ARTICLE: THE SUNDAY INDIAN: 25TH MARCH, 07.
Gareth’s website: http://www.garethpatterson.com
t h e l i g h t h o u s e
If there were to be a ‘King of the Jun-
gle’, apart from the kingly beast itself,
it’ll be Gareth Patterson. The “strong
feeling (that) stirred within me” at
the sighting of lions when just about
seven years old led Patterson to
become a wildlife crusader who walks
the wilds with Africa’s wild denizens,
championing their cause. Author of
Last of the Free and To Walk with Li-
ons, and the un-anointed successor to
the legacy of the legendary Adam-
sons (George and Joy of Born Free
fame) talks to TSI about ecology, man-
kind & their common challenges.
THE LION MAN AND HIS PRIDE
How was the Adamson experience?
It was as a child that I was drawn to
the Adamson’s work with the big cats of
Africa. I was captivated particulary by
George’s relationship with lions. Reading Joy and George’s books nurtured
within me the feeling that lions were going to be an integral part of my life.
As opposed to viewing myself as a
successor to George’s life work, I see myself as someone who had the privilege of
being passed ‘the baton of responsibility’.
And many of us were passed this baton
from the Adamson’s. That’s the Adam-
son’s legacy, a legion of people worldwide whose actions today are inspired
and influenced by George and Joy.
Who else has really influenced you?
Many, many people, and other beings,
have influenced aspects of my life. My
friend and former tracker in the Botswanan bush, Fish Mailia, for example, instilled within me (the sensitivity) to listen
to the ‘messages’ while in the wilds, to
‘tune in’ to the subtle signals that carry
in the sights and sounds around one,
alerting one to what lies ahead, sometimes alerting one to potential danger
for example, and if heeded how danger
can be avoided. This ‘tuning in’ I have
realised is not exclusive to our time in the wild, but to life in general. The key is to listen, even though it’s not always
easy to ‘tune in’.
I have been influenced by writers,
musicians, orators, people in the street,
and being influenced, inspired, is a part
of our personal evolutionary process,
part of one’s life ‘work in process.’ Lastly,
my lions influenced me and were more
like teachers who taught me how to look
through the window into their world,
into what I call Lionlife.
To the world, your bonding with Batian, Furaha, and Rafiki sounds otherworldly. How do you recall it?
The bond went very deep indeed, and
I was very blessed that a portion of my
life was spent with them. It was an experience that became a part of me, which
is alongside me to this day. Living as a
lion pride member was very humbling.
Across Asia & Africa, wildlife is in conflict with growing human populations.
What is their ecological future?
Humankind is morally evolving, despite also, like all of us here, having witnessed our negative impacts on the
planet. I like to believe that with a perceivable shift in consciousness, we can
find the road for the future. Nature is
never static and we are a part of that nature and we cannot exist without natural
processes, thus it’s imperative that we act
on long-term initiatives. Otherwise our
own survival surely will be in peril…
Environmentalists are often at logger-
heads over the role of forest communities in conservation processes.
What in your opinion is the way ahead?
It would be terribly damaging if the
very people who were a part of the forest
environment in the past, are not an integral part of its future. Without these
communities participating in preservation planning, conservation could dangerously be viewed as exclusive and almost neo-colonialistic. Conservation
has to be inclusive, based in principals
of consultation, respect and communication with communities.
What’s currently keeping you busy?
Currently, I am continuing with aspects of the (once thought extinct) Knysna elephants, I’m involved in lion issues. I have been helping Karin Saks,
with her primate preservation work,
namely Vervet monkeys and Baboons.
To borrow your phrase Indira, her relationship with these animals is almost
‘other-worldly.’ I am also busy with writing as well as our film project dealing with the Knysna elephants. I am working with filmmaker Mark van Wijk who has recently returned to South Africa from a two month project in India.
Who is Gareth Patterson beyond wildlife and conservation?
Someone who is an eternal optimist, a realist, a lover of life and all things living, a spiritual person, and a pragmatist
– all rolled into one. Which probably
makes me a contradiction of sorts!
For more on Gareth Patterson and his projects, refer to http://www.garethpatterson.com
the sunday indian 58 25 march 2007 http://www.garethpatterson.com/Gareth_Patterson/Home.html