you always wondered what it takes to protect an elephant, rhino or manage a nature reserve? Our blog provides an insight in the work of a conservation organisation. What does it take to protect a reserve and all it’s flora and fauna? Who are the people involved? A true reflection of the hard work “behind the scenes” of conservation. The story posted for the competition is a personal expression during the struggles (and emotional struggle for those involved) of the poaching crisis in South Africa.
  • Entry Number | 29

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