So last week I left Europe to pursue my African dream. I have always wanted to come to Africa and never thought I would. I’m desperately glad I was wrong!
I’m starting my journey in Port Elizabeth volunteering at a nearby private game reserve called Kwantu. Kwantu has over 6000 hectares for its animals to roam and everything happens naturally on the reserve. The predators hunt their own prey and they are diligent to ensure the right balance is achieved to make this possible. Kwantu also has a big cat rehabilitation area as well as an elephant sanctuary. Kwantu supports itself with ecotourism, taking the opportunity to educate its guests. The reserve does not, under any circumstances, allow hunting to occur on the reserve.
In a perfect world, there would exist a proper “wild” where these animals could run free and live their lives without fear of harm from human interaction. But unfortunately we do not live in this perfect world. Through human overpopulation, ignorance, and greed we have destroyed so much of this wild land and the animals that inhabit it. What this means is that we’ve made a world where reserves, like Kwantu, and other rehabilitation centers are vital to the continuation of these species. It’s heartbreaking to know that this is our best option and we as a human race have created it.
A lot of the volunteer work in Kwantu includes fence maintenance, removal of nonindigenous plant species, and going on game drives to count and observe the animals.
I do really enjoy speaking with the other employees at Kwantu about why they chose their profession. They all seem very driven to help the animals and conserve their environment as best they can. I love seeing that level of passion and commitment in others.
South Africa, as a country, also seems very committed to its wild life. Kruger National Park has complete control over all of South Africa’s animals, including those at private reserves like Kwantu. If Kruger doesn’t believe any animal is treated correctly, they are free to remove the animals without warning.
As we all know, poaching is a terrible problem for Africa’s wildlife. Through the ignorance of people placing arbitrary value on elephant tusks and rhino horns, these animals are on a massive decline. Around 5% of the elephants in Kruger National Park are now born without tusks. This is due to the decline of genetics that produce these tusks. If poaching continues at this rate elephants will be void of tusks altogether. This is a tragedy because these animals need these tools to protect themselves.
(These poor rhinos had their horns poached by intruders who tranquilized them. The worker’s story about when they were found was heartbreaking. It’s lucky they survived the attack and weren’t killed.)
One solution that has been touted around social media, and one that I quite liked, was to dye the tusks and horns of these animals pink to make them no longer valuable. However, I have learned that this doesn’t work as well as originally thought. Many animals are killed at dawn or dusk when it’s nearly impossible to see that they are dyed, so the animals are killed in vain anyway.
Unfortunately, despite many security precautions, poachers still make their way onto private game reserves. Kwantu and its animals have experienced these problems as well. The greed and ignorance of humans astounds me. It’s been said before but it’s worth saying again, no one needs an elephant tusk or a rhino horn, except an elephant or rhino.
I have learned so much in the short time I’ve been here and look forward to learning so much more. It’s amazing how the more I travel, the more at home I feel wherever I go. To me this says that, on a whole, we are not very different in this world and the lines we draw are merely arbitrary.