David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, has just been released in cinemas around the globe and is reported as “a first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations.” It’s not surprising that humanity has had a significant impact on the environment, with the world’s population approaching 8 billion. In 200 years the world’s population has increased by approximately 7 billion which of course means more land and resources required, unfortunately to nature’s detriment. Extinction is nothing new – right from a child, we are taught about the dinosaurs going extinct. Here in South Africa, the bluebuck, which was endemic to South Africa and found predominantly in the southwestern Cape, became extinct probably around 1799 / 1800 due to hunting by European settlers and was the first large African mammal to face extinction in historical times, followed by the quagga in 1883.
Indeed, even before this, the dodo, a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius, was hunted into extinction in the late seventeenth century. In the excellent A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, Bryson notes that wherever humans exist, species go extinct, and makes specific reference to the dodo. According to Bryson, “in 1755, some seventy years after the last dodo’s death, the director of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford decided that the institution’s stuffed dodo was becoming unpleasantly musty and ordered it tossed on a bonfire. This was a surprising decision as it was by this time the only dodo in existence, stuffed or otherwise. A passing employee, aghast, tried to rescue the bird but could save only its head and part of one limb.”
It’s a sad tale and no doubt there are countless other similar examples, which social media is at least helping to raise the general awareness thereof. Indeed, Sir David Attenborough has recently joined the realm of Instagram and now holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to reach one million followers on Instagram (in four hours and forty-four minutes)!
There is hope and it is not too late to make a change. Let’s not forget that the (southern) white rhinoceros was almost extinct over a century ago, and while the battle with poaching is ongoing, the population has recovered incredibly well with both black and white rhino existing in multiple public and private reserves in Southern Africa. The roles of conservationists like Sir David Attenborough, wildlife reserves like Thanda Safari, and, of course, the 8 billion individuals that call this planet home are therefore more important today than ever before. How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time! Together, hand in hand and one foot in front of the other, we can make a difference.
Love from Thanda Safari