I’ve just had the pleasure of experiencing a three week visit to South Africa. This is the second trip that Cathy and I have taken to Africa, the first being a visit to Kenya two years ago. We enjoyed that trip so much that we were definitely looking forward to our return.
And we were not disappointed. We saw a plenitude of animals, including numerous leopards, one of our main goals.
One of the reasons that we are placing Africa at the head of our “bucket list” is because of the problems with poaching and loss of habitat. Vast numbers of elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered each year to harvest their ivory tusks or horns. All of the great cats are in decline as well. Each year becomes a bit more dire and we want to make sure we have a chance to see this incredible ecosystem before it is too late. It is also our desire to help forestall or prevent this decline if at all possible.
What we didn’t expect was to observe the problem up close during our visit. However, that is exactly what happened. During a game drive on the morning of October 1st our driver heard a report of a rhino killed by poachers the day before. We asked if it would be possible to go to the site and he agreed. It wasn’t hard to locate the exact location as there was a large congregation of vultures on site and in the trees to harvest the carcass. When we arrived we also found a leopard tearing off a large chunk that he hauled into the bush for dinner.
What we found was a medium sized rhino with its horns and one leg cut off. The leg lay nearby in the grass. The carcass had already been partially eaten and now it was time for the vultures to move in. Dozens of vultures flew in and covered the rhino until it was invisible under the mass of moving birds. It was an awesome sight to see nature at work but it was also heartbreaking to see such an incredible mammal killed for its horn! We watched the vultures do their job for a bit longer before moving on.
Each year tens of thousands of elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered in sub-Sahara Africa. This debacle cannot continue for much longer. The kill that we witnessed occurred in a private reserve just west of Kruger National Park. According to our ranger, in 2013 688 rhinos have been killed by poachers. One half of those were killed in Kruger!
There are multiple international programs underway to preserve and protect our natural wildlife and ecosystems. Whenever possible support the efforts of the conservation organizations of your choice. And just as important, get out and observe this incredible world of ours, while you still have the chance.