Maybe it's wishful thinking, but it seems to me as though there is finally a slow dawning
of realisation, even in the mainstream, of the importance of keystone species and trophic cascades in the dynamic functioning of
ecosystems and therefore for life itself, for human life too. From less than likely quarters I now hear the oft repeated story of the
re-introduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park and the revitalising effect that has had on that entire system: how by keeping the elk
population under control, the once denuded vegetation especially in the valley bottoms has flourished again, creating habitat for all
sorts of other species and even altering the behaviour of rivers. Take one species out, especially an apex predator, and disastrous
collapse is triggered, we know that now, and even ecologists are realising that systems hang together in even more intricate and complex
ways than previously thought. In Europe there are now cautiously excited moves to imagine the rewilding of large tracts of land which are
no longer economically viable farming propositions.
So given this zeitgeist in countries that have hardly any wildlife left, why are we in the
Cape, who still have so much to lose, who still have such a relative plethora of species, still persecuting them or standing by while
others to do this? Our top predator, the magnificent black maned Cape Lion was extirpated by humans in the 1800s, but we still have the
Cape Mountain Leopard and its fate rests in our hands. Are we going to allow this specie to go the same way? Is it that we don't mind losing
them? Or is it that we imagine "there are lots more in the mountains where they came from", I do hear this said. Or perhaps we
feel powerless to do anything.
"We live in a shadowland," writes George Monbiot in his extraordinary book
"Feral", "a dim, flattened relic of what there once was, of what there could be again." This is the reality, even in
South Africa whose tourist industry markets the country as a wildlife paradise. I am under no illusions that we can go back to the Garden
of Eden that was. Even the Eastern Cape of my childhood but a few decades ago probably cannot be brought back. A burgeoning population,
the tragic loss of tons of soil, stupid planning and climate change have put paid to that. So what then gets me out
of bed in the morning? Why do I still, despite everything, feel the thrill of a huge potential?
In my mind's eye I see initiatives such as ours, replicated all over in marginal farming
areas, creating the conditions for abundant and prolific new systems to evolve and then standing back and letting nature do the rest.
I see humans cherishing nature and engaging with it again. I see us working ever closer with farmers to produce our food in ways which
rather than destroying nature, enhance it.
How are we doing this?
- By striving to bring to an end the persecution of the Cape Mountain Leopard and all other predators
- By re-introducing or widening the distribution of other species such as Mountain Zebra and Hartebeest (much needed bulk grazers)
- By continuing to remove all internal fencing and redundant infrastructure and where necessary and possible physically
repairing human-inflicted damage such as erosion and canalization of rivers
- By eradicating alien species where they are detrimental to the system
- By working with neighbours and others to continually expand the limits and link up to other rewilded areas.
- By working with our friends the farmers.
What can you do?
- You can read George Monbiot's book "Feral" and get inspired
- Is the meat you are buying predator friendly? You can start asking questions
- Contact us to finds out how you can help our work at Skilderkrantz.