Be a Steward of the Natural Environment

“If you truly love Nature, you’ll find beauty everywhere.” – Van Gogh

Introduction

Over the course of the mid-term holidays my family and I vacated to the south part of the Kruger National Park. The tranquility of the natural environment replenished the over-tired student that was me and I woke early almost every morning to appreciate the scenic world outside our self-catering house before the sun reached a scorching temperature of 30°C and higher. It dawned on me that I have grown so accustomed to the constant hustle and bustle of city life that I forget to notice the little things that add so many colours to the canvas of life. The chitter-chatter of birds outside my bedroom window every morning, the beautiful colours that appear when the sun sets, butterflies paying our humble garden a visit and many other little things that I just stopped noticing surfaced as I spent time in the Park, I grew back in touch with nature. [149]


Time not spent in a rush, is time well spent

I do not handle stress well and therefore do not take a particular liking to the constant rush of everyday life. Few things bring me as much happiness as a breakaway, an opportunity to tone things down and unwind. Suffice to a secluded holiday fits me like a glove. The Kruger National Park is one such location that offers both entertainment and relaxation but for me it offers more than that, I am also surrounded by wilderness which is a slight change in scenery compared to the city. Even after the holiday had been extended at the last minute I was still reluctant to leave. [105]

Fauna and flora

The Kruger is a home to multiple fauna and flora species, too many to be explored over a one week period. Even if we spent twice as much time there seeing the species cannot be guaranteed because it is the wild, it is unpredictable.

First of all, of the variety of fauna species three caught my eye namely the African elephant, the Thick-tailed bush baby and a Ladybird.

African Elephant
Figure 1: The African Elephant, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by the author.

The African elephant (Figure 1) is scientifically known as the “Loxodonta” and is the world’s largest land animal. The mammal is native to Africa particularly found in the Congo Basin and Coastal East Africa (WWF 2016). From the human’s viewpoint it may appear as if these enormous animals destroy as far as they go when the contrary is true; elephants play a pivotal role in shaping their environment because of their influence on factors from water to forest coverage (WWF 2016). Sadly these animals are considered “vulnerable” in terms of extinction risk due to ivory poaching and trophy hunting.

Thick-tailed bush baby
Figure 2: The Thick-tailed bush baby, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by James Thompson.

The Thick-tailed bush baby (Figure 2) scientifically named “Galago crassicaudatus”, I am convinced is my spirit animal. It has surfaced countless times throughout my life in one way or another. The bush baby depends on forested habitat and is therefore found in South Africa (Heijnis 2016). This galagine species unlike their smaller relative is a more social primate. It moves quadrupedally through the forest and loves to play (Heijnis 2016) by exaggerated walk, pouncing and wrestling. The monkey as seen in figure 2 is also curious and attentively examined the camera and the human being holding it before moving along.

Ladybird
Figure 3: The Ladybird, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by the author.

The Ladybird or “Cheilomenes Lunata” is a beetle native to South. There are countless variations in species all over the world. A good friend of mine wholeheartedly believes that if a Ladybird touches you it is good luck and if it happens to sit on you for a while you should feel honoured. Because of her I am very fond of Ladybirds and also believe that there must be a good meaning in it sitting on you. Therefore when this Ladybird (Figure 3) sat on my hand during my visit at the Kruger I was ecstatic. The Ladybird is most often found in Mopani near the Shilowa gorge (Tinker et al 2016:14).

Secondly, of the variety of flora species three attracted my attention namely the South African Daisy, the Leadwood tree and the Acacia tree.

African daisy
Figure 4: African daisy, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by author.

The African daisy (Figure 4) botanically known as “Dimorphotheca sinuata DC.” (Dlamini 2002) needs full sun and always faces the sun. These daisies make for strategic garden plants as they attract butterflies and bees. This flower is not “bouquet” friendly as it closes when it is away from direct sunlight. This flower needs to be kept moist until it has reached maturity. I found a few of these daisies in an otherwise empty garden and it seemed so happy to see me that I had to take a photo.

Leadwood tree
Figure 5: The Leadwood tree, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by the author.

The Leadwood tree (Figure 5) otherwise known as “Combretum imberbe” and it is one of the largest trees in Africa. Leadwood was the preferred choice of wood for railway sleepers. The tree grows slowly but can live to be thousands of years old. It initially caught my attention as it had been labelled and I wanted to know more about the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Acacia tree
Figure 6: The Acacia tree, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by the author.

The Black-monkey thorn otherwise known as “Acacia Burkei” (Figure 6) is one of the many trees that elephants seem to love destroying. When travelling through the park you see bits and pieces of this tree everywhere and you know that either elephants are close by or they passed through. The tree has thorns and elephants use their trunks to reach in between for leaves. The tree also makes for an excellent bonsai or container specimen. [626]

Conservation

The main purpose of the Kruger National Parks and other wildlife parks are to conserve fauna and flora species in a world that is rapidly undergoing urbanisation. The Anthropocene epoch came to exist because of the dramatic changes that the environment undergoes due to human activity. It has never been more vital to protect and conserve nature for future generations and the continuity and flourishing of human life. Therefor a park such as the Kruger is a valuable site for both communities and the environment. [85]

Environmental concerns

During this year, 2016, there had been two main factors of concern namely the drought that the African continent is currently experiencing as well as the threatened diversity of the African honey bee.

Drought
Figure 7: Drought, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by the author.

The severity of the “drought” (Figure 7) in Africa can be seen with reference to the Kruger, especially in the northern regions of the park where rainfall has been very little. According to Gandiwa et al (2016:163) it is the wild large herbivore species that suffers the most such as the Waterbuck, Sable, Eland and Kudu numbers that are decreasing because of a lack of food and dehydration (Gandiwa 2016:173) similarly Hippos are also suffering the same fate. El Niño is one of the primary causes for the drought.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
Figure 8: African honey bee “Bee Happy”, Mpumalanga, 2016. Photographed by the author.

“African honey bee” (Figure 8) diversity is threatened by anthropogenic factors such as the use of pesticides and the replacement of local colonies to recover from colony losses (Chahbar et al 2013:365). The honey bee is vital for pollination without which the majority of flora species will cease to exist and in terms of the Anthropocene food sources will be limited and unaffordable. [185]

 

Remedies

In terms of the drought, one man-created problem that has to remain in the fore mind of any human being that wants a sustainable and happy life for future generations and which is a causative factor of the intensity of the natural occurrence that is El Niño, is global warming. If humanity could solve this crisis or at least decrease its severity it would make a noticeable difference.

The diversity of the African honey bee can be protected if the use poisonous pesticides are discouraged and if local be colonies are not replaced. Another way by which the everyday man can contribute is by planting a bee friendly garden with indigenous and nectar producing flowers without using too much water and that do not need chemicals to grow. This will not only encourage pollination but procreation as well. [183]

Visibility of the site

The Kruger National Park is not near Pretoria but “Pretorians” do visit the park despite of the fact that it is far because the experience is irreplaceable and it makes for an ideal holiday retreat. However, a more frequent presence on social media platforms could definitely encourage people to visit the park. Unfortunately as I mentioned it is quite expensive to stay at the park excluding travel costs therefor a community initiative such as large group discounts or even a type of coupon could be considered so that the park can be enjoyed by less fortunate people as well. [99]

Conclusion

It is definite that life would be dull without the natural environment and everything it inhibits. Many fauna and flora species are already lost that our children and their children will only see photographically. Many other species are near extinction and highly threatened. We, as the humanities, should do everything in our ability to stop this rapid decline; we can start with the little things such as recycling and cleaning the environment around you. There are quite a few little things that add up which could make a huge difference. Let us act and save our planet for the generations to come. [102]

Links

Sources consulted:

Chahbar, N., Muñoz, I., Dall’olio, R., De, l.R., Serrano, J. & Doumandji, S. 2013. Population structure of North African honey bees is influenced by both biological and anthropogenic factors. Journal of Insect Conservation 17(2):385-392.

Gandiwa, E., Heitkönig, I.M., Eilers, P.H. & Prins, H.H. 2016. Rainfall variability and its impact on large mammal populations in a complex of semi-arid African savanna protected areas. Tropical Ecology 57(2):163-180.

Tinker, A & Tinker, L. 2016. Kruger Park Map & Guide. [Sl]:Tinkers Publishing.

Heijnis, C. 2016. Southern Africa: Eastern shore of South Africa. [O]. Available: http://www.worldwildlife.org/ecoregions/at0116
Accessed 09 May 2016.

World Wildlife Fund. 2016. African Elephant. [O]. Available: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/african-elephant
Accessed 09 May 2016.

Thompson, N. 2016. African daisy. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, N. 2016. Bee Happy. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, N. 2016. Drought. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, N. 2016. Leadwood. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, N. 2016. The Acacia tree. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, N. 2016. The African Elephant. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, N. 2016. The Ladybird. Mpumalanga.

Thompson, J. 2016. Thick-tailed bush baby. Mpumalanga.

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