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Thursday, April 26, 2012

                       African Success stories and Role Model  Heros 

The link above  is a remarkable  20 minute speech by Dr. Ian Player of South Africa. He is a founder of the International Wilderness Leadership School, established in the US as  the Wilderness Foundation (,  Here he speaks to l,200 delegates at the World Wilderness Congress in 2005 in Alaska. His words are relevant  today as we work for nature and people in the Congo.  I encourage you to take the time to listen to what he has to say in his colorful, lyrical and did I say WISE; language about respect for the environment.  

It is our hope as we work for the restoration of the Kundelungu and Upemba National Parks in the Congo that his example will serve us well as we go forward optimistically and with determination believing  that a single person or  few people can work wonders for understanding,  protection and even restoration of  the damaged natural world. 

Yellowstone was the first formally created park in the world, next came Virunga in N. Congo and the next one in Congo was Upemba. This creative act was accomplished before Kruger Park was created in S. Africa or Serengeti in Kenya. It was because of  stunning the plant and animal abundance and diversity was so remarkable that it attained world recognition. Tourism followed and a period ensued of colonial construction of facilities in the Parks and the grass roots infusion of money into the lowest roots of the economic system where such infusion tends to remain.

We know that these war ravaged Parks can in time recover. We are told that the vegetation is largely intact implying that given the chance to repopulate, the animals will return. This presupposes the necessity that  government complicity in poaching stop and that staff and workers on the ground are not shorted on their meager paychecks as happened again recently and as has happened often in the past. The boys working in the field, sleeping on the ground, confronting armed poachers are the life blood of the recovery effort. The need and deserve the full support of the ICCN, their employers.  

Margaret Mead's words are insightful points of optimism, “never doubt that individuals or small groups of people can change the world, indeed that was usually what changed history”. Few things serve more profitably than good examples of practices that worked well and can be copied.

Here Dr Bob Ford of the US and local radio station crusader/hero, Frere Luis of Lubumbashi speak with another conservation and human rights champion.

He  is wearing a medal awarded for his role in bringing peace and reconciliation to the Congo that ended the wars that destroyed the Kundelungu and Upemba National Parks and their animals.

We are determined to help the people rebuild their parks and badly need the help of the local and national  officials. 

--An African Success Story -- 
Restoring Depleted Animals to the  Umfolozi Wilderness in 
South Africa

When black rhino were all but killed off in the Umfolozi River watershed in southern Africa Ian Player and Magubu N’Tombela (right) combined forces and made history when they created the International Leadership School. Concurrently they led the uphill struggle  to saving the rhino and today the funds from trans locating the population excess provides for the people in the surrounding areas who protect “their” valuable resource.

In this archival photo Game Ranger Ian Player encourages a darted and drugged black rhino as part of his protection efforts.

Ian and Magubu are real heros!

A corps of dedicated rangers coalesced and they in turn organized scores of  locals who became rangers. Magubu’s grand-daughter Le’shlue  has become South Africa’s first woman Game Ranger.Capable women in the Congo can aspire to this example. 


Elephants are known to tolerate people as well as avoiding them when there is danger. This individual on the border of the Kruger Park in S. Africa’s Timbavati area is peaceful next to a home versus terrifying or even killing people when they are stressed as by poachers and armed gangs.

Game Ranger, Environmental Consultant and African Legend, hero, Paul Dutton as a Bateleur , a "Volunteer Pilot Flying for Conservation in Africa", has done wonders for conservation and restoration 

African Game Ranger Bruce McDonald on my left, in his ultra-light represents the younger generation of Bateleur pilots. He and others like him are following the examples set for them in conservation and restoration. Here we are monitoring climate change effects on vegetation. 

In Lubumbashi, Vincent Ng'eno from Kenya flies the Cessna 206 on Parks missions for the Frankfort Zoological 

 Herds of Cape Buffalo like this can again be seen and will draw visitors from around the world if the Congo government can only get serious about protecting them.

Corrupt officials in high places continue to compromise the chances of recovery for the Parks and in the end it is the people at the grass roots level who suffer most because of this.

The International Wilderness Leadership School has taken thousands of "trailists" from around the world  into the Umfolozi Wilderness, let by Game Rangers, always with young Game Rangers in training.

This kind of activity is waiting to happen in the Congo where infrastructure needs are minimal and the rewards very high. Lives are changed and a group of supporters for the future of  programs are created.

The hikers go into the Umfolozi taking only what they can carry for about l0 days. There are no advance camps and no ground support. They sleep on the ground next to a fire and take one hour shifts keeping the fire alight. They drink filtered water from the river. The power of this experience is profound for all participants. 

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