OLD AFRICA AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Once upon a time in Africa, people understood that us humans are not above all other animals but equal to them. And so the time has come for us to reflect on the past, present and look deeply to find a solution to the damage we have caused.

Credo Mutwa is an extraordinary South African character; he is a traditional healer, psychic and talented storyteller. His knowledge of old Africa which has been progressively lost throughout past decades remains a crucial key to understanding our true relationship to nature and other animals. In his book, Isilwane the Animal, he describes how African people did not see us humans as separate from nature in the past: we understood that we are not above animals, trees, fishes and birds but equal to them.

Old Africa understood our interconnectedness with all living beings. When the white man

family

came to Africa, the continent was teeming with animals which were then mass slaughtered once they erected their farms.

Credo makes the point that many westerners still believe that conservation was imported by colonial powers into Africa and Ian Player confirms in the foreward to the book that those who worked in reserves and protected areas in Zululand know that conservation existed long before the white man arrived.  He describes how African tribes respected nature and our interconnectedness with the Earth by holding wild animals as their totems – a system which served to preserve the environment and showed a clear respect for a healthy biodiversity.

Excerpts from ISILWANE THE ANIMAL BY CREDO MUTWA:

“Through Isilwane the Animal, I hope to open the eyes of the world to traditional African attitudes, folklore and rituals which have governed the relationships between the people of Africa and the animal world.

Today we see the human race running around in circles, like a mad dog chasing its own tail. Today, the same type of confusion prevails in all fields of human thought. There is confusion in the way we view ourselves, there is confusion in the way we view the earth, there is even confusion, believe it or not, at the core of every one of the world’s religions. I can state this with confidence as I have studied most of these religions and even joined some of them.

But why the confusion? It is due to the way we view things: the way we view the atom, stars, life on Earth, and the way we view the Deity Himself or Herself. But the most dangerous and destructive view by far – one which has changed human beings into rampaging, destructive and mindless beasts – is that we compare ourselves with other living things.

Western Man is taught that he is the master of all living things. The bible itself enshrines this extreme attitude, as do other great books. Repeatedly one hears of dangerous phrases such as “untamed nature”, or “interrogating nature with power”. One hears of the strange belief that man is superior to all other living things on Earth and that he was especially created to be overlord and custodian of all things animate and inanimate. Until these attitudes are combated and erased from the human mind, Westernised humans will be a danger to all earthly life, including themselves.”

“When white people came to Africa, they had been conditioned to separate themselves spiritually and physically from wildlife. In the vast herds of animals, they saw four footed enemies to be crushed and objects of fun to be destroyed for pleasure. They slaughtered wild animals by the million. It never occurred to the white pioneers that these animals were protected by the native tribes through whose land they migrated. It never occurred to them, with their muskets, rifles and carbines, that black people worshipped these great herds and regarded them as an integral part of their existence on Earth.”

CONSERVATION AND THE TOTEM SYSTEM:

“In old Africa, every tribe had an animal that it regarded as its totem, an animal after which the tribe had been names by its founders. It was the sacred duty of the tribe to ensure that the animal after which it was named was never harmed within the confines of its territory. In addition, Africans knew that certain wild animals co-exist with others, and that in order to protect the animal after which the tribe was named, it was essential to protect those animals with which the sacred one co-existed. In KwaZulu- Natal for example, there is a tribe, the Dube people, for whom the zebra is a totem. These people not only protect vast herds of zebra in their tribal land, allowing them to roam where they choose, but they also protect herds of wildebeest because they realise that zebras co-exist with wildebeest. …The old Africans knew that to protect the zebra one had to effectively protect the wildebeest, the warthog, the bushpig, the eland, the kudu and other animals sometimes found grazing with zebra in the bush. But the old Africans knew that it was not enough to simply protect those animals which grazed with their totem animal. It was essential to protect those animals which preyed upon their sacred animals.

“There were tribes, such as the Batswana Bakaru and the Bafurutsi, which regarded the Baboon as their totem. They knew that protecting the baboons alone was not enough. The leopard which preyed on the baboon had to be protected, along with the plants upon which the baboon fed. The people knew that if they did not protect the plants, they would starve in the bush and start feeding on the crops in the people’s corn and maize fields. If this occurred, baboons would become man’s enemy.

The Batswana Batloung tribe, whose name means “people of the elephant”, were sworn to protect the elephant. They also protected the rhinoceros and the hippopotamus, which they regarded as the elephant’s cousins. It was believed that an elephant would not injure a person who carried the Bafluong name.”

BIODIVERSITY:

“The African people knew, just as the native American people knew, that if you destroy the environment, you will ultimately destroy the human race. …A remarkable Tswana proverb states that, “He who buries the tree, will next bury the wild animal, and after that, bury his own ox, and ultimately bury his own children.” This saying indicates that people were aware, even in ancient times, of the interdependence on all living creatures upon this Earth, and that if you harm one, you harm others and, in the end yourself.”

Advertisements

Africa – Misunderstanding Wild Baboons

A Researcher working in Uganda contacted me some time ago to ask if I could help her understand what was happening to the villagers in her area who had reported that the women were being “sexually harassed” by a troop of baboons. These “attacks” occurred when the women headed towards the river to do their daily clothes washing.

I asked if anyone had threatened the baboons, or perhaps walked too close to an infant? She answered that the baboon threats were totally unprovoked by the women and they feared they would be “raped”.

Baboons do not rape or sexually harass human women.

Bewildered by this story, I questioned the researcher further.

“Were there any men around when these women were threatened by the baboons?”, I asked.
The answer to that was “yes”.

The men were threatening the baboons due to a fear of them harming the women.

The behaviour described above is a clear cut case of redirected aggression. The baboons were threatening the women because –  in their eyes –  women are lower ranking hence it is safer to threaten a woman who is connected to a hostile man than threaten the man himself.

This is common behaviour among wild primates. If an adult human man attacks or strongly threatens a male baboon who feels he has to respond, and there happens to be a woman close by, the baboon will threaten the woman.

As far as baboons sexually harassing humans is concerned, it appears that a certain amount of projection was involved in understanding the behaviour of these baboons.

The solution to a problem like this would be for the men and women to ignore the baboons, act passively and be respectful of their troop and territory.

To harmoniously co-exist with wild primates, it requires us to practice tolerance and patience. We need to take the time to understand their language so we can correctly interpret the behaviour that scares us.

Cross-Species Relationships – Darwin Primate Group

Video

The Harmonious Relationship Between Dogs, Chickens, Rehabilitated orphaned monkeys and Wild Baboons. For seven years, these wild baboons did not ever attempt to harm a chicken, free-roaming rescue monkey, cat or dog at the Darwin Primate Group. (The huskies in this video were rescued to save them from being euthanased by their people, and due to their high prey drive were a severe risk to small mammals.)

OBSTACLES TO THE REHABILITATION OF VERVET MONKEYS AND CHACMA BABOONS BACK INTO THE WILD:


OBSTACLES TO THE REHABILITATION OF VERVET MONKEYS AND CHACMA BABOONS BACK INTO THE WILD:– Popular misconceptions about the baboon and monkey that are perpetuated by inadequate and contradictory legislation.- Ambiguous messages conveyed to the public due to loopholes in legislation.
– Policy that does not allow these species to be released  beyond an arbitrary and scientifically flawed limit of 100km radius of  rehabilitation centres in the WC. This pointless limitation makes finding safe, appropriate release sites almost impossible in the Western Cape and impacts adversely on animal welfare.Scientists have argued that one cannot allow a forest monkey to be released into a coastal area for example. This hypothesis discounts the fact that the vervet monkey is one of the most adaptable species – third in line to humans and baboons – is therefore not species-specific and is entirely capable of adapting to a wide range of environments.- Policy that treats provinces as mini-sovereign states, and rigidly prevents these species from being imported and exported between provinces. Taking the small amount of rescue and rehab centres in SA into consideration, this law places great limitations on the rehabilitation of these primates back into the wild.
– An alleged failure on the part of provincial conservation authorities to consider the relevance of  scientific papers that dispute the issue
of genetic pollution.PETS
INADEQUATE LEGAL PROTECTION:
Contradictory Legislation:

In my dealings with members of the public, I have found that the contradictory message conveyed  encourages the public to treat protection of wildlife as nonsensical, resulting in these laws being widely disobeyed.
These  laws therefore directly impact on the large amount of vervet monkeys and baboons being shot, of orphans that result from this practice and of monkeys being illegally kept as pets.

POPULAR MISCONCEPTIONS:
Popular prejudice against our wild primates is one of the most influential reasons for the manner in which the public treats them. These misconceptions need to be educated out of our culture, not perpetuated by problem animal control attitudes.
One example of a common misconception – Rabies:
Fears that Vervets are carriers of rabies or other infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans are unfounded. Like us, vervets are primates – if they carried rabies, we would be carriers too. Any mammal is able to contract rabies though.According to Monkey Helpline of EKZN, the state vet reported that no vervet monkey rabies case has ever been recorded.
INADEQUATE SPONSORSHIP OF REPUTABLE REHABILITATION CENTRES:

Considering that conservation policies and public misconceptions directly impact on the
widespread abuse of these primate species, reputable sanctuaries and rehabilitation centres should perhaps be able to expect more support from the government in terms of sponsorship and a willingness to consider more protective legislation that is actively
enforced to ensure the work of these centres has the potential to progress in the best interests of the species and biodiversity.This is far from the case. To date, we have found that a number of “wildlife centres” or ‘sanctuaries” with commercial agendas are the centres that are most likely to be financially viable and flourish.

In short, conservation policies are encouraging the proliferation of commercially viable ‘wildlife centres’ where the potential for animal exploitation is strong.

This is far from being an ideal situation for the many orphaned and injured animals who need rescue and protection.
THE PRESENT REALITY:
There are over 600 baboons awaiting rehabilitation and over 700 vervet monkeys at the two most established primate sanctuaries in South Africa. The backlog of orphans residing at these centres is an indication of how severe the problem is and indicates:

-the lack of safe, appropriate release sites available, and the failure of conservation services to pro-actively promote and assist with, troop releases.

-The number of wild primates orphaned due to the popular notion that they are “worthless” animals

-The inadequate financial support offered by government.



SOLUTION:
The best answer to this widespread problem would be for conservation authorities to adopt a far more supportive role towards rehab centres, and to take animal welfare far more seriously.  They should also remove onerous policy conditions, and promote uniform and protective legislation that is strongly enforced by them.


This solution would ensure that this species are no longer persecuted, seen to be worthless and less orphans and pets would be the result. The pressure on present rescue and rehabilitation centres would be lessened and full release back into the wild would become far more viable.

  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Remembering this note I wrote a while ago. Considering our present situation and the many facets outlined above that plague most primate rehab/rescue centre in this country, we need to find a way forward in a manner that provides real, workable solutions that is in the best interests of the animals.
  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Some of you have asked why our free roaming rescued monkeys were removed by the authorities to be placed in cages (temporarily). The answer is: the fear of genetic pollution – to put it simply, the law does not allow monkeys that come from beyond a 100 km radius to be released here. The fact that those free roaming monkeys probably did come from within a 100 km radius is not accepted due to us being unable to prove their origins (i.e. the person who brought the monkey in to us could have been lying about the monkey’s origins).
  • Karin Saks Darwinprimategroup Hopefully the above also explains why primate rescue in South Africa is not merely a conservation issue but is very much an animal welfare issue and should be approached as such.

Link

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW:

Farmers vs Wildlife – the Plight of SA Primates

Farmers vs Wildlife and the Plight of SA Primates

Darwin Primate Group

dontfeed

The Darwin Primate Group is a registered non-profit organisation dedicated to the preservation of South African primate species. There are nine provinces in SA with each province being governed by independent laws. Because the DPG is the only official primate rescue centre in the Western Cape in SA, our work is crucial to ensure a healthy future for the indigenous primates in this province.

We work towards a harmonious co-existence between residents and wild primates through distributing educational material, public talks and liasing with the public. An aspect of this involves anti-poaching patrols and educating local children in informal entertaining ways.

Our programs include working towards more protective legislation for wild indigenous primates,the rescue and rehabilitation of monkeys and research into wild baboons and monkey troops to find out the impact of human intervention and behavioural aspects that will contribute to knowledge about the most appropriate rehabilitation processes – habitats, natural food sources, behaviour etc.

 

The Primate Mirror – Seeing Beyond Our Preconceived Human Socialisation

Image

Love At First Sight

“If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors. With our imagination as well as our eyes, that is to say like artists, we must see not just their faces but the life behind and within their faces. Here it is love that is the frame we see them in.”
― Frederick Buechne

P.S. It is not advisable to ever invite a baboon to sit on your lap as illustrated in the photo of myself with Boffin the baboon. The context behind the photo above relates to myself as rehabilitator; mother to a baby baboon who I was releasing into a wild troop of baboons.

Humans and Wild Animals- Peaceful Co-existence

Video

Before our ancestors arrived, the Khoi-San co-existed with wild animals peacefully. Although much has changed today, the message that we are one species amongst all others, and not one species above all others, is relevant if we want to change the damaging path we are heading down…