Tonight we landed in Johannesburg, after a long series of flights from Denver. We are staying with Vance’s good friend Sven Kreher. Sven and his partner Karen prepared a delicious and fresh dinner for us and we spent some time talking about the current conservation issues in South Africa and catching up on work done in recent months. One of my favorite parts of the evening was learning about the artwork which adorns Sven’s house, specifically a piece by Keith Joubert and the style of artwork which he pioneered – a style of impressionist wildlife painting that is unique and stunning.
We also talked at great length about the current rhino poaching situation, which is growing more extreme by the day. Lamenting on the state of affairs, we discussed how the issue is tied to a much larger one of commercializing and commodification of South Africa’s wildlife. While the concept started in a good place – raising awareness and appreciation for wildlife as well as funding conservation efforts – it is now reaching a tipping point where the conservation benefit is (in certain areas/scenarios) nominal and general concern for the welfare of wildlife is declining. There is certainly a need to remain vigilant to keep the well-being of African wildlife and wild-places balanced with the intense human desire to see, experience, and in the worst case-scenarios, own and/or use wildlife (ie the illegal poaching and trading/selling of rhino horns).
The conversation also meandered through some history of conservation work, WILD partnerships and conservation legends. Sven’s mother Nora Kreher, who passed away nearly three years ago, founded a very successful organization – The Bateleurs. Bateluers, which operates out of their home in Johannesburg (in fact – I am sitting The Bateleurs office right now!), works with volunteer pilots to run conservation missions such as surveillance flights, wildlife counts and other research and surveys mission. See their missions in 2010 >
It was a lovely evening – I spent most of it listening, absorbing and acclimating. Tomorrow morning, Vance and I head to Isandlwana village.