Do you love the Big Cats, or is it the primates, maybe rhinos, or simply all wildlife in Africa?
Everyone who is passionate about wildlife has a story to tell. Some seem to arrive on this planet with an innate sensitivity to wild animals, birds and their environment, others gain the deep compassion via an unplanned heart changing experience, and of course everywhere in between on that continuum.
In this blog series I’m going to share stories about people who are passionate about Africa’s wildlife; I’ll begin with mine.
I’m Margrit Harris. Born in the early 1950’s and raised in South Africa. As a youngster I thought everyone took trips to the Kruger Park or experienced a leopard passing through the campsite at night.
As a teenager I moved to Europe and was exposed to a new urbane world where even nature was neat and tidy. Switzerland really did look as idyllic as the postcards!
Fast forward, past years of career, marriage, raising a family and living the yuppie generation lifestyle in the USA. It’s now 2002, Russ and I are in the Philippines assisting with a traveling health mission.
Every day my heart is broken, not by the plight of the people, though that is great too, but by the utter neglect and exploitation of the animals, birds and the rain forest.
It appeared that everything that moved, from song bird to iguana, was trapped, grilled and eaten or tied with rope, hung upside down and sold on the roadside. A National Geographic article I read surmised that many endemic bird and reptile species never documented were lost.
The author projected that by 2010 what remained of the rain forest would be gone. Some scientists even concluded environmentally the Philippines was a lost cause. In his book, Requiem for Nature, John Terborgh writes, the “overpopulated… Philippines are already beyond the point of no return.”
During our five year stay I saw the changes. Two bird sanctuaries, one on Corregidor Island and one in Subic Bay went from housing beautiful small and large species to empty cages. Where did they go? Sold I’m sure to put bread (better said rice) on someone’s table.
Jump ahead to 2009. Russ and I take a trip to South Africa to visit my aging father. Totally by chance we meet several wildlife conservationists during our travel around Kwazulu-Natal.
I’m enlightened by their stories and touched by their dedication; a long subdued ember is reignited, I too want to help protect Africa’s wildlife that is losing ground due to habitat loss and incessant poaching. I flashback to the Philippines, no it can’t happen!
We return to the USA, I’m determined to help, I have no clue yet how, but I’ve got to figure it out.
Next Time >>> Part 2: By Some She is Known as Baboon Woman