We stare in awe as three generations of lioness – a grandmother, mother and two cubs – saunter peacefully near our 4×4. Their blonde, sun-soaked coats blend harmoniously into the surrounding golden grass and for a moment, in the warm silence, it feels like we are in harmony with them too. I’m moved to tears, overcome by the power and grace of this iconic species.
On safari in Botswana’s Linyanti Wildlife Reserve, a delicate and important balance exists between humans and wildlife. Eco-tourism depends upon the conservation of animals and their land and is highly valued throughout Botswana because of its positive impact on job creation and the growth of the economy. The country’s commitment to preserving its wildlife and natural heritage is manifested in all the people we meet throughout Botswana, who demonstrate a sincere respect and regard for the wildlife around us.
This is most evident in our expedition leader, Francis Kudumo, who embodies harmony with nature. He is among the most patient, observant and present people I’ve ever met and he cares deeply about the nature and wildlife we are visiting; not to mention he is a human encyclopedia of African wildlife and landscapes. And though he’s spent his entire life around wildlife, his eyes still light up with fascination while observing a family of playful and dynamic wild dogs, and he still laughs with great amusement by the mischievous and inquisitive antics of baboons. Francis looks at each encounter with fresh eyes and without the ego of someone who thinks they’ve seen and know it all – I have a feeling that’s part of what makes him the keen expert he is.
On our first day in Botswana we came across our first elephant. As his grand, powerful body waded gently through the cool Chobe River, I felt a dichotomy of elation and heartache to witness an elephant up close in the wild while knowing that his species’ survival is threatened by the human demand for ivory and habitat loss. Organizations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are working to protect elephants by strengthening anti-poaching initiatives, protecting elephant habitats, addressing the demand for ivory and stopping the illegal ivory trade. With over 20,000 elephants killed each year for their ivory, efforts by WWF and other partners are more important than ever. I believe it is our collective obligation to preserve endangered wildlife and keep our planet wild. This elephant embodied the delicate balance between humans and wildlife that is so necessary for a flourishing world where we live in harmony together.
By Alex Rosenberg, WWF