The Hunting Horizon

The Hunting Horizon

neitheroneorotherAttitudes towards hunting are changing in the same way that they’ve already changed with regards to the LGBT communities. In remarkably short order hunting of all kinds may be curtailed.

This is a very widespread and expansive cultural change. It applies almost equally to sports hunting as to native society subsistence hunting and even to scientific culling. It is, in fact, the scientific community evincing the most dramatic change. The driver is climate change.

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Blast Away!

Blast Away!

LemurFriday the European Union announced an emergency program to slow the decline of African predators that will focus on mitigating the human/wildlife conflicts that are at the center of this problem.

It’s a pitifully small sum of money, less than $15 million, that I wonder may already have been spent in just creating the working groups, research, guidelines and publications that resulted in the announcement Friday. On the other hand, I really like their approach.

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Traffic Problem

Traffic Problem

bouldersHuman/wildlife conflict isn’t limited to dangerously powerful elephants walking over an impoverished Tanzanian farmer’s watermelon field. Several days ago in a thoroughly modern city in The Cape one of the world’s most endangered animals suffered a serious blow from … car traffic.

There are few animals in the world as endangered as the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus), sometimes called the Jackass penguin.  Just over 25,000 breeding pairs remain of a sustainable population of 1.2 million birds that existed only a half century ago.

This is a far greater catastrophic decline than that of elephants or lions, and it shows no sign of abating.

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COP21 Obfuscation Detritius

COP21 Obfuscation Detritius

COP21Today on Earth Day only one major head of State (from France) attends the signing statement at the United Nations of COP21, the breakthrough global climate agreement negotiated in Paris last year.

French President François Hollande is the star. He was instrumental in negotiating African developing countries into the deal, but there aren’t any African Heads of State here to sign with him.

John Kerry signs for the U.S. Obama is not here as he’s telling Cameron who’s not here, either, not to leave the EU.

Should we worry?

COP21 is good, but its worst part is another acronym, INDC, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, that was created at the behest of the developing world and negotiated principally by Hollande.

The premise is that development cannot be compromised in the poorer countries of the world.

As Bolivia and Ecuador explained in a joint statement during the negotiations, “These climate reparations would give to economies relying on progressive extractivism the necessary resources to transition to clean energy without having to sacrifice their social and redistributive policies.”

Translate: pay us not to burn fossil fuels. The implementation in nicer language will be written in each country’s INDC.

In other words, Kenya will forge head with additional solar, wind and other non-fossil fuel methods of making power, but primarily only if Britain, the U.S. and Japan – its principal aid givers – pay them to do so.

I think this is remarkably fair. But it’s politically dicey.

Most Americans (69%) now support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, BUT … they do not believe (45%) that climate change is a “serious problem.”

What was that?

That’s the same position in 10 of the major 17 countries who pushed through COP21. Only in India, Germany, Canada (only barely, 51%), Mexico, Brazil, Italy and France does the public accept that climate change is a “serious problem.”

So that’s how dumb the world is, and that’s why Hollande is at today’s signing ceremony. France, he is saying, is not as dumb as America or China where (get ready to scratch your head) 71% of the public supports international treaties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but only 18% believe that climate change is a serious problem!

I would love for some data from Africa, but except for South Africa (56% support reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but only 45% believe climate change is a serious problem) polling in other African countries doesn’t exist.

You see if you stripped out the motive for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, then what replaces it?

In developing countries it’s pollution. Pollution is as much an issue in Nairobi as Beijing.

In the developed countries it’s … what? Support for fracking? I just don’t know.

Here’s another take. It’s likely today that most Africans, and maybe even most Americans, recognize that climate change is real. Whether you elevate climate change to a “serious problem” is the key.

There are so many problems in Africa with greater priority, like food and water and poverty, that even if it’s plausible climate change contributes to these, it isn’t as important so the moving goal post of “serious” might not be reached.

In America I think it’s more contentious: it’s political.

Alas for the straight-talker Trump and the clear-headed Sanders, our only solutions to sweeping away the detritus of obfuscation?

Conservation vs. Development

Conservation vs. Development

Mom.gorillaIs conservation just? Not always, according to a study in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park.

“Conservation [needs] to get serious about environmental justice,” a September study from the University of East Anglia claims, one of the world’s top universities for developmental studies.

This is just one of lots of recent intellectual fistfights between sociologists and conservationists. Conservationists, on the one hand, are presumed to want to protect the earth at nearly any cost. Sociologists, on the other hand, put people first and claim that contemporary conservationists don’t.

The argument surfaced at the beginning of this decade but by 2014 the New Yorker called the debate “vitriolic.”

Finally at the end of 2014 the highly respected scientific publication, Nature, allowed two scientists to publish an article about the fight: “We believe that this situation is stifling productive discourse, inhibiting funding and halting progress,” they wrote.

Stop whining. This is an important debate and nothing that I’ve seen is offensive or immature. Quite to the contrary: The East Anglia study continues this debate on the side of sociologists, and I believe appropriately so.

I know Bwindi pretty well. It is the Ugandan section of the volcanoes national park in which the mountain gorillas live. Like the other sections in Rwanda and the DRC-Congo, mountain gorillas have enjoyed a wonderful rebound from near extinction at the end of the 1970s.

The main reason is tourism. It will cost you a hefty $750 for one permit to be with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda for one hour, and one of the 56 daily permits are often hard to get.

It’s less expensive in Bwindi, but that reflects the unsettled political situation in Uganda. But even in Uganda’s untroubled days, Bwindi’s operations were never on the up-and-up.

Bwindi was terribly corrupt. If you had trouble getting a permit, the right bribe to the right ranger would get you one, and if in fact the day was truly booked up, someone would find a way to take you to a gorilla research group which was technically off-limits to tourists.

The East Anglian study touches on this but in fact sticks mostly to the non-corrupt, stated policy issues. Their main criticism is that the original peoples of the area, the Batwa, have been intentionally excluded from the benefits of Bwindi’s growing gorilla population.

The main benefit to the growing gorilla population is tourism: revenues from the permit tax which supposedly go directly to the government; and jobs created in the tourist industry: staff for lodges and transport and guides.

The Batwa do not benefit from any of these. The Ugandan government has always been openly hostile to these progeny of “pygmies,” their land was never properly deeded to them so they were unable to participate in the leasing arrangements for the tourist lodges, and few if any tour companies hire them at any level.

Prior to the interest in conserving the gorillas, the Batwa’s lifeway was bush meat hunting in the forest – not gorillas, but mostly monkeys, and also duikers and other small forest creatures. This is now prohibited in the interests of gorilla and ecological conservation.

So without benefitting from the growth of tourism and conservation while being restricted from the forest which was their traditional lifeway, the Batwa have grown more poor and more estranged from modern society. Implicitly, of course, it’s presumed they become poachers.

“Successful” conservation policies lead directly to poaching.

The East Anglia study suggests that scientists should adopt certain principals of manifest justice that could delimit conservation goals, but which in all cases would ensure justice for the local peoples like the Batwa.

This no-brainer is often neglected, the authors claim, because conservation goals appear “to be driven by faith in a particular (utilitarian) model of justice that holds that conservation consequences justify their means.”

I’m glad to have this “vitriolic” debate: I’ve always believed in Africa that people must come first, that conservation is not anathema to that at all, but that stitching the two together is imperative.

Imperative to conservation, not to the peoples’ will and that’s the key. The people have the sovereignty. Conservationists do not. It’s clear who must sew the seam.

Guns & Climate

Guns & Climate

samburugunsMore guns make more war and less guns make less war and the truth is shown clearly today in Kenya’s Samburu district.

Since the incredible arming of Kenya by the Obama administration for the Somali Invasion four years ago, the number of weapons in northern Kenya has increased by a ridiculous amount. It’s particularly noticeable now that the war is winding down.

Guns don’t wind down.

So all the tens of thousands of unused machine guns and grenades have reached the black market and they’re available for a song.

The Samburu district of Kenya has always had a sort of wild west flavor, including messy cowboy entanglements. For one thing it’s where two historically antagonistic tribes, the Turkana and Samburu, meet.

Both tribes hold creation myths stating that God created cows only for them, so if the other tribe has cows, they must have stolen them. The young warrior class is charged with recovering as much of these stolen goods as possible.

So cattle rustling has existed at least for as long as anyone has written about the area, well back to the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s different, now.

To begin with, there’s more competition. There are more people, so more food and more cows are needed at the same time that climate change is exacerbating the desertification of these northern areas.

So while it used to be pretty much an ethnic conflict between two or three major tribes, today the issue of enough land for grazing is just as important.

The Kenyan government is moving perhaps too quickly to ameliorate this by generating new local revenue from deep-hole oil wells financed by the Chinese.

But the most important difference is how people fight.

Instead of using spears and clubs, the fights are now almost exclusively with very sophisticated guns.

Guess where they might come from? Amazing, isn’t it, that they cost less than fashioning a good spear?

In the most recent cases it appears the warring factions are better armed than the police.

Kenya has a strict firearm policy: it’s not easy as a private citizen to own a gun. But in the Samburu district of Kenya it’s hard to find a Samburu without a gun.

In an attempt to reduce the weaponry, Samburu authorities announced an amnesty several weeks ago for anyone who turned in an illegal firearm. That program expired Tuesday and “no firearms had been surrendered.”

It is, of course, a common argument promoted by arms manufacturers that peace prospers when more people have guns. This presumes that the vast majority of people are good and only use guns to defend themselves.

That argument is about as cogent as the idea that God created all cows for Samburu.

Queen to Pawn! Check!

Queen to Pawn! Check!

queenofivoryThe high profile arrest of a Chinese woman for ivory trading in Tanzania means a lot more than just the arrest of a Chinese woman for ivory trading in Tanzania.

Her arrest is proof that the ruling party in power in Tanzania fears losing the national elections in two weeks. Probably even worse is the naivete of conservation organization’s glee at her capture:

Yesterday conservation groups went ape over the arrest of Yang Feng Glan, the 67-year old vice president of the Tanzania China-Africa business council, a resident of Tanzania since the mid 1970s.

The Elephant Action League calls her the ‘Queen of Ivory:’

“She has been trafficking ivory since at least 2006, working with the most high-ranking poachers in the country and in the region.”

Glan is not new to Tanzanians and clearly her crimes have been known for some time. Remarkable, isn’t it, that the police superintendent announced yesterday that she’s confessed to everything.

This means that she won’t be presenting a defense. There will not be lawyers to assist her in allocating the blame. She won’t be “naming names.”

It was all her fault, all 30,000 elephants or so, all hundreds of thousands of tons of ivory, all immigration and customs passes … she did it all herself, and she’s confessed.

No need to question any officials now who might have approved such important matters as unmarked cargo bins, or police who never checked those giant warehouses down by the dock, or those wildlife officials who left butchered elephants lying in the veld to be investigated not by forensic detectives but striped hyaenas. They’re all off the hook, now. Fang confessed and so the issue of elephant poaching and the illegal ivory trade…

… won’t disrupt the upcoming October 25 national elections.

And I’ll bet my bottom dollar that Mrs. Fang won’t be sentenced for her confessed crimes before the elections are over, and that the complexity of the deals over her “confession” will haunt politicians on all sides for years to come.

These idiot politicians are making deals with the devil, and I can’t wait to see how it pans out. For the time being, of course, all they can see are the ballot boxes on October 25.

That’s what I think is the key to all of this. The party in power is in trouble for the first time since independence. One of the greatest bastions of support for the opposition is in the country’s north where elephant populations are safe and well protected, where tourism is so important.

Last month a hastily arranged seminar by local conservationists and journalists followed the ruling party’s promise to double tourism revenue if elected.

It received wide publicity and finally elevated conservation and the elephant problem into the national consciousness.

“I need conservation and the future of tourism to be part of election issues,” said the Director of the Serengeti Preservation Foundation (SPF), Meyasi Mollel.

“Conservation is a key issue in Tanzania, because the country’s economy is entirely based on natural resources. So for political parties to ignore conservation is a grave mistake,” Adam Ihucha, a brave journalist for the East African, said while keynoting the conference.

Note that the ruling party recently banned then unbanned his publication.

So in the last month as the election heats up, so finally did the conservation crisis in the country. That crisis is nearly entirely composed of the decimation of elephants in the center of the country, which is a stronghold of the ruling party.

If the ruling party loses the center of the country, it loses the election.

So the Queen of Ivory is nicely behind bars, has confessed, and guess what, won’t have to say a single other thing.

At least not until October 26.

Get More, Obviously

Get More, Obviously

cornfieldbusiaKenya will end all restrictions on genetically modified agricultural seed, setting the stage for the largest production of GMO crops in Africa.

According to the country’s vice president, William Ruto, the end of the partial ban on a variety of GMO seed will “maximise agricultural production, improve health services, conserve the environment, and basically improve the living standards of our people.”

The back-and-forth suspensions of GMO seeds throughout sub-Saharan Africa this decade reached a turning point two years ago when Monsanto agreed to unlimited free use of its Monsanto 810 by sub-Saharan African countries, currently being distributed by the Bill Gates Foundation.

The drought resistant corn embodies the entire debate over GMO. While there is no doubt higher yields in stressed environments are produced when Mon810 is used, both bug and virus diseases seem to develop rapidly and powerfully against it.

As a result farmers using the seed also must use more pesticide.

The debate is whether this is because the GMO maize itself somehow nurtures super disease, whether it is simply more susceptible because it’s a relatively new genetic strain, or even whether it’s simply climate change.

The third possibility remains plausible because statistics gathering in Africa remains poor. While there are reasonable statistics to prove that additional pesticides are required for the use of GMO crops, there are not good numbers on what climate change is doing to traditional crops.

No matter the cause, new and tougher ways to suppress bugs and viruses is required whenever a farmer begins using Mon810.

South Africa has discovered that planting every fifth or sixth row of corn with non-GMO crops considerably reduces the need for added pesticide on the entire field.

But that’s an expensive proposition, especially for Kenya.

The net financial payoff, however, remains positive in both South Africa and Kenya. The question is what is the payoff to the overall environment and this question is a much longer term consideration than growing enough food next year for the local population.

I’m no scientist, and I remain very skeptical about altering genes for agriculture or medicine. But in the absence of any similarly efficient alternative for food production, it seems terribly crass to argue against the use of GMO in Africa.

Delta Destruction

Delta Destruction

DeltaDestructionThe battle between fossil fuel mining and the environment has moved into Botswana’s main tourist attraction, the Okavango Delta.

The photo above of a painted frog was taken by EWT client, Melissa Michel, this year. The background of a mining waste dump is compliments of Rio Tinto.

Tourism in the Okavango Delta is the second largest source of Botswana’s GDP, after mining (which dwarfs it, by the way: 40% vs 12%).

Exact figures are hard to confirm, because the government has not defined how government and ancillary industries like educational training and direct contributions contribute to or diminish the tourism and mining sectors. But clearly mining is 3 to 5 times as important as tourism.

Historically most of this was with diamonds. Botswana is the world’s largest diamond producer, but several years ago the government recognized that “diamonds aren’t forever.”

This led to increased fossil fuel exploration and bingo, there’s a lot of it. Relative to diamonds, coals lasts forever.

The largest Botswana owned company, Tsodilo, listed on the Toronto stock exchange, recently announced plans to mine more than 440 million tons of iron ore, and with less fanfare, a rather sizeable amount of coal.

Botswana’s chief mining official said that Rio Tinto, the world’s largest mining company, would be the principal in coal extraction.

“The future of Botswana mining is going to be the coal and iron ore resources…,” he said before adding as an afterthought, “and of course diamonds.”

Botswana is already the 65th richest country in the world. This will likely push it up further.

Unfortunately, much of the iron ore discovered is underneath or close to the Okavango Delta.

Although Botswana has a variety of big game habitats, it is the Delta which is the draw. Unique on earth, it’s where a desert seasonally floods. This produces extremely unusual habitat as well as major deterrents to human settlement.

Over the eons vast numbers of endemic species have arisen in The Delta, many which remain to this area alone. These are mostly plants, amphibians and fish, but the area is also outstanding for more notable, rare and larger animals like sitatunga and wild dog. Many water fowl absolutely depend upon the Delta and many are extremely rare, like the Wattled Crane.

The world’s growing appetite for fossil fuels is as undisputed as the fact that most of them will come from Africa.

Why should Botswana be denied compromising its ecosystem for greater wealth, as Alaska and California did big time last century?

The answer is usually that the world’s just come too far. Time is not on their side, as it was with the Rockefellers and early gold diggers: The global warming apocalypse takes precedence.

That’s such a subjective argument it falls on deaf ears in Africa. South African environmentalists, however, are trying more clever answers.

Winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize, Desmond D’Sa recently explained that the argument that mining will “create wealth for the people” was fallacious. “We’ve seen the mining industry in South Africa, hundreds of years, has created impoverishment and poverty… The majority, the 99 percent of us in the country, are poor, are living in abject, poor conditions.”

And that’s true and compelling … for the instant. But what happens if – as many of us hope – this changes and there is a real redistribution of wealth? Like in China?

Reversing the world’s poverty is going to take a lot of industry. Protecting the unique ecosystems under which that industry is fired will be no small task.

How Sweet It Is!

How Sweet It Is!

beekeeperYou might be afraid of the mythical African Killer Bee, but there’s a sweet buzz about them in East Africa!

With American and even Chinese honey production at low levels, the demand for honey worldwide has grown so substantially that honey is increasing in price 6% every year.

The 150 million pounds of honey Americans will produce is just not enough for the demand.

Honey production is down because of a terrible virus that while winding down still effects large swaths of wildflower America. This has a further disincentive for honey production as successful beekeepers shift from producing honey to selling their tools elsewhere.

What? A beekeeper in Harrisburg, PA, will triple his annual income if he packs up his hives and travels with them to southern California to pollinate almonds for three weeks.

East Africans are taking advantage of the demand in the market.

Honey Care is a for-profit East African corporation whose main mission nonetheless is to support distressed communities. (Did you register that BP? : a for-profit company with a mission greater and more noble than making profits.)

The company can’t produce enough honey, either, so it’s now begun actively recruiting new beekeepers.

It does this by offering a startup package for $50 of two hives. And most of the time the newly endowed beekeeper doesn’t have to pay the $50 as Honey Care also comes with a loan from a microlending NGO.

Almost all startups are successful. The $50 investment the first year yields $175 annually by the second year.

The program has been so successful that it’s spawned a secondary industry of “professional hive tenders” who travel from small beekeeper to the next tending the hives, if the farmer herself doesn’t want to.

Honey Care then buys, packages and markets the honey. It’s also among the first companies worldwide to use the Swarm Phone App so that East Africans considering a purchase from a grocery store can scan the barcode to find out what kind of flowers produced that particular bottle’s honey.

Since Honey Care is expanding throughout East Africa, it’s become something of a grocery store game to scan this bottle then that one, discovering the first is from wild ginger and the next from purple clover and so forth.

A couple years ago the honey bee got a very bad rap which was mostly fraudulent first incorrectly reported by poor if racist Texas journalism.

That was followed almost as if predestined by a virus in the western hemisphere which has wiped out so much of the organism that the honey producers are now referring to the “new normal” in production at about half pre-virus levels.

That raised prices, and that gives the small land holder in Africa a truly golden opportunity!

Long Live The Toad!

Long Live The Toad!

longlivethetoadQuick! Hide! The toad’s approaching!

Like kudzu, loose strife, wolves and coyotes, garlic mustard, Asian beatles and now even Asian carp, this week poorly trained biologists are focusing on the newest of the worst “invasive” species, the “Asian Common Toad.”

“Invasive Species” is bad nomenclature. Most of what hyper, reactive biologists refer to as “invasive” is intended to mean “bad.”

In other words, if some form of life begins to dominate an ecosystem, it’s wrong and “invasive” when its doing so perilously threatens other established species in that ecosystem.

And that’s the rub. “Perilously” is subjective and darn it, give me several examples where so-called “invasive species” have radically and lastingly altered an ecosystem.

You’ll have a very hard time. There’s no question that there are “super” specious, like the toad I discuss below that scientists worry is now threatening Madagascar, but rarely have the alerts proved as prescient as they appear when announced.

(The best example of invasive species is native Americans wiped out by the smallpox brought by European colonists, and even historically I haven’t heard much of an argument that we shouldn’t have come.)

Like my strong but nuanced argument that poaching elephants isn’t the main problem, this takes some intellectual juice to understand, and the best example right now is the alarm that conservationists are raising against the Duttaphrynus melanostictus.

That alarm is sounded by none other than National Geographic, Nature, and pointedly, the BBC.

Nature called the event a looming “ecological disaster.”

It isn’t.

The toad is native to much of southeast Asia where it evolved. It’s toxic, so when eaten by other animals (and lots of other animals eat frogs and toads), they get sick and some die.

Discovered recently at a port in Madagascar, conservationists went ape. Madagascar is one of the most precious, unique ecosystems on earth, with up to 90% of the species found there endemic.

There’s no doubt that if left to prosper, Mr. Toad will impact Madagascar’s ecosystem. Just as the Lutherans did on the Iroquois. My point is that these alarms soliciting urgent responses to “control invasive species” are pointless, unnecessary and a scandalous misuse of resources.

“Pointless” because they don’t work. You might have been successful keeping garlic mustard out of your flower garden, but you’ll never get it out of your forest.

“Unnecessary” because mainly it’s pointless. Our failures to control invasive species have consistently and increasingly been spectacular defeats. And even if you believe that this series of defeats is reversible, would it be good for the planet?

Would the world have been better had kudzu really been eradicated? Would teepees be better than arched bell towers?

There are a couple examples in the world, the Galapagos being one, where I concede had the rat not gotten into the shed, or had been exterminated quickly enough, things would be better. But those examples are confined to rare and very small ecosystems of which the world just isn’t mostly composed.

Whereas the alarms of invasive species are overwhelmingly rung in large ecosystems, like North America.

Yet the resources allocated to these efforts, and the machismo with which it infuses the conservationist is not simply unbecoming and unscientific, it’s nonsense.

Take the toad.

The toad “invaded” Australia in the 1930s from climes north.

The fear then, as now in Madagascar, is that birds, snakes and everything precious would eat the toad and die. And many did.

Rachel Clarke and other scientists commissioned by the Australian Government to finally conclude what the toad actually did to Australia in the last century, decided that it had done really very little.

Paraphrasing the scientific report, a frog advocacy group in Australia claimed that Clarke and colleagues basically concluded that it was the “Yuk Factor” rather than any real threat to the ecosystem that drove the initial alarms.

“What’s the evidence for all this talk of ecological catastrophe and biodiversity impacts?” the organization asks then answers, “surprisingly little.”

Yes, many snakes died when eating the toads at first. That resulted in an explosion in the native frog population that was very positive for many other species as for a while there were fewer predators of them. And then, the snakes stopped eating the toads and prospered.

Yes, birds ate the toad and died. And then birds learned to eat only parts of the toad and didn’t die. And some birds, like the sacred ibis, developed an ability to eat the toad and not get sick.

In fact up to 90% of the species of some animals were initially wiped out by the toad in Australia. But then? They came back, learning or evolving how to live with them.

Madagascar is 13 times bigger than the demarcated political land and water area of the Galapagos Islands, but it is no less precious an island ecology. I think it reasonable to try to inhibit the invasion of the toad.

But there are a host of other more serious problems facing Madagascar, both ecologically and socially. If the toad is not stopped, Madagascar will not over time be considerably changed.

And it just isn’t unseemly, it’s unscientific, to scandalize what is actually the virtue of successful natural selection.

Long live the toad!

Sunset over the Serengeti

Sunset over the Serengeti

SErengetiSunsetOld people often bemoan the dwindling frontiers of their youth: barefoot in the unregulated playground, the unhelmeted motorcycle ride, 3/2 beer, the willing mortgage banker, silent partners … and me?

The diminishing wild.

It’s been very difficult the last decade in particular watching the stress on the frontiers of the wild, especially in East Africa. So far they’ve held their own, but the ramparts are trembling.

And you can see what’s coming, what will replace the truly unmanaged wild.

Private reserves. Some of them are quite good.

Most are in South Africa, but East Africa has a very famous one that has been around for nearly 30 years, Lewa Downs.

Private reserves have existed in South Africa for actually more than a century, but you can really argue that Lewa was the dawn of a new era when private reserves were not mostly for hunting, but for protecting game.

Lewa began with 5,000 acres in Kenya’s beautiful northern frontier just north of Mt. Kenya, where the few remaining wild black rhino still roamed. The owners and investors of the ranch rounded up as many rhino as they could, and they’ve protected and farmed them ever since.

Today Lewa is 40,000 acres, mostly a not-for-profit conservation organization and proudly boasts of 62 free-ranging black rhinos. The reserve contains all Kenya’s big wild game, all within a massive, fenced wilderness that in many respects would not differ from the wild outside its borders, except that there is less poaching.

Lewa is adjacent the natural home of the very rare and critically endangered Grevy’s zebra, and so Lewa is now the Grevy’s principal hope for survival.

With several tourist camps built within the reserve, field science facilities and a growing endowment Lewa is now the premiere private reserve in East Africa, and a model for all of Africa.

But … it isn’t the wild I remember.
lionpanoclipped
In South Africa private non-hunting reserves proliferate and are much more commercial and (financially) successful than in East Africa.

I am amazed, for example, with the speed with which the “Garden Route” has turned into a private wilderness.

Well nicknamed, the Garden Route is the coastal stretch between The Cape and Port Elizabeth. In times past it was known for its laid-back resortiness, spectacular coast and world-famous cliff walks (like the Otter Trail). Not unlike the coast from San Francisco to Mendocino.

The area did not have big game wilderness. In fact by the 1930s an official South African game count put the total big game remaining in an area the size of Maryland at 11 elephant. But as with much of undeveloped coastal California, as soon as you leave the coastal strip, there is wild land.

So in 1931 the South African government created a new wilderness out of nothing just off the coast, with the idea of repopulating it with big game. Today Addo Elephant Park has 450 elephant, as many for its size (630 sq. miles) as Kenya’s still totally wild Amboseli National Park.

But it’s not the wild, as not only is the exterior fenced, but there are sections within the fenced park that are fenced again, to protect certain species.

But the park has been so successful that a few years ago some of these internal fences were removed and even more exciting, cats have finally been introduced. Until just a few years ago the park was cat-free, managed to protect endangered species.

The “reintroduction” of predation into this man-made ecosystem will trigger the management of the park to more or less “lay off” the until now strict culling that had been employed. In a sense, the South Africans are trying with some critical success to wild-up a previously unwild area.

And all around Addo have developed many private non-hunting reserves, each usually dedicated to protecting one set of species or another. The Lalibela Game Reserve, for example, is specific to the protect of smaller cats like serval and sand.

I hope Addo’s patient, slow rewilding works. And I commend enormously Lewa and enjoy even the tinier places like Lalibela.

But every time I step onto my secret hills in the Serengeti, looking over miles and miles of undeveloped, roadless wilderness, I bemoan its coming to an end. I’m just an old man nostalgic for the dwindling frontiers of my youth.