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^ -^ r^- A^ ^ ^^T,'^^ T^ ^^,^v^ l^ rti f^^. /7IAN PLAYER` MORE FROM THLI, i1'wilderness ^^ F^r f rs,.mow'^\, - ^hey.^ f^tar.^ j Z A Daily News Production^=,^;.-Y Ian Player's More From the Wilderness
^ -^ r^- A^ ^ ^^T,'^^ T^ ^^,^v^ l^ rti f^^. /7IAN PLAYER` MORE FROM THLI, i1'wilderness ^^ F^r f rs,.mow'^\, - ^hey.^ f^tar.^ j Z A Daily News Production^=,^;.-Y Ian Player's More From the Wilderness Proceeds from the sale of this booklet will go to the Wilderness Leadership School and The Daily News Milk Fund. Cover and illustrations by Nola Steele DEDICA TED TO THE OLDER MEN: Harry Player, Magqubu Ntombela, Jack Vincent, T. C. Robertson, Sir Laurens van der Post, Douglas Mitchell and Frank Broome. WHO HELPED AND GUIDED ME IN THE LIVING WORLD. +ISBN Printed by INTERPRINT, Durban CONTENTS Zoos needn't be hellholes (November 8, 1979) Sun, snow and sage in the Sierras (January 18, 1980) Bush life in the suburbs (February 5, 1980) As old as time itself (March 19, 1980) Thoughts on a glorious morning (April 7, 1980) Another turn of the wheel for the Zulus? (May 7, 1980) Suddenly the peace was shattered (May 21, 1980) The father of the board (June 11, 1980) Take to the trees (June 18, 1980) A lesson in my own backyard (July 2, 1980) Why I don't allow lamps (July 21, 1980) Happy settlers Down Under (August 8, 1980) A great drought (August 22, 1980) Where are all the young men going? (September 4, 1980) The croc's toothbrush? (September 26, 1980) A Magnificent Misfit (October 29, 1980) At one with the fish of the sea (December 10, 1980) A sprig of bracken (January 16, 1981) Who would've ever believed it? (January 29, 1981) Harmony People (February 20, 1981) White rhino horn? (March 4, 1981) Nature Drama (March 18, 1981) Delicate toehold (April 8, 1981) In the court of the forest king (April 29, 1981) Closer than a brother (May 18, 1981) Spirit of old Mashia (June 3, 1981) The Birdman of Jamestown (June 24, 1981) Noisome pestilence (July 22, 1981) Walk on the wild side (August 19, 1981) Magqubu's cooking pot (September 9, 1981) The lower orders (September 23, 1981) Reflections on a train (October 7, 1981) Inscription said it all: Go tell the Spartans... (October 26, 1981) The power of ideas for good or ill (November I1, 1981) The soul of Africa (December 9, 1981) January 22, one man's story (January 22, 1982) Playful children of the sea (February 10, 1982) Reno now more than just a quickie divorce centre (March 31, 1982) Welcome home to Africa (April 16, 1982) Bond of peace - and concern (May 17, 1982) Page (Dates when articles appeared in The Daily News, in brackets). ;kjj 11 ^ C^ 1 ^^^ ^e^.r - l^^ f^ - t^ ^ i^!^d ti IAN PLAYER AND MAGQUBU NTOMBELA Zoos needn't be hellholes ZOOS: are they good or bad? This is a question guaranteed to start an argument amongst people concerned about the diminishing wild lands and wild creatures of the world. Zoos go back years in antiquity and provide for some city folk the only opportunity of seeing rare and exotic creatures from other lands. But if the zoo is not run properly it can quickly become a hellhole for its unfortunate occupants and a source of easy money for unscrupulous dealers. In made my first journey to America as a guest of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to publicise a film they had made in Umfolosi game reserve. I saw many zoos. The ones maintained by city councils were usually the epitome of mediocrity unless there was a strong director prepared to fight the bureaucracy. But when I walked through the gates of San Diego Zoo and saw the brilliant display of flamingo, the well-groomed keepers and neat grounds, I knew this was a different kind of zoo. Years later when San Diego established its new open zoo of acres at San Pasqual I made arrangements for them to have 20 white rhino which were among the first to breed in captivity. This was so successful, San Diego would now be happy to sell some back to Natal. At San Diego I met Sheldon Campbell, at that time a stockbroker deeply involved in conservation affairs. He later gave up his profession to become an outstanding writer of books on natural history and a devotee of the Zoo. His latest book, Lifeboats to Ararat, tells the story of the zoo world and San Diego Zoo in particular. It is a fascinating, sometimes sad, sometimes horrifying and at other times hilarious account of animals and people. There is the tale of a wellknown veterinarian who on his first job responded to a call from a nearby zoo. He passed a caged female baboon with enormously swollen, tumescent, dark pink buttocks. As any field man knows ^.;^t'. ^ ;^.r dry :- - r If ^:jam^9 I this is the signal of the female's readiness to acquiesce if any male baboon cares to respond. To the vet who had never before seen the phenomenon the condition was one of gross contusion requiring immediate surgical intervention . Needless to say, the old-time zookeepers scornfully related the story of the durned scientist and the baboon to anyone who would listen. San Diego is one of the best zoos in the world and it was paid a great compliment in its bicentennial year when Australia sent six koala bears there. They are now the only koalas outside of Australia. I Sheldon Campbell's account of the illegal trade in birds, reptiles and animals makes terrible reading. As animals and birds become more rare so the prices rise. Scarlet tanagers, birds no bigger than a mossie, could be bought ten years ago at 10 dollars each. On today's market they cost 150 dollars each. The one-horned Indian rhino has risen from dollars to dollars; the Javan and Sumatran rhino are beyond price. In one instance a Japanese gentleman offered a list of 500 animals, such as the snow leopard, the lowland gorilla, the Malayan tapir and the okapi. Many of these are banned from sale under international convention. He was asking dollars for one okapi. Sheldon Campbell says, Since at the time he didn't have any okapi he was willing to make what stock traders call a short sale, probably in the hope that he could pick some animals up in Zaire, where they reputedly could be had for dollars a pair and turn a tidy profit of dollars in the process. In the United States the course of desperation reached its nadir with the incredible tale of the Philadelphia Reptile Exchange, a story international in scope, both ludicrous and appalling, replete with its own small version of Watergate, and with a multiple death that had it happened to people instead of snakes and lizards would have been considered a most monstrous and reprehensible crime. To learn more of this reptile Watergate you will have to read Mr Campbell's book. You will not be disappointed. Lifeboats to Ararat* is a most important book. It is easy to read and informative. *Published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London. Sun, snow and sage in the Sierras IN RENO, Nevada recently I was invited to talk on a programme at a radio station. My friend Bob Dill, a Korean war veteran and a man who knows the history of Nevada, drove me to the station. It was beyond the city limits on the edge of the desert. We arrived early and Bob Dill suggested taking a walk. We followed a path that led to the hills. The wind blew from the snowy tops of the Sierra mountains and swept through the desert in gusts and eddies. I could hear it sighing and soughing across the hills amongst the green juniper and Ponderosa pines and over the rocky passes. By the time it reached us in the dun coloured sage lands it had lost none of its bite and I was glad of my overcoat. k^7 In the distance there was a snowstorm howling across another part of the desert. It seemed incongruous that in a place so dry and in the summer so hot, snow could fall. On other sections of the Sierras the sun shone brightly with the snow glinting on the high peaks. Before we had walked more than a few hundred metres Bob pointed out animal and bird tracks that led across the main path. Some were deeply rutted from the continual passage of field mice, jack rabbits, quail and deer. I crushed a twig of dry sage and as the scent lingered in the air I reflected just how much romance there was associated with the word sage. It conjured up the saga of cowboys and Indians, the Pony Express and the covered wagons moving forever westward. I remarked on this to Bob Dill and as we rested he talked about the history of Virginia City and how the silver mined from it virtually financed the construction of San Francisco. He spoke too about the Paiute Indians who had lived in this part of Nevada for thousands of years. Their way of life had been shattered and the psychic shock of the white pioneers' technology was so disastrous that it was a relatively short time before the whole fabric of the Paiute Indian existence fell apart. But not before they had inflicted a major defeat on the whites. In May 1860 a group of whites had been murdered at a place named Williams Station. Without bothering to determine the reason for the Indian attack, which was in retaliation for the stealing of squaws, white miners rode out for vengeance. Carson City, Silver City and Virginia City all sent volunteers and 105 men in four companies were marshalled under Major Ormsby. The men followed the Indian trail towards Pyramid Lake which today is a sanctuary for the pelicans that nest on an island. The Paiutes knew the men were coming and they were prepared to meet them. As Ormsby's men advanced a thin line of braves appeared ahead riding along a ridge just out of rifle range. Ormsby ordered a charge and knew within minutes he had been lured into an ambush. Paiutes rose from their hiding places and counter charged screaming and yelling, firing rifles and getting in close with tomahawks. Ormsby was thrown from his horse and an arrow in the chest killed him. His men panicked and shrewdly the Indians exploited the rout and the whites were slaughtered. As we walked back to the radio station for my interview I remembered the words of a Red Indian named Crowfoot: What is life. It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is a breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Bush We in the surburbs YOU'LL never last in Durban, my friends said. Not only do we last but we have the best of two worlds, Stainbank Nature Reserve during the week and Karkloof in the weekend. Our tiny cottage is appropriately named Emoyeni after the wind that soughs through the bamboos and pockets of indigenous forest, a constant reminder of the wilder lands in the north where we once lived. Bushbuck, the glorious animal of shadows and the night display themselves in open fields within a few metres of the road. Cars, trucks and motorcycles pass and people stand and stare but the bushbuck take no notice and move from one grazing patch to another, showing the startling black and white colouring under their legs. They are so tame that I have to think hard to remember when I last heard r^^, ci k,. Ga y^ r, f^e I. ' f. HI %w %& y I 1^4- ' 3 one giving its dog-like bark of alarm, like those wary ones in Umfolosi when they scent a hunting lion or leopard. One morning I stood watching a family group of buck, doe and infant when to my astonishment I saw Indian mynahs clambering all over them and acting as oxpeckers do, removing ticks. Parks Board officers found that this was indeed the case and it was not only the bushbuck that were deticked by these alien birds, but the zebra and impala too. There are still remnants of cultivation on the old estate, pineapples, paw-paws and just beyond our front door a small field of mealies. The fruit attracts all sorts of birds, buries and starlings and black collared barbets whose characteristic call reminds me of long cool avenues of fig trees in the Zululand game reserves. Then English sparrows arrive, but their loud chirping is soon lost in the monotonous frog-like calls of the crested barbet. Sitting outside the cottage one day I watched tiny frets swooping with a whirr of wings near the mealie field. A grey flash darted into the mealies and a vervet monkey emerged with a cob in its mouth. It ran off on all fours paying no attention to the outraged yell of a solitary African hoeing nearby. In the summer the yellowbilled kites use the long bamboos on the entrance drive as roosting perches. There are moments in the day when the traffic noises are minimal and I hear the melodious whistle, the inhloeeaaa which gives them their Zulu name, ringing about the stone courtyard outside my office. Once three circled overhead, calling and casting long shadows on the ground and at the same time a jet from Louis Botha came roaring overhead drowning out the kites' whistling, but the shadows of the jet and the birds ran together for a few moments, symbolic of man's imitation of birds for his knowledge of flight. In the windless winter nights I can hear the zebra munching kikuyu *rass and their deep yodelling calls mingle with the sirens of trains hurrying to Chatsworth. There are sounds too of surf pounding beyond the bluff and bushbabies screams rising to a crescendo. On As old as time itself _;( :^ fl, :: FOR 22 years while I was in the Natal Parks Board I kept a journal. Sometimes I cursed it because it demanded so much of my time. Famous authors have varied opinions about diaries. Somerset Maugham said that it was worthwhile periodically because it retained the freshness of the moment. I agree with him. A journal or moonlight nights the nightjar calls Good-Lord-deliverus in the tall trees, competing with the steady song of the crickets. There is a scent too of wild and cultivated plants, of animals, woodsmoke and mown grass. The giraffe that were recently introduced are settling down and I saw one briefly against a background of buildings. All this should be incongruous but it isn't, it is a blending of the wild with the suburb, a subtle adaptation. This priceless gift of the Stainbank family to the people of Natal can never adequately be paid for. f^r^awm 1r..: a diary is like a mirror too. It gives you an opportunity to release the creative juices as well as the vanity and spitefulness within yourself and re-reading it years later, you see the other part of yourself and you are pleased or horrified. I was re-reading an old Umfolosi entry last week about a white rhino that was dying on Mpila hill just below the present rest camp. I was glad of the record because it brought the whole scene back with great vividness. The rhino was a young bull that had been in a fight with an older bull. Magqubu and I went down to see what we could do. But the animal was dying. The horn of an angry rhino can be a dangerous weapon. The young bull had deep gashes on the back legs and along the flanks but the brisket wound was the worst. Tortoise-shell ticks crawled all over the back and those in the soft flesh were horribly bloated. As we stood watching its breathing became slower and more irregular but when the wind changed, carrying our scent towards the prostrate beast, it reacted immediately and knocked its head on the ground in an effort to get up. The grass had been flattened for metres around as it had rolled and struggled during the night. Rain started to splatter down, strengthening the smell of the dying beast. There was the odour of wet dung but with it was the faint smell of death, unmistakable to those who have once smelt it. We discussed shooting the animal to put it out of its misery but something stopped me. Perhaps it was because I realised that under natural conditions this is how it would have died. Its fight with the other rhino and everything that led up to it was a perfectly natural incident. For thousands of years long before man appeared on earth, ancestors of this animal were fighting and dying like this one today. Who were we to come along and hasten its end. Man has interfered with everything in nature. This was a game reserve and this rhino had a right to die as its ancestors did. As we stood in contemplative silence a monkey chattered loudly in the valley and a puffback shrike whistled. The wind grew stronger and roared through the trees and around the rocks, bending the red themeda grass. The rhino died at sunset. We walked across the few metres separating us to look at it. It must have been in a momentous battle for its jaw was badly fractured too. As we left I thought how in the darkness the hyena would lift its head and smell the decaying flesh. So would the jackal. They would come padding silently out of the Thoughts on a glorious morning I HAVE recently returned from another visit to the Philippine Islands in connection with the conservation of the tamaraw, a diminutive wild buffalo on the endangered species list. One clear morning I flew with two senior officials to the island of Mindoro looking for areas where the tamaraw might still be surviving. It was like putting parts of a jigsaw together. We landed on a flat ledge on one of the volcanic mountain peaks. It was a good feeling to be up there with country stretching in all directions and in the distance the shimmering dark bush, slipping like shadows past tall trees to feed on the toes and other soft parts of the body. The next day as the sun rose it would be the turn of the vultures, taking off into the thermals and circling until one spotted the inert form. Then they would swoop lower, circling and circling, casting moving shadows on the ground, their primary feathers swishing in the wind. But the pied crow would already be there, strutting on the carcase and picking out the eyes. Later it would be the turn of the insects who would come to the feast and lay their eggs and a vast cycle would begin again, and continue along a path that man is only beginning to learn about. blue of the South China Sea. I was reminded of the poet Blake I think who wrote: Great things happen when man and mountain meet, that do not happen when jostling in the street. It was a Sunday and a fitting moment to give thanks to the Creator just for being alive. I could hear the tintinriok bleating song of a grass warbler and the deep bubbling call of the coucal. Pacific swallows flew low above the grass tops hawking insects, and down below in the depths of a green forest an animal screamed. These few moments of being on top of the mountain was the kind of experience one treasures in the mind for a long time. I thought how it was by the strangest set of circumstances that I had come to be in the Philippines involved in the tamaraw conservation. Old Magqubu once told me, You do not take a step in life that the spirits are not with you. Who could then deny that on this glorious morning with a view that encompassed grasslands, forests, streams and rivers, that the spirit of General Lindbergh, the man who did so much for Philippine conservation, was not there watching our progress with the tamaraw. So in traditional Zulu fashion I thanked the spirits too.., ^ era Then the sound of human voices drifted down from above and I saw the tiny figures of the Batangan mountain people watching us. After a short while they began descending with enviable agility and grace. My companion Oscar Trinidad talked to them. They were members of a group of about a hundred people who lived in the nearby mountains and there were others watching us, but afraid to come down. The three that we spoke to were a family group of father, mother and son. The man's name was Igme. He said they never went beyond there , and he pointed to the next valley, a distance of no more than ten kilometres. They gave us much information about the tamaraw and where we would be likely to find them. I enjoyed just looking at these people with their lithe well muscled bodies. They smoked tiny pipes and carried a smouldering log. When we left them and took off in the helicopter they huddled close together and waved to us. Soon they were tiny specs on the landscape. I thought what an enormous gap there was between their culture and ours. Who were the happier people? Our ultimate weapon was the hydrogen bomb, theirs was the bow and arrow. We built enormous cathedrals to the glory of God and spoke to him only
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