Saturday, September 29, 2012

Africa is not the West or the East - it's Africa.

I am now in S Africa with Abri's family. We filmed all over Kenya over the last month. We started with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi and at iThumba in Tsavo. The Sheldricks and the amazing keepers take in the baby orphans of the ivory and rhino horn trade and raise them by hand until the are least five or six and then releases them back to the wild, to the very place that poaching still exists. The worry they must have, but the conviction that I also share that a wild animal must have the choice to be wild, captivity is a cruel compromise. The orphans are never forced and can always come home, and they do. While we were there we saw an Ex-orphan come home with her new tiny wild baby to meet her beloved keepers that were Mommy to her for so long. Sweetest creatures I have ever met are elephants. Sweeter than puppies and kittens even, and for me that is saying everything.
We also went to see the Northern Rangelands Trust in Sarara. It is a conservancy formed between the Samburu, many other tribes, and eco tourism to manage and protect their wildlife.  It was incredible to get to spend time with the Samburu and also to see Sarara. They've created something truly incredible and now battle to protect it from the dramatic upsurge in poaching. The rangers are absolutely heroic and the people so kind.
Amboseli is facing huge challenges as the population explosion and politics are causing wildlife to be used as a pawn. I really pray that the incredible Cynthia Moss and IFAW can help with their Amboseli project to also show a current benefit and a respect to the locals of their wildlife - that they had lived with peacefully for so many generations.
LEWA was our last stop and a very hard place to leave. All of Kenya was hard to leave! Ian Craig, the father of the Northern conservancies, has truly created and organized an extraordinary effort to keep wildlife alive to the huge benefit of the local people. 
The thing we Europeans do not understand about Africa is that one can not separate the people from the wildlife. In an effort to help we often do that with unknowingly misdirected aid which creates a dependency and a horrific imbalance with dire consequences for all. We see the ads in the US every time we turn on the TV. I have always pitched in as well but after spending time on the ground in Kenya, with Kenyans, I see how easily we mistake how best to help. The wildlife is the Kenyans first natural resource, to save the wildlife is to save the people and vice versa. They are actually one and can not survive without each other. We don't understand this as it just isn't so in our first worlds.  But for me it's important to learn from them and not just make them in to us.
I will work to show this as best I can in this movie. There are brave incredible souls working to save the last Rhinos, the last elephants and the very unique people and cultures of Africa. I feel after being on the ground that this is the only way both will make it - we cannot separate and focus on helping one without the other without creating harm to both. This is one of the last wild places on Earth where human life is still in touch with all life, and I hope it gets to remain so. 
People are basically good, and want to help, and I now see how to best do this in Africa - with the groups who help from the ground up and talk about the people AND the wildlife and let both be. Incredible what I have seen, and the successes of this philosophy. It would have been impossible to understand this without seeing it and having it explained to me by my new Friend Mark, a Samburu, and Joseph, a Maasai. The locals taught me about their country as I would a visitor to Los Angeles who naturally had all kinds of misinformation. One can't help from a boardroom as one can from the ground, as I have now seen. Amazing people I miss already.
Off to tea with Mum and Gran for the last days in Africa.
Much love and thanks, I really think together we can do something good, but we must help in the African way.
Asante Sana and Ashe oling...

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