"Africa’s Animals Need Our Help Too!"

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"Africa’s Animals Need Our Help Too!"

"Africa’s Animals Need Our Help Too!"

The Gaia Theory postulates that Earth is a living, breathing organism in its own right and we live in an interconnected web of all existence. What happens to one part of this interconnected web, potentially affects us all in some way. It is a theory I subscribe to.

I had pause to reflect on this, given a unique opportunity to see up close, indigenous African wildlife at the Inverdoorn Safari and Cheetah Conservation Park. Our Fellowship group had just concluded our 3 day business meeting in Cape Town with the Afrigen team and with a weekend stretching ahead of us, I made a decision to experience an overnight stay at Inverdoorn, which included two safari drives on their 10,000 hectare property. Inverdoorn relies on volunteer work and a stream of paying tourists to fund their efforts in saving not only cheetahs, but other endangered African wildlife; they operate in similar fashion to the NGOs us as Fellows are working for.

So why are animals important and why am I challenging us to consider them as much as we consider how our efforts help the peoples of Africa, Peru and other impoverished places?

Because everything is interconnected. With increasing urbanisation in Africa, many endemic species are threatened with habitat destruction and as a result, face likely extinction in the medium to long term. Coupled with what seems an insatiable desire by some of our worlds cultures to consume certain parts of wild animals, it seems the problems are too big to solve. It is incomprehensible to me that in the ‘evidence based’ medicine world we inhabit as Merck/MSD employees, that some cultures persist with their outdated, scientifically disproven beliefs that result in the on-going slaughter of the rhinoceros…all for a bit of horn? They would be just as well off eating their own fingernails! The challenges in changing this situation are huge.

But then that’s probably no different to an NGO trying to alter long held tribal customs that mean encouraging young men to be circumcised to halt the transmission of HIV is fraught with difficulty?

So how do we address both the needs of people and wildlife in a place like Africa? One idea might be to encourage the NGOs we are working for, to look at how they might link up with animal conservation efforts literally occurring in their own backyard. Human nature being what it is, sometimes sympathy for the plight of animals garners greater PR/media interest than the burden of disease we see within the projects we are working on. Is there a way to create synergies between the efforts of animal conservation work and humanitarian health efforts?

Another way to address the issue is to co-opt our younger generation. “We do not inherit the world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” This theme resonates through many cultures, particularly the long extinct San peoples of Africa, who understood deeply their intimate connection with the animal world and successfully managed this relationship for millennia until colonial powers with their ‘extractive’ philosophy to life altered that balance irrevocably.

It is our young that seem to be motivated by more altruistic ways of living on this Earth. Imagine the power of youth in tribal cultures throughout Africa rising up and saying enough of consuming Earth as if we are a living, malignant human cancer! What if we linked the preservation of their wildlife to economic gain…for every animal’s habitat they save, tourist dollars are generated to see such habitats…how transformative could that be? Economic development through the Tweens of Africa, where they recognise animal conservation as a means to prosperity, which ultimately means better access to quality healthcare…imagine!

I left nothing but footprints at Inverdoorn, but took away a lifetime of memories and a challenge to myself and to you…Earths animals need our help too, we are all interconnected. Gaia is real!

Blog entry from Kim Fry

Kim Fry is a Senior Account Manager at MSD NZ Ltd…he is currently on a three month Fellowship for a Global Health Program moving between South Africa and Seattle. See our prevous Q&A with Kim for more info.