All set to write my first blog post for 2023 with a focus on two years of Pure Spaces. Grateful about what has eventuated in the past year for me in this space and excited about setting intention for the year ahead.
Then earlier this week 25 elephants were slaughtered and a tourist boat cruise came under fire from the poachers after they happened upon them.
This incident occurred close to home for me. Geographically, as this is the province I now call home. Also, I have had the privilege of spending a little time with the incredible Suzette Boshoff – her passion and dedication are incomparable. My heart breaks for her, those guests and, of course, the ellies.
Yes, we are filled with righteous anger. Justice needs to be served for both humans and elephants affected by this tragedy. Yes, the implications for tourism in this area are serious. But my heart also breaks for that community.
Along side the anger, I feel deep sadness. Sadness for yet another community let down by a broken system. A system that pays lip service to the importance of protecting natural heritage and the value of its eco-tourism potential. Yet does little to nothing to support communities in these areas to coexist with wildlife and see the tangible benefits of conservation tourism on their doorsteps. A system mired in inefficiency and corruption. A system bogged down in a legacy of wildlife conservation practice that was divisive, separatist and completely ineffective for both people and wildlife.
It is left to the small fry and lone voices to cry out for change. The likes of the Suzettes of this world. The likes of small wildlife conservation non-profits or NGOs to do what little they can to give a voice to these elephants and by association these communities.
There are examples of human-wildlife Coexistence. It can work. I’ve seen it first-hand. Is it easy? No. Is it perfect? No. Should we bother to keep trying? Absolutely yes! For the good of All. It can be done and all the more effectively with a Conservation Collective that includes all stakeholders at the table working on a collective vision that positively impacts both community and conservation.
My fervent hope is that out of this week’s tragedy, a new course will be set for this community to heal. May law enforcement remove the criminal element as Suzette says. Then a journey to restoring trust. May the resources be available to aid Suzette and others on the ground there to continue in their valuable conservation work. And may tools be provided for this community to empower them as they work towards human-wildlife coexistence in this absolutely beautiful part of the world.
So not quite the post I had intended to write a few days ago. However, a useful reflection on the realities of boots-on-the-ground conservation work here in this glorious corner of Mama Africa. The bitter with the sweet. The light and the shadow.