This afternoon I will go surfing. And to enjoy its adrenalin as its meant to be enjoyed, I will paddle deeper than I should; the fear of a Great White killing me is, for me, a much better sensation than the feeling of there being no Great White at all. This year, it is estimated that 150 million sharks will be killed for shark fin soup or its meat, which I suppose is better than death by ‘bycatch’. Dying because your texture thickens a bowl of soup or even better, because you possess within you the essence of virility, is better than dying because you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Oh, the arrogance of men.
What it all means is this: my father, had he surfed in the 70s – a ridiculous thought, I know – would have surfed in water with 80% more sharks than I will this afternoon, and if these numbers are anything to consider in the decades to come, my own son will surely surf with not a single shark alive. As such, he will succumb to no fear. Sharks, like dinosaurs, will be for movies only and no doubt, exceptionally rendered 3D shark monsters swimming in virtual reality will be his to enjoy and escape from when fake blood spews from its fake victims. Oh dad, how did you ever do this when they were real?
The last time anyone saw a Cape Lion was 160 years ago. Amazingly, my grandfather’s grandfather may have seen many, and as I knew my grandfather and he knew his, real stories of the Cape Lion may have been just one voice away. Like my imagined son in Cape waters, I too am flabbergasted that the fynbos I enjoy weekly was once hiked with the fear of being hunted. Then, in and around Cape Town, black maned giant cats were a part of this landscape but as development pushed inwards, as this land became our land, Cape Lions were hunted to extinction. Game farms then did not exist: as tourism was a one way phenomenon, sheep, cattle and wine farms had little use for giant cats and their impressive fur. As such, now, we are without them.
Notice the black mane as it extends along the belly.
Kwagga Smith, Springbok Sevens livewire and show-n-go boychee, is the only kwagga I have ever seen; the extinct version was last seen in the wild in 1878. No doubt, the Free State then was different to the Free State now; only difference being the kwagga as it barked. Its name, an onomatopoeia, is the sound it made as it kwagga’ed across the dryness of what is now the home of my most epic of African road trips, the khaki plains of central South Africa. But, as the kwagga is no longer with us, no longer here, I can only close my eyes and imagine. Their ghosts haunt me, their herds so quiet that I wonder if it ever it could have been true, if ever the kwagga did bark here, here in the silence of the karoo.
Kwagga. Not as muscular as Kwagga Smith.
The R10 note has long been synonymous with the rhino – green and proud. And although it will only buy you a coke now (if you shop at Pick n Pay), it will forever be ours, as a part of a currency that was chiseled by the mining hands of our forefathers in a time now gone. From that time to now, rhino numbers have dropped so significantly that experts warn they could be extinct in the wild within 4 years. That’s 1460 days from now. In less time than it takes you to finish high school, one of South Africa’s big five in all its horned majesty will have vanished from the surface of this Africa like a mosquito from a windscreen, like a dirty mark smudged from a pair of white Nikies. On that day, the R10 will not celebrate one extraordinary life lost, but another too. Like Mandela, the rhino will be gone forever.
In school, we are proudly taught about the ‘survival of the fittest’; uncovering the details of evolution is one of humanity’s proudest moments as it is justification for our victorious psyche: we have conquered beyond measure and will reign supreme as the fittest of the fit. As such, Darwin’s concept is perhaps the most memorable of all the concepts that we learn at school and we often throw it around in fits of “intellectualism” and insert it neatly into arguments for our agendas. Truth is, we consider very little beyond the depths of Darwin’s treacherous concept as we have become blinded and lost in its labyrinth of dead-end trenches.
Mr Darwin himself.
Consider this: have you wondered what drives you to save a spider or a bird – or save a friend before he steps in front of a moving car? Saved by you, these beings go on to produce offspring that without you would have been lost to history. You saved them and gave them life. No doubt, many species have lived on because of those who helped them, because of those who did not drown them in the poisonous misunderstanding of human ‘fitness’. This alternative concept, I believe, is called ‘mutual aid’ and I hope it soon gains the reputation and traction of its most venomous of Darwinian counterparts.
I have many great stories to tell my son and of course, I will tell them around a camp fire. The smell of a dry wood camp fire, as it has always done for most of us, will draw from me my deepest of pasts. I will tell him of that day in the Kruger when the ranger told us to freeze across the way from a rhino, upwind from its stare. I will tell him when we later armed ourselves with stones in case an elephant charged. Thankfully it did not. I will tell him of my deathly fright as I mistook a dolphin for a shark on the shores of the Southern Cape. No doubt, as a story for his ears, he will relay them to his own son and his son to his. And whether these will one day be stories as fantastical as Spielberg’s will depend on now I suppose; it will depend on the integrity of humanity and how the most arrogant react.
The fittest will not survive without us. Click here to Join the herd! Or visit some of the following links to get involved in other ways.
The West African Rhino. Extinct since 2011.