The Kruger National Park is not a game park, it is not a safari park or merely a reserve set out to preserve African animals. The Kruger Park is a 2 million hectare, pristine natural area that still supports the natural ecosystems it has for over 3 billion years.
There have been some changes since then – mammoths have evolved into elephants, sabre-toothed cats have become today’s lion and leopard. And the vegetation has had to adapt through time to sustain itself and its environment.
Like us, or at least our ancestors, we have also changed. We have adapted from the moment we lifted ourselves off all fours and became bipedal man, our lives – our ability and our modus operandi changed forever. We could fashion tools, free up two limbs to communicate and gather, and hunt rather than simply to walk, run or climb. We left the forested areas and the safety of the trees, for the more dangerous expanses of the savannah. Once we did this we started to become a little more concerned with issues like distance communication and family group security.
We left behind the continuing struggle for survival in the bush for a new kind of survival – survival in the cities, survival among ourselves and survive we did. So much so that we rapidly populated every possible corner of the earth and we started to consume every possible food type on the earth.
More of us meant fewer resources and we went to war to capture consumable areas, we created superstitions and religions to frighten our enemies into submission, and our ilk into solidarity. We expanded and grew with such ferocity that the natural world struggled to keep up. But the natural world’s main motivation is also survival and in direct opposition to our natural order. – She coughed up diseases that would kill us in huge numbers, she invented poisons and venoms that could kill us. She confused the poisons with edible plants and hid her venoms in the fangs of snakes. She awarded the simple life forms with the most potent weapons.
Some of us are intent on returning to seek out our heritage, to re-acquaint ourselves with our mother earth. This is what the Kruger is. A place we come from, unchanged save a few necessary aids like rest-camps, roads and food stores. Necessary because we can no longer survive without them in the world that we left behind so long ago.
It’s a real moment of truth – returning to the life we lived so many millions of years ago. If we try to imagine ourselves thrown back into this world, without our tools and weapons, without our modern day life support systems, the hair’s on the back of our necks would prickle in worried anticipation and fear. We would realise that we have become ill-equipped to deal with everyday situations like knowing and interpreting our immediate surroundings and being able to assess danger or opportunity by using our eyes, our ears, our noses for identification. We would be aware that we could no longer communicate with any other form of life other than our own kind.
When a lion roars next to us, or the skies darken suddenly – blocked out by an extremely nearby elephant, or swarm of bees – our perspective about just how significant and knowledgeable and important we really are will change. We will be shown the significance of our ability to maintain some form of respect and participation within the natural order of things. This is why I visit the Kruger – not to engage in some playful ritual, but to attempt to re-establish myself and my participation within this ecosystem I still call home.