I’m in Africa in a tented camp where there isn’t any separation between me and wild animals such as lions, elephants, and hyenas…
A few minutes ago I was walking with a Maasai in total darkness and a hippopotamus appeared out of nowhere right in front of us!
I have had a beautiful experience like this before in the Galápagos Islands, where I found myself swimming with wild sea lions and playing with them underwater. I never felt happier. I remember a group of about fifty dolphins that started to swim around our small boat for over half an hour; there were so many of them and they were so playful that it was overwhelming and it brought tears of joy to my eyes.
My experience in Africa has been even stronger and more illuminating. I have learnt something very important that has made me want to write this post.
Most documentaries and movies portray animals as dangerous to human beings. This way people perpetuate the idea that Man has to defend himself and even kill the “bad” dangerous animals in order to survive. But this is not the way it is.
I visited and stayed in different national parks and reserves here in Africa, and what struck me the most is how animals (just like in the Galapagos) were not scared or aggressive at all towards human beings; animals were only scared in the reserves where they get in contact with hunters and the wrong kind of tourists; they run away as soon as we got close to them and we were advised never to leave our cars because they could possibly attack. In the first park where animals were never attacked by humans nor bothered in any way, they were not scared at all by people and actually they were pretty disinterested in our presence, including lions which we came into contact with a few times.
We ate breakfast a few meters away from a group of elephants and did a safari by foot and even then the animals if not confronted or bothered would scarcely acknowledge our presence.
When animals are allowed to live their life in their natural habitat (which is the case of the first park I visited : a perfect untouched eco-system) they don’t tend to attack or even care about people.
It really seems that the motto here is: “live and let live” and that is how the Maasai used to live in harmony with nature and animals; I spoke with many of them and they rarely have a problem with an animal including lions attacking them. It is them who used to hunt lions for ritual passages, and even then when the lions population started to diminish, Maasai have stopped to hunt solo so to let the lions population grow back. Unlike other hunters Maasai would never hunt a lioness and they would never hunt a lion who was sick or weak. ” It is a taboo for any Maasai to kill or eat a wild animal because the Maasai communities are composed of clans and each clan is associated to a wild animal with each of the species belonging to a particular fraternity which treats the related beast as member of that clan.”
I never understood modern game hunters. I have a cousin who hunts so that he can put a wild animal’s head in his apartment in the city.
If you only could see how EASY it is to kill lioness and lions, (contrary to our belief and what is shown in movies…) you’d understand how little I respect this “sport”…if one can even call “killing a beautiful creature for fun” a sport.
A ranger who studied Wildlife Preservation at University here in Africa explained to me that today because things have changed so much, hunters help by keeping a balance in the number of animals that the reserve can keep.
But a few minutes later he explained how in certain regions the Maasai were able to create a perfect balanced eco-system where humans, animals and nature live in harmony without killing or eating any wild animals.
People tell you that hunters love the animals and support them by hunting because they pay to kill and the money goes to support the park or reserves. To kill an elephant for example can be up to $40,000! So if the hunters love the animals so much why not give $40,000 dollars to support organization that protect the wildlife or directly pay the parks just as charity. At least be honest and say you hunt for your ego and for your pleasure not to help.
And then there are poachers who get hired to kill animals who are almost extinct like the Rhinoceros, to get their horns or fur to China (who erroneously believe have medicinal properties) and other countries who consider having a knife made with rhinoceros horn is a status symbol! Sometimes I believe it is certain humans who need to be hunted to extinction.
I understand the American Indians who killed to eat and considered the act of killing something they had to do to survive so they would honor the animals whom they considered sacred. They would not waste a single part of the animal, they would eat the meat and use the fur to cover themselves and build their tents, their arrows, their shoes, their ropes, etc. Nothing got wasted.
I read many books on the American Indians and I find their way of life (in particular, tribes like the Hopi) an example of absolute wisdom: An example of how to live with nature in harmony.
I live in the “city” of cities: New York, and of course I love it in many ways, but if it were for me, if I had a magic wand, I’d go back in time when nature was uncontaminated, oceans weren’t polluted, and the many species of animals that keep disappearing everyday, were still on this earth.
I use my iPhone, and drive in cars like everyone else, but I dream of a time where there were only horses, carriages and boats to move around…What is the hurry anyway? Run, run, run …where are we all in such a hurry to get to? Here in this tented camp without electricity I slept like I haven’t slept since I was 5 year old! Amazing. I am less stressed here separated from wild animals only by a thin tent, then back in NY surrounded by smog, polluted water and a country of people who are allowed to carry weapons.
This is my inspirational quote today, my “food for thought” for you, I know that most probably you are in a hurry right now to finish reading this post, but slow down for a second and try to understand this interesting concept:
From: ” Women who run with the wolves” by C.P. Estes.
“Part of the problem lies in the perception that animals are not soulful or soul-filled. But the word itself, ANIMAL, is from Latin: meaning: a living creature, “anything living” ANIMALIS: having the breath of life, from ANIMA, meaning: air, breath, life.
At some point in time, we may be amazed that this anthropocentrism (the idea that the human being is at the center of the world and superior to nature and animals) ever took root, in the same way many are now amazed that discrimination against humans based on skin color was once an acceptable value for many.
I wish we learnt from cultures such as those of the American Indians or the Maasai from Africa who respect and live in and with nature in such harmony.
Before colonialists came, the Maasai were living in harmony with nature and animals. They had a rich spirituality connected to nature; one that I share myself and I find way truer then any monotheistic religion that was brought to them by colonialists/missionaries. I’m not saying their life was perfect, life isn’t easy for anyone, but it is true that they found a way to live within and with nature that we completely forgot in our modern society; our cities have become stressful cement prisons with sometimes not even a decent park where children can play. Not to mention the level of diabetes and other sickness that affects our Western society apparently ” modern and advanced”; Maasai didn’t even have cavities because their diet was right for them. When I see them drinking Pepsi and Coke I feel such frustration towards these companies who couldn’t care less about the health of people but just care about money.
Colonialists came and believed they knew better. What was so much better about our culture compared to theirs? We believed we had to change indigenous cultures and make them like us instead of learning from them what it means to be a real human being who respects the earth, animals, and his community.
Now the situation can’t be reversed unfortunately but we can help as much as possible to try and conserve what is left. I was in various camps in Africa and it broke my heart to see a Maasai having to escort me together with other tourists from breakfast to my tent and from my tent to the restaurant, everyday; a repetitive and limiting job for a beautiful intelligent warrior as he was. Now he says to me while drinking a coca cola that he dreams about marrying a white girl and getting a mobile phone and a car and come to NY… I wish he knew how much I dream to go back in time and learn from them how live within a real community in harmony with nature and animals.
There are so many great books talking about their way of living and their philosophy of life…I read many, find a good one or download it with the help of new technologies :-):-) if you prefer… I promise you will be inspired!
One of the most endangered spices at the moment is the Rhino, if you want to help, I just donated here:
A letter from the Wildlife Conservation Society:
We’re so glad you are on board to save elephants. Banning ivory sales in the United States would be a monumental step, and the Obama Administration has heard your voice.
Surely, your friends and family would agree that this is an easy way to crack down on poaching and elephant slaughter – I bet they don’t even know it’s legal to sell some types of ivory in the United States. Why not get them all on board?
Click on the image below and click “Share” to get the word out. Or, you can forward the note below to family and friends.