The wild around us

Getaway (South Africa) - - FROM THE EDITOR -

It’s a happy co­in­ci­dence that my sis­ter and I cur­rently find our­selves liv­ing to­gether, like two spin­sters in a Jane Austen novel. Ev­ery morn­ing, we rise at around 5am and head out to the moun­tain close to the in­fa­mous Rhodes Me­mo­rial for our morn­ing ‘con­sti­tu­tional’. For those that don’t know, Rhodes Mem is part of Table Moun­tain Na­tional Park, around which Cape Town city is spread­ing. We’ve be­come fa­mil­iar with the area. At one cor­ner we stop and search for a pair of African ea­gle owls. On the morn­ing of writ­ing this, one peered at us, gave a grat­i­fy­ing hoot, spread its wings and dropped away into the gloom as cy­clists came pant­ing by. On our way back down, we al­ways lis­ten out for the pip­ing ‘kew’ of a res­i­dent ru­fous-chested spar­rowhawk. Around us, the flora is filled with the chat­ter of birds, most of which I don’t know, sadly. Re­cently I read an in­ter­est­ing opin­ion from an ecol­o­gist and lec­turer at an Aus­tralian univer­sity. She talked about eco­log­i­cal il­lit­er­acy, and how her bi­ol­ogy stu­dents are un­able to iden­tify plants and crea­tures. To quote her, ‘While peo­ple spend more time in­doors in front of screens, we be­come less aware of the birds, plants and bugs in our back­yards and neigh­bour­hoods. This leads to an alien­ation from na­ture that is harm­ful to our health, our planet and our spirit.’ In all cities of the world, wildlife is present, some­times quite vis­i­bly. Ber­lin­ers have wild boars, so com­fort­able they even breed there. Chicago has coy­otes. Mumbai has res­i­dent leop­ards (hardly ever seen) and Bri­tish cities have their foxes. In the Cape we have ba­boons, while Dur­ban has its mon­keys. In Fish Hoek, writes Get­away’s Michelle Hardie, our in­sider reg­u­larly spots fran­col­ins on the nearby hik­ing trails (page 115). All around us our ur­ban world is full of bugs, from an­noy­ing flies and in­dus­tri­ous ants to ephemeral but­ter­flies. They’re very much part of our ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments. What if we make an ef­fort to learn about them, teach our chil­dren about them, in­te­grate them more into our world? For ex­am­ple, an or­gan­i­sa­tion called EcoSo­lu­tions, a pest man­age­ment com­pany in Joburg, Dur­ban and Cape Town ( ecoso­lu­, en­cour­ages peo­ple to put up owl boxes to con­trol ro­dents. Imag­ine all of that feath­ered mag­nif­i­cence and beauty in your back­yard – my cat Ozzie might ob­ject, as pets might be up for, erm, grabs but I sus­pect he’d pre­fer death by owl to a de­tested car ride and euthanasia by vet. Keen to learn more? One way to do it is by en­ter­ing our on­line ur­ban wild photo com­pe­ti­tion (see page 15) – it’s a great way to en­gage with na­ture ev­ery day, also for chil­dren. For greater im­mer­sion, go to one of our fab­u­lous farm stays (page 62), and for full-scale im­mer­sion, plan a trip to one of the wildest places in Africa, Gonarezhou Na­tional Park in Zimbabwe (page 82). It’ll set your soul alight.

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