IMPERIAL Toyota Nelspruit
Stands Behind our Wildlife Conservationists
Sally-Ann Bruwer, the dealership' Marketing and Environmental Manager, spends a couple of days with Linda Tucker and learns about the life of our tireless wildlife conservationists.
Blessed is a word which can never be used too freely. We should be thankful for so many things, healthy children, a roof over our heads, the ability to see, touch, hear………
This was brought home to us in such an amazing way this weekend. We were privileged enough to be invited by Linda Tucker to visit her protection trust in theGreater Timbavati Region and meet her famed White Lions. Linda had a whole day planned for us to show the work that the Trust is doing in an endeavour to protect the White Lions, and to educate the community and the world about these incredible creatures.
We started off at The White Lion School of hope in Acornhoek where we were treated to a show by the children in dedication to the Tsau White Lion Conservancy. Linda and her team as well as one or two other foundations have changed this little school around. Initially, it was a drab, grey little school with no water, no facilities and some underprivileged children with very little hope. The school now has water, a veggie garden, and is colourful and bright with hope and pride shining out of the eyes of these little souls. The show was inspiring, from the props which were made by the children, (Including a creative and artful white lion made with milk bottles and refuse bags) to the script which was in reverence to the heritage of the wild life in Africa. We were all touched and our eyes opened at everything we have to appreciate in our lives.
From this school we went to a slightly bigger school called Funjwa Lower Primary. There, we were joined by the children from the White Lion School of Hope and another school, Makgalishe Primary School. All of them joined together to give us another show for Heritage day. One section of the show entailed a group of young boys who performed the Zulu Warrior Dance. The lead dancer, who was knee-high to a cockroach strutted his stuff and then glared at the audience with a challenge in his eyes…..he eventually sauntered over to Matthew with a swagger, grabbed his hand and led him onto the stage to compete in the Zulu Warrior dance. Poor Matthew tried his best…but Break-dance and hip hop does not quite compete with Impi Warrior stomping! Matthews jaw dropped when our little Impi collapsed on the floor after his show! Then the Impi chose one or two others to dance with and the show continued.
Afterwards we were invited to eat with the staff and sponsors in the teachers rooms. Chicken and Pumpkin with cabbage, Mielie Meal and gravy was the order of the day, served on paper plates with no knives or forks! We ate with our hands and lapped up every last morsel, it was delicious!
Ryan found a mock shield and spear in the teachers room and went outside while the children were drumming and challenged our little Impi to a duel! He ended up surrounded by a dozen or so little warriors and put on quite a display for us….it was fantastic!
We then moved off in our vehicles to Tsau!. Tsau! meaning lion in the Khoi San language, Is the name of Linda’s conservancy in the Greater Timbavati Region. We left my car at the gate and drove through to the lodge which is beautiful and serene. There, we rested for a bit while we waited to finally go and meet the White Lions. Tsau! is the conservancy where “The Royal Pride” resides: Mandla, a huge, 14year old male lion, his mate, Zihra and their three cubs, Nebu, Matsieng and Zukhara. Mandla and Zihra were rescued from a lion breeding operation, successfully rehabilitated and have now had 3 offspring which are hunting totally self-sufficiently for themselves. The first lion we encountered was Mandla…..Majestic, Regal, Imperial, Noble…..these are the only words to describe such a magnificent animal. We were all stuck dumb when he stood up. He truly is white. In spite of the red dust which has sullied his coat, he still seems to glow in an almost angelic way. Aslan – from the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia” is what sprung to mind.
We moved off from Mandla to find the rest of the pride, unfortunately, it was already getting dark by then and we did not have a great viewing. We then went back to camp to have dinner with Linda and Jason (lion ecologist for the Global White Lion Protection Trust), and their guests. The conversation around that table was disturbing to say the least, with White lion being hunted indiscriminately in the area and elsewhere. The sobering conversation turned to canned hunting, poaching and all the injustices done to wild life. The poaching of the rhino has become so organised it’s outright warfare at the moment with the poachers having military training, they are well-funded, ruthless and are armed with AK47’s dressed in full camouflage. In one skirmish with the Anti-poaching unit and a group of three poachers…400 rounds were shot with loss of life to the good guys and the bad guys – a truly horrible affair…….
The next morning we went out early to see if we could catch the pride before we left and were fortunate enough to find the whole lot of them…with Mandla back in his family circle. We sat for ages watching the lions – Zhira got up at one stage and walked directly towards Matthew….luckily he was inside the vehicle and Linda just wound up the window. But I tell you what…Matt will tell you with absolutely NO doubt…that white lions have blue eyes!
People like Linda Tucker from the Global White Lion Protection Trust, Fred Berrange from the Leopard Conservation project, the people from Rhino Conservation, Baboon protection, Chimp Eden, the Cape Vulture project and countless others have a very lonely, disheartening and disturbing journey ahead and yet…the passion that they have feeds them, they are as relentless as the people against whom they fight. And they are fighting the good fight…….we are all humbled from being in their presence.
The website address for the Global White Lion Protection Trust is: www.whitelions.org