I realize this may sound like exaggerated hyperbole. But, until you’ve come face-to-face with an animal more than twice your height and 75 times your weight, it’s hard to fathom how the experience can alter your perception of humanity’s place in the Universe.
For me, it happened during the first game drive on the first day of my safari in Kruger National Park, South Africa.
He was a massive bull elephant, feeding on a tree about 75 yards from our open-air safari vehicle in Londolozi Game Reserve. As he noticed us, he slowly turned and ambled our way with a sense of purpose. When he got within 50 yards, I began looking at our guide nervously. By the time he’d reached the 30 yard mark, we asked if perhaps it was time to move the Jeep and give him some space. Solomon assured us that it was fine, as the elephant came closer and closer and closer.
(The following is a guest post by Sofie Couwenbergh, a Belgian language lover who balances a full-time job with a never-ending wanderlust, sharing her experiences on Wonderful Wanderings. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re interested in contributing a story to Green Global Travel, please email pitches to Bret Love at info@GreenGlobalTravel.com.)
SPECIES: Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii)
CURRENT RANGE: Found in the open southern hemisphere waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans.
CURRENT THREATS: Over-fishing
CONSERVATION STATUS: Critically endangered
WHERE CAN YOU SEE THEM: In southern waters from 30° to 60° south, except during spawning season, when the Southern Bluefin Tuna migrates to the tropical seas off the west coast of Australia.
Conservation, n.: “The action or process of conserving; preservation of life, health, perfection, etc.; (also) preservation from destructive influences, natural decay, or waste.”
What would you pay for the life of an endangered species, of which less than 5,000 currently exist? According to Corey Knowlton, the Texas-based big game hunting guide who purchased a trophy-hunting permit for the right to kill one Black Rhino, $350,000 is the cost of conservation.
The permit, purchased from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, was sold at an auction last weekend by the Dallas Safari Club, which insisted that the money would be used to fund rhino conservation efforts. But details on how it will be used to that end remain sketchy at best.
The Namibian government has allowed five Black Rhino trophy-hunt permits a year since 2004. Numbers of black rhino have increased in recent years from 3,600 to 5,055. But this hasn’t stopped the Black Rhino from appearing on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered, the highest level of threat before extinction.
So news of the hunting permit’s sale sparked vitriolic debate between hunting advocates and wildlife conservationists center on whether killing for conservation is moral, or effective in terms of saving a species.
When we first began planning our visit to the North Carolina coast, I had no idea that there was any controversy about the Outer Banks wild horses. But when I received the following email from a manager of two National Wildlife Refuges in the area after inquiring about visiting, my curiosity was piqued:
“I try to stay far away from the wild horse issue. On a refuge purchased and managed for migratory birds (Currituck), any horses, cows, or other critters that compete with these birds for food are a problem. But the ‘Corolla wild horses’ are a huge political issue right now. So you’re on your own with that one…”
SPECIES: Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii)
CURRENT RANGE: Only found in the wild in the Australian state of Tasmania
CURRENT THREATS: Devil face tumor disease, dingo attacks, the threat of iron ore mining in Tasmania
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: In all forms of habitat in Tasmania, but primarily wooded forest areas
What are they?
Most of us will be familiar with the Tasmanian Devil that whirled across our TV screens in the Looney Tune cartoons we watched as children, but Tasmanian Devils are far from fictional. In reality, it’s the last surviving carnivorous marsupial, easily recognized by its short, stocky build, with black fur and white markings, and long, thick tails. Males have an average body length of just over 65cm and weigh on average 8kg, while the females measure just over 57cm and weigh on average 6kg. They are nocturnal animals that hunt at night with their incredibly powerful jaws and teeth, which are often compared to that of the hyena. Tasmanian Devils are very defensive when it comes to food, and will let out a blood-curdling scream when they feel that their food is being threatened by another Devil.