Good afternoon everyone this is Alexandra Meadors of Galactic Connection.com and as always I am trying to find out some very interesting information for all of you out there as to how we can assist this planet into the Golden Age. And I do believe that I have found two incredible women who have put their heart and soul into assisting this transition through the area of wildlife.
I am still in South Africa, and if you’re not familiar with it, I’m in Botswana today. And I’m in a place called Tuli, if you want to look it up on the map. In the meantime, if you have any other questions, you can go to galacticconnection.com/daily-blog for our daily blogging page for all the current up-and-coming information that’s happening that’s showing we are making progress for the light.
So in the meantime I’d like to introduce Helena Fitchat and she is originally from Prague, Czech Republic. She has a PhD in biology and a Bachelors in accounting and she used to work with the Centre for Rehabilitation Of Wildlife. And even before that for almost 20 years she owned her own conservation centre. Her heart and soul has been in doing anything she possibly can to assist the desecration, the lack of honouring, the lack of consciousness on this planet as to how we treat our animals.
And she then was pulled into the Centre for Rehabilitation Of Wildlife otherwise known as C.R.O.W as an operational director for 11 years. And then actually she became a trustee because she was very well trusted and honoured for the incredible amount of work and progress that she’s shown.
And believe it or not, she was so into it that she and her friend Judi ended up cashing in their pensions and thought, what is the best way we can make a change to assist the wildlife on this planet, especially here in incredible South Africa?
They ended up buying land in Tuli, Botswana, called Wild at Tuli, and they now own and run their own private game reserve.
Now for all of you out there, you’re going to really have some eye openers as to what goes on out here. Some of the information that we will be sharing may be a little difficult to digest but there is a point to all this. And that is the unification of the light workers and the wildlife reservationists, I should say, really need to come together and make this change now.
I mean we can’t wait any longer, we really need the light workers and the healers and all of you out there that really want to make a change, that have passion in your hearts. This is an incredibly, massive need on the planet because, you know, animals heal us then we heal the world.
So I’d like to bring Helena in. And Helena, I’m so honoured to meet you. I was introduced to Helena by my friends Chris and Sandi Wilkins and its just been delightful to hear the stories that you share with me, some of them not so easy to digest. But I feel that this really needs to be shared with the world – there’s so many other continents that have absolutely no clue what’s going on. So thank you for coming on today, I really appreciate it.
Alexandra: So tell us a little bit about coming from the Czech Republic to South Africa. How old were you when that happened?
Helena: I was 17 and a bit, and I was a political refugee from a 1968 revolution which we had in Czechoslovakia, as we were called in those days. And it was a very bloody revolution. My parents got seriously worried and my father had decided that I need to be, basically, sent somewhere safe and where it could be a better life, so he did it. I didn’t have much say in it.
A. You were sent by yourself?
H. Yes, I was smuggled out. We were always a very small family. My Mother had died when I was 9 years old so it was my father and my mother’s family who looked after me. So there wasn’t a lot, I’m a single child. It was just me, yes and …
A. Thank God for that, right? – Look what you have done for this planet today, I mean we’re really grateful. So you ended up coming directly to Johannesburg or …..
H. No, we had to be gathered together all us political refugees because of the money from Czechoslovakia and we were held in a migration camp for aliens – if you want to put it, earth-based aliens – and various countries would screen the people and decide if they would want to offer political asylum. And South Africa in those days they’ve had a very big drive to bring more white people into South Africa (A. interesting) so they were one of the leading – looking in there to see who they could bring in. And I won’t bore you with all the details because it’s a long story (A. right) but I needed to leave very quickly because I became very ill. I had double pneumonia (A. oh my gosh) and according to an army doctor who looked after us, needed to get out very quickly into somewhere warm because it was October in Vienna in Austria – that’s where we were held. (A. oooooo that’s my favourite city) It was snowing, (both laugh) ya it’s beautiful, and if you love Vienna you would really love Prague. (A. I love that area) And I just said, well whatever, and that’s how I ended up in Johannesburg.
A. You’ve always found yourself in quite shocking situations haven’t you? (H. yes definitely) (both laughing) I mean especially now, you know?
So tell us a little bit about how did you segue from that into preservation of wildlife?
H. I have always been in love with animals I think since I was born. (A. whispers ‘me too’) Don’t ask me to explain it, I do not know but I know from my family that it used to be a family joke that when I was four years old someone asked me ‘What will you do little girl when you grow up’? I said I will be in Africa. (A. gasps) and it was like an impossible thing to say. First of all I was four years old and I had never heard of Africa – but I must have somewhere. (A. laughs) And secondly, we were not even allowed to travel to a neighbouring country – we even had to get permission to travel in the Eastern block. (A. yes) So me thinking I’m going to be in Africa – it was a family joke until the day I ended up in here. Then when I first I got a communication from my Dad again, it was a postcard and it said in Czech, ‘So, you are in Africa’.
H. So maybe it was my destiny.
A. maybeeeee? – come on, it was your destiny – (both laughing)
H. And I’m very happy that I ended up in Africa. I probably would have worked myself into Africa somehow anyway because I always wanted to be in Africa.
And my father’s family was involved with the Prague Zoo as a veterinarian and I used to spend most of my weekends in the zoo. And one day I was still small enough to get between the bars in the elephant enclosure so I snuck through there and this huge big Mother elephant decided that I was very cute. And she kept me between her front legs. Needless to say, when they finally found me, I was told that there was fire department, police – you name it – everybody on a standby (A. laughing) because everybody waiting for this elephant to squash me and it never did.
A. That is such an omen.
H. They eventually snatched me, I believe, from the elephant with the keeper trying to distract her with all the tasty bits she liked. She didn’t want to let me go. I was there, from what I understood from my dad, for two hours.
A. And I want the audience to understand that Helena is definitely an elephant whisperer and she’s going to tell you a little bit about that in a minute but anyway, go ahead.
H. So maybe somewhere there was a destiny waiting (A. oh absolutely, absolutely) and I don’t regret it. I think when I look back, I think I was born in the wrong country. I hate cold, I don’t like too many people and big cities. I don’t think I would have been happy where I was.
A. That’s fantastic. So basically life took a really horrible situation and created you into exactly where you belong. (H. yes)
So let’s fast forward, I know you and Judi, your partner decided to cash in your pensions to actually make this dream come true. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
H. Well it’s fairly rustic and simple. We decided we needed to buy land in order to preserve the land and in its entirety – an unspoiled environment where animals can have a sanctuary. It’s not really a sanctuary, but a sanctuary in the terms that we will protect it and look after it.
Of course, the land of national parks which belongs to government is very, very expensive in southern Africa because hunters covet the land in order to hunt the wildlife and they pay very big prices for such land.
The best places we wanted to be, we could not afford, that was totally out of our league. Pulling together we could afford something and we managed to find – I knew this area from a time when I came around before so I knew it well and I saw the advert in one of the agriculture magazines and it mentioned Tuli. So I phoned this person, it’s was in Botswana – people who owned this land – and they told me where this land is. I knew straight away where this land was.
A. You are of the wildlife that was there?
H. Oh absolutely, absolutely.
But I knew it was destroyed, a lot of it, because they were hunting, and because of the farms with cattle, and they would shoot out all the predators. I knew it was neglected and was in need of care.
So I told Judi about the land and she said OMG, I can’t go because I don’t have a passport – her passport, I can’t remember, had expired or something, I don’t remember.
I said, but I need to go because the land is out there.
So bless the Judi, she said to me, Well you go, I trust you, you must just tell me what you find.
And I come here by myself and I looked. And I saw not many animals (A. really?) really, it wasn’t great. But I saw spoor on the ground and I found every conceivable animal that I knew should be living here, spoor on the ground including the lions.
(A. Spoor, you mean dead?) H. No, no (A. or just emaciated?) No, no, spoor, it is a footprint. (A. okay, I got it)
H. And when I came back, Judy said to me, what is it like? And I said, well, I think its okay. It needs tender loving care because it is neglected, but everything is there albeit in very small numbers.
Judi said to me, did you find ibhubesi? Ibhubesi is a Zulu word for a male lion. And I said, yes I found a print mark, a big one in a dry river bed. And she said, that’s it, I’m in. (A. laughing that’s amazing) She never saw the land; she bought the land with me. And then eventually she was able to come.
And we then decided that this is our part or our contribution to protecting the last few remaining, truly evolved places around on this planet (A. definitely) and it is a small contribution we can make, that’s within our capacity of what we can do, (A. right) because you can’t save the whole world.
A. But you are making an imprint and energetically that will travel across the world. So hopefully today people are going to have a lot more clarity on exactly what’s going on with the wildlife particularly here in South Africa.
So once you got – and it’s called ‘Wild at Tuli’ right? (H. yes) which I love.
You use the word hectares, how many hectares are there?
H. We’ve got about 1800 hectares. We run it together with another 3, so we run it as a unit of nearly 5000 hectares and now we are helping to take care of next door property which is 8200 hectares on top of that. (A. wooow) So it is a nice chunk of land which we can hopefully protect.
A. So give us a synopsis of exactly what type of wildlife exists here.
H. This is what they call in Africa a Big Five area which means you have the cheetah, leopard, lion, you have elephant, and there are some rhino but not on our property – on neighbouring properties because of the rhino poaching, they have to be fenced. It’s unstoppable at the moment here.
We don’t have the buffalo because when they come here from Zimbabwe’s side, because the government is very paranoid there over the beef contract with Europe. They will shoot the buffalo because they are worried that the buffalo will transmit Foot and Mouth disease to cattle and cattle is what they sell to Europe.
(A. hhhmm interesting)
So we don’t have buffalo, albeit they normally would occur here, and we’re not allowed to have buffalo, we are supposed to report if we see them.
A. Now that’s a little different than the wildebeest.
H. It’s different yes, it’s a much bigger animal. It’s a bovine. Wildebeest is an antelope.
A. And you have all different types of antelopes, I saw. In fact I saw a leopard last night and that made my world. It was gorgeous.
H. And to think people actually actively shoot them, people hunt them here. And the only way you can hunt a leopard is that you bait them because – and forgive me that we are talking to an American audience but most of our predators are actually shot by Americans, because they are the ones who can afford the prices the people charge for this.
And what they do, because the hunter comes for 2-3 weeks safari, and want to shoot this animal and in order to guarantee this animal, they will bait, they will kill animals (A. aaaawww) and hang them up in a special place. And the leopard will come back in two or three months there because (A. it smells it, okay) it smells the food so when the hunter is ready to come it is guaranteed for him, that he will shoot that leopard.
But it is not a sport, that animal is baited. (A. of course not) Any killing is actually not a sport. You cannot call that a sport.
A. Tell me a little bit – the other day you were sharing the statistics that were pretty mind blowing and you were talking about the population of the wildlife versus the people, can you go over that?
H. I think talking about people if I recall. (A. the population)
The population explosion is absolutely horrific. In East Africa in the last 100 years the population expanded by something like 74%. In West Africa it is 82%. It is scary because no economy on the planet can possibly provide the job opportunities and reasonable living for these people. It’s simply not possible. The pay outstrips the other by such a large margin, its just not possible.
A. Especially the fact that they really don’t know how to farm; you were mentioning how they don’t even want to be doing all this farming.
H. They don’t want to be doing the farming but there are a number of reasons for that. One is this part of Africa, south of the equator, is really a lot of the countryside is drought-stricken and the rain here is very sporadic so these people would not risk putting a fortune into fertilizer – because fertilizer is very expensive – into the field and not reap anything. So they prefer not to do it. So there is that reason.
Then, African people are not into commercial farming. You will battle to find a light scale commercial farmer which would be of African people. It’s not in their nature. They farm for just themselves and their family on a very subsistence level. And that’s how they are comfortable.
A. Its funny because in the United States so much has been brought to big huge commercial farming which we are looking very much down upon, because they are controlling the GMO’s, the quality of the soil and that sort of thing and they really just could not care less.
H. There is a bit of that in Africa too, of course, because this is where the food is being produced by a very large scale commercial farming. And it is always foreigners who are in charge of it and running it, because they are the ones who have the funds as well as the skills to do it.
You know when you think of it – and we were talking back to the people – in 2003 some world Italian organization did a census of demographics of the African continent and they found out that 40% of all people were below the age of 15. That in itself already poses you a problem that there is not enough skilled work force who could possibly even help to create those jobs. They are children and most of them lost their parents to HIV and now they need to look after themselves, they don’t have time to go and experiment in growing something or even actually trying to go to school. Some of them try to finish and graduate and they are 28 years old. (A. softly says oohh) So it’s complicated here, its not a straight line.
A. Now, the part of the statistics that really baffled me was when you were talking about the culling – isn’t that what they refer to it as? And I want everyone to understand that because of you, they are no longer allowed, correct, to cull the elephants in the country of Botswana.
H. It’s not just because of me; there are 3 of us involved in it (A. Oh) I had a fellow researcher called Myra Barnes, Dr Myra Barnes, she’s an American (A. fantastic) and she came from Reno, Nevada. (A. oh that’s close to where I live) And there was another American lady, so it’s two Americans, her name is Lynn Darroch – she wasn’t a researcher, but she was just completely passionate about Africa and she was completely passionate about lions and elephants and she spent every moment of her life she could coming to Africa and we would go on safari together. She was a very good photographer. She compiled a photographic record of things. (A. fantastic)
She also helped us to fundraise in America because the research took nearly 10 years.
We didn’t try to prove that the elephants should not be culled; the beginning of the research had to do with the trees. (A. hhhmm) And now it is a tree which is a key species in the savanna called Acacia erioloba and it’s a tree which elephants in harsh winter have for survival, not entirely, but its one of the key species because it is high in protein.
You’re not supposed to call them acacia now because Australians have decided that the only acacia on this planet is in Australia. (A. laughs)
So at the moment now there is a big scientific argument about being allowed to call them acacia. But in my time we still called them acacia, and it’s Acacia erioloba.
And from that it went into the elephants and one of the things was that there were too many elephants on the river front up in the corner of Botswana. And they were completely ruining the vegetation of the river front and there’s no new rejuvenation. And it was all blamed on elephants. And what came out of the research it became very obvious that they actually had nothing to do with it, or very little to do with it. The biggest impact was large herds of buffalo who trampled on the seedlings and whatever seedlings did germinate were dry in the winter and (?) So in fact it was the elephants that rejuvenated the forest further down – where those animals were not – by carrying the seeds.
So it all made good sense and we made a plea through that to our government at the time. And Botswana government does understand that their wealth is wildlife. And I think they’ve got 17% of the entire Botswana [budget] aside for wildlife areas which is one of the highest in the world, except Alaska, I believe. (A. really?) Hhhmmm, so that’s commendable and they’ve decided that there wasn’t a good enough reason to cull elephants. But that could change, it’s not going to last forever, there is some talk starting again of elephant culling. As the land shrinks, there is more people.
A. But for the last 3 years you successfully stopped that right?
H. No, this happened quite a long time ago, we’re talking 1988/89. So it was a long time ago. It was a Society(?) conference where this was going to be debated and we managed to get elephant on appendix 1. Appendix 1 means you are not allowed to trade on that animal and its product whatsoever. Its 100% protection. (A. good)
However, in the last Society meeting they down-graded elephants to appendix 2, which means that you can deal with this animal and its products in a controlled manner – very simply explaining it. What actually happened then, in anticipation of that, remember you are in Africa; everything is bribe-able here so there is no way you can control that trade to be legal. Truly absolutely no way, and in anticipation of this, I have to tell you, that as you and me sit here, that is up to 40 elephants a day already been poached in East Africa – in anticipation of being able to use that ivory.
A. Its almost as if somebody’s always looking to point the finger and blame a species – an elephant or a lion or a water buffalo or what-have-you, when you’re not looking at the culprit themselves which is humanity. (H. absolutely) And first of all if you could clarify what culling is for the people who are not aware of that term.
H. Culling is the systematic killing of elephants. Somebody in the government will decide how many. In the past, people have tried to tell us it is so true, and that the numbers are established correctly – we have since found out that this is not the case.
It is very difficult to establish how many elephants you have because they are very far roaming creatures. (A. hhhmmm) If it were not for some of the fences, the elephant will travel and be known to go 1000 km in another land so it’s a moving population, elephants are a moving population.
Up in the northern Botswana they move between Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe so they traverse 4 countries and depend on the rainfall. One year there are a huge amount of elephants in Botswana then the next year they all go to Zimbabwe and Zambia because there is better food and better rain. So it is very difficult for one country to say, Ah this year we have 150,000 elephants so we’re going to cull 70,000.
A. Now you also mentioned the statistics on that as well, where you determined the growth rate of the elephant, it’s completely disproving their argument, can you share that with us?
H. Well if you take a place like Tuli which is a little bit more controlled than the others, it’s much smaller and there has been since the mid-60s always an effort to try to determine what is the population of the elephant here. If you take the number of years from the mid 60’s up to now – In the mid 60’s there were around 660 elephants in this area, today we have got, in the same area just over 1500 elephants. So they’ve just gone a little bit more over double in 40 years +.
If you break it really down it is possibly 3% gross rate a year which is nothing – they are poached more every year than that, so we’re not even replacing at this stage what we are losing.
A. Now you did mention the fencing – and that there are very old pathways that they follow but if there is a fence there they can’t get to where they are used to going. What do they do in those cases?
H. Well if they go through that fence they are shot. That’s it
A. They are such a large animal – And I’ve been wanting to ask you this- it would take a ton of bullets to bring them down.
H. No, one shot if you are good at that, but not most at the facilities are not good at that. So an average elephant being killed would probably – well I’ve seen anything up to 10 bullets.
A. Dear God. And it’s just an anguishing death. (H. It’s horrid) I’ve seen documentaries and I’ve just sobbed when I saw it.
H. Culling is one of the most cruel things you have ever seen in your life. Through my work with wildlife, I was once asked, to witness a culling and report on the animal welfare side of it.
It is one of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever seen in my life. They use a drug on the elephants, it is not a tranquilizer, it is an immobilizer. There is a very big difference. They normally shoot them from a helicopter to immobilize them.
At least now they take out the whole family because they know they cannot just take one or two members because elephants grieve so much that it causes a really terrible suffering. Some of them will die through grieving. (A. softly says yes, I’ve seen that too)
So what they do is to shoot them with the immobilizer, often with a drug called M99. Now what that the immobilizer does, it’s a muscle immoblizer, so you cannot move but you can see, feel, hear, smell everything, and the elephants go down very quickly on the ground. Then they go with rifles over them and they shoot them, a brain shot usually.
It is absolutely horrid. Small babies are caught and sold to whomever.
They don’t have families anymore. The suckling Mother had blood running out of her.
And it is the biggest horror story you can ever imagine.
A. Now tell the audience about – I know north Rhodesia and south Rhodesia is now Zambia and Zimbabwe.
H. Zambia is in North Rhodesia and in Southern Rhodesia is Zimbabwe.
A. Okay so there’s been war up there in the past. (H. yes) Can you tell us about how that has affected the elephant population?
H. Well it was similar to Mozambique except it was more intense in Zimbabwe. And the terrorist war throughout Zimbabwe was horrendous because there were many land mines. The army fed on the wild life and elephants. And that is happening throughout Africa because they would not feed the soldiers. To this day, now, as you are sitting here, President Mugabe shoots elephants to feed the army, now, right now in the 21st Century.
A. Isn’t this the same president that is telling them to shoot all whites?
H. Absolutely he is a completely mad man. But he’s been there a very long time; he’s brought the country to its knees. (A. yes, its in bad shape, I went up there) the people are starving. It’s a beautiful country. It used to have such wealth of wildlife.
A. It’s a gorgeous country and the part that was very starkly clear to me was as we were driving up to the ruins, Zimbabwe ruins, I saw all the donkeys, and the cattle and goats and sheep occasionally walking along and there were dead animals just sitting there and they were so thin, so so thin.
Then you look at people and they are very, very thin.
H. People are starving in Zimbabwe. They are suffering. But this is the trouble with African countries, people are completely stoic and completely – they will not question….unless there is a war. They don’t know any middle way. They don’t understand democracy like we do – that you can actually get somebody out of office. They will accept authority no matter who it is. If it’s bad, it’s bad – they just wait until the person dies.
And this is what has been happening with Zimbabwe. Nobody wants Mugabe. On the street you speak to people, they don’t want this man because they know the damage he has done.
But nobody will do anything about it.
We went with Judi a couple of years ago along the Zimbabwe/Botswana border in a very remote road where you don’t even know whether you are in Botswana or Zimbabwe. And the entire area as we were driving through was just littered with spent bullets and shot cartridges. People are just killing everything which moves and that’s 2 years ago, 3 years ago – what was it Judi, 3 years ago. (A. It’s just crazy)
And they don’t get paid; the soldiers don’t get paid so they just feed off the elephants.
And we always know when we get an elephant here is from Zimbabwe because they are so traumatized, it is so angry, it is so against people, you think, ah, you know they have managed to come through from Zimbabwe.
A. Tell everybody how you communicate with the elephants. I think it’s very interesting.
H. I think it is understanding elephants, I don’t think somehow it is a gift unless I’m wrong. (Laughs)
I think it is because I have been with them for so many years. I have watched elephants one way or another for the last 40 years so if he blinks the eyelash I know why he’s blinking.
You understand the body language; you understand how they work, in their mind, how their infrastructure is, how they relate each other and if you then respect that and treat them the same way, you get to understand what is going to happen next.
A, Well okay, so tell them the story about the Mother and her two babies that were caught in the mud because I think that’s a very key way of understanding how they are truly communicating with us and the way in which they handled you, I think that’s a lesson.
H. I think that is a lesson for us to realize that animals do communicate, perhaps differently than we do. They don’t have a language, their language is different, they don’t speak but they certainly – for me, most of the animals have souls, are enlightened, and elephants in particular – an animal that I think people can take a lot of examples from.
We were in an area called Savuti, quite a few years back, and there was a drought and the water holes were drying out and most of the deep water holes in Africa have a lot of mud at the bottom. Elephants rub themselves and dust themselves and they go into the water to swim and all that mud washes away so it’s a very fine clay and it dries into clay, you can make pottery out of it. So animals were being trapped in this one water hole and lions of course, were waiting there every day to be able to kill them and eat them. But it’s not easy to kill an elephant in the mud.
One elephant one night was eaten alive, it took a long time for it to die and we had to listen to that. It was really horrid.
And about the day after, we came across this water hole there were 3 elephants stuck – a small family – it was a mother and sub-adult calf female and there was a young bull calf about 2 years. They were solid, stuck in the mud, they were not moving. In Africa, at 42 degrees in the shade, that mud starts caking very, very quickly.
I had one look at this and I decided there is no way I’m going to allow this animal to be there, because the lions were everywhere, this is going to be a horror story. So I went to appeal for help to a couple of lodges but they were not interested because they had their guests and guests take priority, as far as I’m concerned, guests can go to hell.
And anyhow I took it upon myself and a friend and we engaged a couple of local people who agreed that we would pay them for a day and they would help us. We laboured from 8 o’clock in the morning until about 3 in the afternoon.
We brought 20 000 litre tank of water and keep on pouring it just to soften the mud because you couldn’t get them out. They were solid. And we managed to get the youngster out first because he was the smallest, so he was the easiest job. But of course he caused a huge problem because the minute he was out he wanted to go back to his Mum. And his mum was stuck in the mud. So we had to try to keep on chasing him, to keep him away from that.
By that time there were a number of elephants gathered around us, some really big bulls in that area of Botswana. I mean, there are 6 ton bulls that are huge. They looked quite menacing but they are gentle and these bulls were the first to arrive on the scene, later, whole families with the females as well – they not only did not hurt us – I promise you, there were times that we bumped into them – we bumped into them because they didn’t get out of the way – they knew, they knew we were helping and eventually they realized we were trying to keep this youngster away and they kept him away. Then they kept on surrounding him and pushed him a little bit and surrounding him and pushing him and eventually the youngster got the message and stayed with them.
Then we managed to get the female, the sub-adult, out, and once she was out, it became easier because the young brother stayed with her. Then we were eventually surrounded by elephants, there must have been 30, 50 elephants around us. (A. incredible) And not one elephant showed any aggression toward us. And we were not paying attention to them because we were so stressed trying to get this female out, because when an elephant lies too long on its side the rib cage compresses and it will actually kill them – the heart can’t carry on beating so I knew we were running out of time. And by 3 o’clock in the afternoon I was panicking and thinking we were going to have to try and get someone to shoot her because I was not going to let her to be eaten alive. (A. yes, exactly)
But then for our last effort we went and fetched a last load of water and I took the whole lot of water in two buckets and I actually got through the mud and sat on top of her. She could touch me with her trunk; she kept on smelling my hair, smelling my hand, kept putting my hand over her eye. And making her cool, I gave her water to drink. And again she could have flung me 30 metres up in the air with that trunk (A. yes) She could have squashed me, crushed me, she did not do a thing. (A. she knew) She just kept on sniffing, (A. they knew). She knew I was actually helping her, not hurting her. We did manage to get her out, we did break one of her tusks however because it was very difficult, we had to put chains on her to pull, but that was a small damage. (A. yeah no kidding)
She was really exhausted; she stood for quite a while. We stayed there with her. I burned the clutch on my car; I had quite a bit of damage on my car. (A. crazy)
But the next day we came to look at another water hole which had water and she came with her youngster and her daughter and it was so lovely to see – she was tired still, you could see, it was a big ordeal for her.
But they were 100%.
I can’t describe it; it was a communication without words. Everybody kind of knew where they belonged in this drama including the elephants.
A. And it’s almost as if when they enclosed you, they were sending their own love and support of what you were doing (H. yes) because they get it.
H. And they were talking to that female and she was talking back to them, (A. whispers Wow) she was rumbling back to them. So whatever they were saying I couldn’t tell you but they most certainly kind of made us, ‘Those people are helping, they’re one of us, don’t hurt them.’
A. And probably prompting her to hang in there
H. And she did hang in there, it was touch and go but she did hang in there all day.
A. So it’s fantastic that you have some success stories.
I know that you were saying that the cattle farming here has created quite a bit of controversy and also a clashing between those that want to support the wildlife. Can you give people a little bit of a background on that in South Africa?
H. Yes. Let’s start from the beginning – first it was the wildlife area but then the farmers moved in and the European farmers decided this would be a good place to raise the cattle. It’s not a good place because of the droughts, it’s also very rocky and there are a lot of predators.
So they shot out everything that had teeth, absolutely everything. That didn’t help because the drought killed the cattle as well.
So it wasn’t just the lions and the hyenas, it was also the drought, this place doesn’t have enough grass most times of the year.
So eventually the farmers moved out after they had actively hunted this area to almost nothing. The elephants in fact in Tuli, the elephant population has least tusks in southern Africa because tusk size of the elephant is genetic – like people’s height – tall people have tall children, short people have short children (A. right, right) and they have shot out the gene here (A. ohhhh wooow) for a large tusk because they shot the elephants for tusks to sell. So there’s a lot of tuskless elephants here in Tuli, which is unusual, you don’t see that anywhere else.
A. You know what else is really interesting, it’s almost like because they’re so intelligent and they knew they were hunted for the tusks, it’s almost like nature’s way – in a weird way – of protecting them. It’s very, very interesting.
H. And when we came in here, farmers just moved out. They left all their wire lying around, animals get their legs caught. So we do actually also run a program where we send out young people who come to visit us from all over the world and they do a lot of physical work and conservation work, and they removed the wire. They move as much as we can and I’m talking truck loads (A. ooooohhh) because it is causing terrible problems with wildlife. They get their legs snagged in it and we’ve had elephants that have had their trunk cut off (A. oooohhhh) and so we have problems with that, and we are trying to tackle that as well. But going back to your question about the predators, there are still a few people left who have lifestock on their farm, and lions obviously will try and go – I’m afraid is a cow is a lot easier than an antelope – they are slower, they’re not as wise and they will…….
A. Okay so we just got interrupted by a very positive phone call – Some possible funding through the United Nations.
H. Yes, its for the community land which also is to be protected. (A. That would be awesome) But going back to the war zone between the cattle owners and the predators. (A. Yes) The problem here is there are not many – there are 3 left but they persist on keeping cattle in the wildlife areas which in itself is a problem because the cattle is very slow and compared to antelope they are very stupid so they don’t protect themselves as well or run away as fast as the wildlife.
A. Do you happen to know the names of the three cattle farms?
H. No actually I don’t know the names; we just deal with the people.
A. I was just curious.
H. But strangely enough 2 people out of 3 have just died. I mean just – one died I think about 3 weeks ago, 4 weeks ago and one died about two months ago.
We’re hoping that the farm will be for sale to someone who is not going to be a cattle farmer. (A. good) But it’s a constant war between the two – they trap, kill, poison all the predators. Trouble is this snaring, we call it a snare, it’s a wire noose which gets strategically placed on the ground – they also use gin traps which are illegal, but nobody checks on it and the problem is, it’s not selective, many animals, other animals get caught in this. So it’s a real carnage and we have offered out of our small funds – I think that’s why we’re not fabulously rich (both laugh) that we will compensate, top up the government compensation if its not enough for every cow that gets killed, and is proven to be killed by a lion. (A. right)
However one of the first things we started doing was looking into how they keep the animals safe at night. Well they don’t – the cattle is left roaming everywhere. The actual enclosure they have to keep the cattle in, has holes in it that you can drive a bus through. So the lion and hyena can just walk in and help themselves. So we have offered, have donations of some fencing and we have got our young volunteers again and we actually built a proper night enclosure for this – they call a kraal in Africa for this cause – and since we’ve done it, there hasn’t been an incident. (A. good) But it is something that in my opinion that will never, ever resolve through working with wildlife all these years – I do not believe wildlife and people mix because there is so much area of conflict just by each of their presence. (A. hm hm) Even if you grow a crop, even if you grow maize, the baboons will come and steal it, it is food for them, they don’t know it’s yours. Even antelope will come and eat it. If you grow fruit, elephants will come and take it. It really doesn’t mix. Wildlife and wildlife areas, I truly believe, should be left alone. And should be protected and coveted.
A. So basically the only people who should be moving into these locations are those that are going to work to protect the animals. (H. or visitors) Not a civilized village or city environment at all.
H. We have been trying to promote these peace parks that are happening in Africa. Unfortunately they are taking a very long time. The one in Natal in South Africa has taken nearly 40 years to even come to anything. However they are a wonderful solution. The idea of it is that we create corridors which remain wild between the places where the animals traditionally migrate when they need to. (A. Right) So like from here, this is proposed to become a proper trans-frontier park. (A. interesting)
It hasn’t happened yet because of Zimbabwe, because all the animals that walk through Zimbabwe get eaten and shot. (A. OMG)
This is what is holding it back at the moment and people are very reluctant to buy into this idea. Also because of Mozambique, where people are actively poaching, there are the same fears. But the idea is that there is an ancient corridor between us and the coast where animals used to go and come and cross, that swings back down into Natal and into South Africa to Lake Sonfrusia(?) system. And it’s a fantastic idea; we already have the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park which encompasses Botswana and South Africa and a portion of Namibia.
So it is the way forward to try to do that.
But the biggest problem is people (A. hmmm) you have to move the people out of the transfrontier path and they don’t want to move out (A. of course not, no) even if they are going into a better area – it’s not a religion, it is probably spiritual because they want to live where their ancestors are buried. (A. hmm okay) So it becomes quite a difficult issue to resolve but you cannot have a village in the middle of the wildlife area because that conflict will continue to be there and if you have to make a choice as a person in charge, you are obviously not going to choose to shoot the person, (A. Right) you are going to choose to shoot whoever, be it elephant or lion. So it is also
taking its toll, a huge toll on wildlife in Africa.
I know that in America, I know from my fellow wildlife rehabilitators, if you hit a deer, you can call a helicopter and they’ll come and collect it. But here you hit anything, it dies or you shoot it.
We are not sophisticated enough to protect our wildlife here. We don’t have the resources. We don’t even have the skill and enough people that want do it.
A. Its almost as if you need to develop your own process, your own service. I do see, it has been shocking for me to see a lot of dead animals lying on the side of the road (H. hmm) bloated from the sun and that sort of thing – because it can cause disease – and not actively being picked up and removed.
I did see a family – I believe it was Botswana over towards Maun, I saw there was a sheep that had been hit at the side of the road and the child was standing over it, and the father was there and and I could tell it had just been hit. And they were thinking hey this is dinner tonight because this is fresh. (H. good food, yes)
And I thought well good that it is going into some sort of good use. But it was a very clear representation that we aren’t seeing all of this in the metropolitan areas, you know, these atrocities are still going on. We need to support them energetically as best we can, which is one of the reasons I’m interviewing you today.
H. You know it is also, unfortunately, everything in the world is about money. You just cannot get anywhere without the money because everything costs.
And in Africa – if you take a place like America where there are so many millions of people working and everyone kind of makes a reasonable existence compared to here – nobody lives in a mud hut with no water and no electricity and no nothing. (A. yes, I agree)
Okay, let’s put it this way. The problem is you need to get money somewhere for all this work. One of the biggest problems was that governments in Africa do not recognize animal welfare. They used to write to us saying sorry, animals are not a welfare issue. Finished.
When we have asked for support, financial support, animals are not a welfare issue. People are a welfare issue, but not animals.
So we had to fundraise from the public, and that’s what we did, what Judi did, fundraising from people on the street. And we had to find a lot of money, even 1.6 million every year and that was just covering the cost, that’s not for anything else we needed to do.
So now imagine, now this is in South Africa there’s still a lot of people who live an existence where who can give you an extra 10, 20 rand. Here there is absolutely nobody can give you money for animal welfare, these people would think you are completely mad. (A. it’s a completely different thought process) Also it is different needs – these people if they have an extra 10 rand, they’re going to buy something for their own family – not for a dog on the street or a lion in the bush, okay. (A. hm hm) so it’s very difficult to do any kind of animal welfare work here in Africa because all the funding – if there are people doing that – it comes from overseas.
A. The most successful fundraising is going to be from outside this country.
H. Absolutely, because people can afford to give it
A. And probably the most successful assistance on a physical level to help the two of you to do all that needs to be done is probably outside this country. Can you talk a little bit about that – some of the realizations you’ve had about the volunteers and the attitudes of South Africa.
H. I think most people – we are in a partnership with a company called Projects Abroad from the U.K. They send young people all over the world to have kind of a work experience – humanitarian and conservation – and they come for up to 3 months to stay here and get involved with whatever we do. It’s a great help, we have conservation projects, we don’t do humanitarian issues – I don’t apologize for that. I think when people do humanitarian issues that’s their calling and they do it real well and my calling is animals and I hope I’m doing that real well. I don’t think I would like to dilute my efforts and that’s how I feel. (A. sure) So we only do conservation.
A. Well I would think that’s logical anyway because there’s just so much to do in the conservation of wildlife.
H. There is. So we’ve decided we are going to be very pure to that cause, we don’t mix the two. We don’t try to go and – we do help the village – around here we’ve painted the schools, our people go meet the people in the village and learn some of their craft, that’s as far as we go, the rest of our efforts are concentrated on wildlife.
Young people who come here – we try – I do not know how successful we are, but we try to make them think. I cannot tell them what to do but I run conservation lectures in a way that is thought provoking, (A. good) as opposed to tell them what is wrong and right because they could choose not to listen. (A. right)
So I try to do thought provoking for them that they realize how they live in a society which is governed by consumer goods, by money – you cannot eat and drink your money at the end of the day.
A. And also oppression and starvation –
H. – oppression, starvation all of that and they don’t even know about it. This is the fascinating part of it for me, and a very sad one actually – I find it sometimes quite depressing. We have bright young people and we can get up to 30 a day in a busy season – young people from all over the world. They don’t even know about pain and suffering of this world, they have no idea of how they are a part of it. That’s the worst part – they are part of that suffering. They don’t need 3 computers, they can only have one because all they do is facebook and blog or whatever they do – I have no idea. But the wastefulness of this society. This life where ‘I’m okay Jack, damn you’ – that seems to be the order of the day – ‘I’m going to do it because I want to do it and if I don’t, someone else will do it, so why shouldn’t I do it.’
There is no more very clear line – moral and ethical lines – as to what you should do for your surrounding. The old-fashioned giver attitude seems to be going; people are takers today – mostly.
A. Well that is unfortunate because that really starts from the cradle. And you and I were kinda talking about that yesterday – How do you teach somebody to have character? How do you teach somebody to have conscious consideration for animals? And I actually presented to you, hey, have you done educational seminars with the local blacks here just to give them a different perspective of how animals provide us healing, provide us knowledge and wisdom and reflection.
H. We have. We have and I have, because when I was working for Centre of Rehabilitation of Wildlife – one of the things we did – we did not allow the public in because animals are wild and they cannot be habituated to people if you’re going to release them again. But what we did do, we used to bring under-privileged schools in (A. hhhmmm) on a limited basis. We provided educational videos. We provided them a day of trying to show them that these animals are part of their heritage basically and you need them spiritually, we need these animals. (A. yes)
We had very bad success with that because we are still talking to people who think animals are there to be eaten. The domestic animal – they never feed their dogs, they never feed their cats. Dog must feed itself – that’s why there is so much wildlife killed around the villages because the dogs go out hunting. They have not brought animals into their culture as something they spiritually need. That hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it will happen futuristically but at the moment the need is such that if there is an animal, it is to be a beast of burden – donkey is going to be pulling a cart or it’s to be for food.
It’s a difficult one, I’ve tried this for 12 years and we have many – and in fact, one year we had 6000 children through our program one year – a lot and still even as we talk now, we continue with our work with under-privileged schools. I wasn’t going to give it up just because it was not successful. It’s got to continue, but as I am here now, it wasn’t successful and it still isn’t.
A. I was going to counter that by saying – that just one kid that grows up to be 18 and always remembers that lecture or that series that so impacted them, because there has to be someone out there within their culture that is seeing the strangeness, the complexity, the disparity, there has to be that one that gets that calling. In my opinion its just the way that divinity works, especially when there is such a crisis going on.
H. Well I have pacified myself with that sort for years otherwise I would have given it up. (A. I know, you’ve had a tough time) And I think that is I get one out of 100 I’m doing marvellously, that’s how I used to think and I still think that when talk to the volunteers here.
A. And one thing I want to say to the audience is this is another reason why we are doing this interview is to appeal. There are many of you that write into me and you are craving within your being of what can you do to make a difference, what can you do to reach a state of elevation within yourself, a high, an ecstasy knowing that something you did that really impacted the planet in a big way and this is one of those areas. So if there is anyone out there who is listening to this radio show who feels that, Hey I just want to chalk it all up, I don’t want to be in corporate America, I don’t want to work 10-12 hours a day, I don’t want to sit in traffic, I’m tired of my life and the superficiality of it and the shallowness of it, then really consider South Africa and consider contacting Helena Fitchet because they have fantastic programs here and they could really use the work and talk about a fulfilling life, and knowing that you’re really making a difference.
One of the other things you’ve shared with me – this is kind of an intense story but I feel like it needs to be shared with a lot of people so they understand how crucial the crisis is and how badly the world needs to assist South Africa at this time. I was wondering if you could share what happened the other day with the bull that accidentally went into the farm. (H. hmm) I mean you don’t need to go into the grusome details because I was sobbing folks, but people need to be aware that your donations, your presence here as a volunteer, could really make a huge difference.
H. I will tell you about the bull but I’d like to just pick up on what you said. (A. sure) The biggest difference people can make is put pressure on the government because governments seem to get away with murder. It’s people on the ground. We need the government support, without government support we really are battling, we cannot make progress. There are many tourists who come to Botswana. Botswana 2nd largest income, foreign income, is tourism next to the beef. And Botswana has 1.8 million people. Last year 2 million tourists visited this country so it was more than the whole population of the country. But not one tourist ever, ever, sits down and wrote to the president saying, this is what I’ve seen, this is what I am unhappy about, you have to look after your wildlife. People just don’t do it. People sit and talk and don’t ‘do’.
The pressure on the government is huge; the pressure from the public is huge.
Pressure from the public to say that you cannot turn this area into an agriculture area. We cannot take this away from the wildlife – they’ve already bulldozed down 2000 hectares not so far away from us because somebody decided to grow a lassoun(?) for sale (A. Oooohhh my God) Can you imagine what’s going to happen to the wildlife going to be eaten in the lassoun(?) – how much are going to be killed.
This is what we need, we need people to show the government that they see that and that they object, especially people from overseas which seems to make a huge difference and impact.
For that very reason, we have a farmer next door, one of those three who still has cattle, and he grows 2 hectares of cabbages, some years it’s beetroot – its nothing, its nonsense, you can’t even call it commercial, it’s such poor quality as well but he sells it, alright. He’s quite a wealthy man, he’s not a poor African person, he has a beautiful air conditioned house in the local village, he’s got butcheries, shops, so we’re not talking of a very poor person who has a need to eat. (A. hm hm)
Every year because he could not be bothered to electrify his field properly and this is all that it was – because he could not be bothered – he could easily do it but he doesn’t want to do it. Every year an elephant breaks in – in the winter to eat a few cabbages which shouldn’t be there in the first place because it is wildlife area, (A. right) he has a reason to shoot it.
There are wildlife services here and they are only too happy to give him permission by telephone which they are not supposed to do! Then they call half the village which comes immediately and they chop this elephant to pieces (A. Oh God) and they take it away in a bucket…..for extra meat.
A. And I heard they used a crane and held it up by the back legs. Was it actually dead by this time….I hope to God ….
H. Well sort of –
A. Ooohh God –
H. No, it’s horrid. All the authorities were there and I went absolutely berserk because I know law very well. I was involved for years in South Africa at the governmental level on law making. So I know that by law, this man cannot call it a ‘problem animal’ because you cannot be a problem animal if you have not taken appropriate measures to prevent that animal from being a problem animal.
So you need a fence this high – 3 metres – for a tall elephant, or you have not taken sufficient measure and that is how it supposed to be.
A: So it’s not an problem animal because you haven’t done anything to prevent the produce from being eaten by the animal.
H: But we’ve got elephants going through the back fence, the electric fence, that local people don’t maintain or they cut because they want more meat. Every one of those gets shot. They never make it back. Or they sell hunting licenses. This is something I want to mention on your program (A. okay) From January 2014 our president, Khama, has been enlightened and seen a future far-reaching that he actually outlawed commercial hunting in Botswana. So it’s outlawed.
A. And that’s Khama right?
A. I thought that was really interesting that his name is K-H-A-M-A. How interesting is that?
H. Yeah, he outlawed – he has been very much a hermit – American hunting societies have threatened him in all sorts of things but he has…..
(Big noise from an animal sounding panicky)
Alexandra trying to calm him softly saying its okay, okay, okay
H. Put him down!
A. Okay. By the way everybody that was a mere cat! (H. laughing) and that mere cat was a rescue, and it’s amazing, it’s adorable but I think he got freaked out.
H. Laughing – yes, he decided no – but he was telling you very, very clearly. And you understood.
A. Normally he’s just very mellow. Anyway, now you’ve heard of a mere cat.
H. Yes. So I actually would like to take this opportunity to congratulate this man for his vision. (A. fantastic) Because he’s taken a very brave step. And he has been maligned for that.
A. So we need send correspondence to him as well to support what he is doing, because he is really standing on the line.
H. He has. He has stood up and it took a lot. They tried to do it for a while and it really didn’t succeed. But this year it became law – no more for commercial hunting for wildlife in Botswana.
And furthermore, every farmer here in Tuli – they have what they call ‘pot license’ which means in olden days which is understandable, because there were no shops, no nothing so people lived off the land. So the farmer had the permission to shoot for his meats – not to sell – to eat. That was 1800’s, 1900’s. I mean really people have supermarkets even today.
It was hugely, hugely abused, this pot licenses. There was even a giraffe on it. You could shoot an enormous amount of game and people did abuse it. We’ve seen it over and over here again.
Well these pot licenses until further notice are now revoked. (A.hhhmmm) So nobody is able to go and shoot. (A. This is big) It is big and it is fantastic.
And this man, I think the whole world should congratulate him.
A. Wow that’s fantastic. Now is this something that is happening in any of the other countries?
H. Nooo, no. South Africans cling to their hunting and selling game and breeding game. Now they are genetically modifying wildlife and are breeding black impala and black springbok and golden-coloured wildebeest because the hunters want something more exciting. So South Africa from a conservation point of view is completely rotten.
A. And you were saying yesterday, ‘Alexandra you need to understand the history of South Africa.’ What exactly did you mean by that?
H. Well South Africa has been governed for a long time now by an Afrikaans government which was extremely….I can’t even find a kind word to be honest, – it was extremely stuck in time and place in their ideas – on people, on beat(?) and apartheid which they declared unilaterally and enforced it for so many years.
It hasn’t changed a lot in the depth of thinking here still. They feel much under threat in new South Africa. They haven’t done everything bad; they’ve done many good things. I mean the fact that they have roads, communication, the fact that they have good schools and hospitals built. That all happened under apartheid, okay. (A. okay). And that is a good thing.
However they still have an incredible need to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. They feel under threat. They feel the Afrikanerdom is under threat. And to a degree it is because they’ve caused themselves so much hatred especially between black people and white Afrikaans people. There is so much hatred that it is tangible. (A. so sad) Which thankfully you don’t get in Botswana because Botswana has never been a colony, Botswana has always been a protectorate.
A. I haven’t felt anything like that from… (H. no people are wonderful, here wonderful) Botswana people are precious (H. wonderful) and I actually enjoy the Vendas.
H. Yes, yes, (A. Beautiful, beautiful people) Beautiful people. They have no animosity towards other races but in South Africa to this day, there is a huge animosity and especially in this rural Afrikanas areas where they have built themselves this animosity. And its very sad because obviously people react to that – there’s still a lot of farm murders – its ongoing all the time. (A. I did hear about that) It’s not publicized very much because the press is not supposed to report on South Africa on killings. But they are happening so the hatred seems to go on because obviously now the white Afrikaners, Boers as they call them, which is the name of the farmers – they are struggling because they are now under siege and the black South African people want to get even. It has just created this unhealthy situation where nothing is getting better.
A. And of course, what is the South African government doing to alleviate it?
H. Nothing, in my opinion. Really nothing. They are ignoring it.
I believe that it’s something which hopefully, as the old generation gets purged out a new generation comes in, if we manage to succeed to bring them up with less hatred there will be more and more tolerance as time goes on. But it has to go for both sides. And at the moment, nothing is going really…
And when we think of it, we’ve got 20 years of democracy done, it’s scary. 20 years – that’s a new generation of people who were not born in apartheid. Of people who can let go of hating each other. (A. move on) Move on, yes, just move on. (A. work it out together) Yes exactly, work it out together.
So that is the one thing, going back to our move to Botswana – we moved for wildlife – that was our reason. I had a beautiful farm in South Africa as well, one of the most beautiful farms on the north coast. (A. great) So I’ve never had an ugly home, I never had a place I would hate if I were in South Africa, I loved it. So the motivation truly was the wildlife. But now being here for five years, I feel so much freer, because you don’t meet the hatred here. The hatred doesn’t exist, people are equal, people treat each other equal, treat each other with respect, there is no violence. That was an added benefit which we didn’t realize at the beginning.
A. It’s almost as if that if you don’t work it out on that level, it really does carry back to the animals because that hatred is being taken out on them on a daily basis.…which leads me to – I was floored – by the story you told me last night about the Zionists. Can you tell us a little bit about the people here in Botswana and their so called religious background and how they see animals fit into that? That was mind blowing.
H. I will tell you just very much on the surface because I’m not an expert on religion so I don’t know all the details. (A. okay) But we are in a big stronghold of Zionist belief where we live – Tuli up to probably Francestown and all the way down to Polokwane it’s a stronghold of Zionist religion in southern Africa. It’s not as pure of Zionist religion from Israel because over time it has gotten mixed up with a lot of African witchcraft and it becomes a bit of a mixture which suits them. And sadly so, they torture animals, because they sacrifice animals. This is the part of the Zionist religion here. Whatever you do in the church, whatever they pray for it will always involve some creature being bled to death and slowly it dies. The ancestors will descend in that prayer.
There are two branches here, I don’t know 100% how they differ. Ane is denominated by the Son of David, the other is denominated by the Dove of Peace. I don’t know how they differ but they both are extremely orthodox just like the Zionism in Israel. Very difficult to get through to them if they are Zionists because if you know Zionists, you are not part of them. It’s almost like a big clique. (A. a big clan) A clan.
A. How did they end up here?
H. Heaven knows. Heaven knows why they adopted this. They call it a Christianity (A. It’s so old testament) It is, it’s scary, very old testament. They still go on in the church, my domestic is a Zionist – very strongly here. I have no idea actually I should some time look into it but how did the Zionism arrive here. With whom? But it is really strong. The church completely controls them – completely 100%. From giving the little bit of money they do not even have to the church, to being told everything and anything what to do.
The sad part of it is that many of them who are HIV positive – many Zionist followers who are HIV positive – they will not go for treatment because the church says it is not good, so they just perish eventually.
So it’s got a huge power. Zionist Church here has a huge, huge power.
A. That’s amazing, and the other thing that is surprising about what you just said is– there is such a humongous variety – of not just the wildlife but the trees and the bushes and you were just talking about the sausage tree yesterday and you should bring that up – and to have all of that at your fingertips and they are not using natural means in which to assist – and I have a firm belief that everything is curable. I’ve already proven that to myself in many ways. So how – I don’t understand how these people and many of them are walking barefoot, they live on dirt floors in huts, they are tending to their ablutions outside, they go for water in these buckets down the street for their water, there’s no sewage, they are completely in touch with the stars kind of thing – I don’t understand how they don’t know how to use plants for medicinal means.
H. They do have herbalists and they will buy some herbal medicine but the Zionists not so much. The people who are not Zionists they will still go for some herbal medicines and they do have herbalists here – not as much as down in Natal again – Natal Zulus, they are very much into [indigenous healing,] but here they haven’t got a witch doctor and they haven’t got an iNyanga, that’s a herbalist and they are incredibly knowledgeable. I employed the herbalist because I was at one time on my farm I was growing indigenous plants for sale to the herbalists because I was hoping to help to prevent them from removing it from the wild. That was the idea of that. And they are very more much into that.
Here, I think it is the Church which dominates their thinking because there certainly are some very good herbalists and they certainly know the uses of different trees and plants (A. I was gonna say) in combating whatever disease you have but it’s not widely used. They will go to the clinic for their needs.
A. It’s so shocking to me. And please share with us your experience with the Shamans. I think that’s a fascinating story.
H. Which ones are we talking about? (A. when you were following them) Ah okay, are you talking about Bushmen?
A. Yes, the Bushmen.
H. Okay it’s a long story I will try to keep it very short…..Once upon a time….
A. We’re doing really well on time, we still have a half hour.
H. Okay, Once upon a time – it was the early years when I came to South Africa. I was here for 4 years. I just dreamt to see the bush. And I couldn’t. I had no money, I couldn’t travel, I had to try to make sure I ate every day never mind travel – that was the last thing on the agenda. But I yearned to go into the wilderness, I still hadn’t seen the wilderness, I’d seen Pretoria, Johannesburg, Fredericksburg. (A. my God…laughing) I had to find a job; it took me 4 years to find one and I finally found one. I had a friend who called me and said she saw an advert in the newspaper and we used to sit with a dictionary every evening trying to go through different adverts. There was an advert – it was an National Geographic expedition, it was a linguistic expedition – they were coming to study a bushmen language (A. oh, fascinating) and the camp attendant- the cook, camp cleaner, had a motor car accident three or four days before they were leaving and they now had nobody and they asked to find somebody in a hurry.
Well I dropped my new job before I’d even started and told I can do that job – I lied. (A…laughing) My friend who had helped me to find this job was furious with me for a couple of years afterwards. I said I can cook, I can I do this job. Can you leave 3 days from now? I said yes, I’m ready and I went. (A. Oh my God) We were there only for 3 months. By the time we got into the middle of the Kalahari – it was late 70’s, early 80’s – so it was a hell of a journey. (A. I’ll bet) So by the time they found out I couldn’t even boil water it was too late to do anything with me. (A. laughs heartily) They couldn’t send me back. They were a great bunch of people and it was agreed ‘Well what can you do? I said not a lot but, yes, I will clean if you help me. One guy could cook so he helped me. And I eventually stayed. I just cleaned the camp and cooked…..what I could – the poor people were long-suffering I promise you – I was never much into kitchens, my cooking skills were zero and below. (A. laughs)
Anyhow they all stoically suffered me for 3 months. We somehow managed to get by and got very friendly. And even being in the camp and them being out all day, it was fantastic, there was so much wildlife. The Bush men were still living absolutely free as they used to where we were in central Kalahari.
I loved it. In 3 months time we packed up and we were coming back to South Africa and they were flying back to America. And before we reached the border in Botswana I thought no, I’m not going home. Going home to what? I didn’t have anybody; I didn’t have a family to go back to, I didn’t have anybody. So I hitched a ride with the donkey cart (A. laughs) and went by foot and I ran away. But it was not that funny in the beginning because being there alone I went back to the same bushmen clan (A. wow) and being there alone without people who had everything – tea, coffee, milk, sugar and all this it was quite a different story. I promise you, the first two months, well, the first month for sure, I thought I was going to die there. That’s it.
A. Really? Why do you say that?
H. I wasn’t fit enough to follow these people because although I was young and slim, fairly athletic, I was nowhere near fit enough. They walk 20-25 km a day in soft sand – do you know what that does to your ankles? (A. yes) and in heat of 40 degrees, 42 degrees in the shade. They don’t eat all day; they eat right after sunrise and after sunset and they don’t drink all day.
It was sooo tough; I cannot explain how tough it was. But you do get fitter every day. Months later I still thought I’m gonna die but I thought so less. (A. laughs so hard)
A. What did you do for water?
H. Well I had to wait until eventually everybody was in the camp and we were offered a bit of water and they’d take 2 or 3 sips and I wanted 3 litres. (A. laughs so hard) But you don’t get given….it was hard.
But eventually I transcended that and I really loved it there. I worked with a woman. I dug up the tubers, I did the fire. I battled with the food because they don’t cook anything, the bushman just kind of wafts it over the fire. So it’s raw and I couldn’t eat it and I thought, you have to eat something – I weighed 49 kilos when I left the Kalahari. (A. wow) It did me a world of good. 35:58
A. So exactly what do they survive on?
H. Mostly tubers, mostly a vegetative matter and then meat. And in summer they collect some wild fruit, berries, they have wild raisins, they have some Nama melons which taste absolutely awful to us (A. laughs) and they roast the seeds and make in a porridge. You can use the powdered seeds which taste a bit like coffee – very vaguely. (A. wow and they don’t eat very much?) They don’t eat a lot at all, except if they stay in the one area where there is enough food. Meat they can eat plenty. Bushmen have an extendable stomach and they can are like a lamb and they can eat 8 cages(?) of meat in the one shot.
A. And how do they catch their meat?
H. They poison their arrows and they go hunting.
A. Interesting so it’s like the American Indians back in the old days.
H. Yes. And then eventually the dream had to come to an end.
A. The dream? (laughs)
H. Yes, I loved it and to this day regret I didn’t stay long enough. But then I had another problem. I was here illegally, I had a visa for 3 months, I should have crossed the border so I had to illegally walk on foot and cross the border.
A. Laughs – Wow
H. Yeah it was a bit of a mission but it was easier in those days – well it’s still easy today, people just walk across it – there’s no border per se except where there’s a crossing where they make a gate and a route and show your passport. But to this day most of the African people just walk across. So I did the same.
A, So what would you feel was the most major thing that you learned from that experience, being with the Bushmen that long?
H. I learned spirituality but in a different kind of sense. I learned how precious it is to be alive, how special it is to see a sunrise every morning. I learned how special it is that there is a society which never read the Bible but lives a holy life. I learned that we’ve got a lot to learn from so-called savages. I’ve learned to be humble.
A. And gratitude I would imagine.
H. I learned gratitude. I’ve learned to appreciate lots of things which I wouldn’t have known and I was given it very early in my life for which I will be eternally grateful.
A. You were how old when you did this?
H. Must be….I was 24.
A. It must have been a life-changing experience.
H. It was, it was.
A. And would that have accelerated your connection to the wild life?
H. I think so. Positively yes. It is one of my few regrets in life that I didn’t stay longer and you know why? – we women do stupid things.
H. I got married.
A. Aaaahhhhhh, you did that?
H. I did that. (laughter) The husband rules where we gonna live.
A. You’re too funny.
H. So falling in love is not always a good thing. It was a good thing then but I think it was a mistake in my case, because I should have gone back and I should have pursued that wonderful, soul-fulfilling experience. I shouldn’t have left that early, there was still time and I just didn’t do it.
A. Do people respect the Bushmen? Are there a lot of them?
H. No, here in Botswana people very much malign the Bushmen. Again the president affords them tremendous protection because rightly so, the government say the Bushmen were here first, and they were. Before the Botisan(?) people, the Bushmen were the original occupiers of this land. But to this day it is like your American Indians, Bushmen don’t seem to fit in a society. They have been forced to try to adopt our ways which is not working. They live in villages where there’s not much futures. They do a lot of drinking because they are battling to fit and today there may only be about 300 left living a life of….(A. gasps) – there’s more Bushmen but the ones which live the traditional life, there’s very few (A. ah yes) in Kalahari, still in central Kalahari area. But it is a sad case, the Bushmen, but it somehow not a success story because although the government is trying – they get financial support, they give them food, they get free schooling and medical. They’re trying to bring them up but these people’s heart is in a different place.
A. Sure and they don’t belong in that traditional culture.
A. It’s exactly what’s happened with the American Indians story. (H. yeah, yeah)
H. There are some perhaps filter out of that but the bulk of them just don’t belong and they want to live a different kind of life. So we have a lot of transitions here which are very painful and the damage seems to just go on and on and on.
A. Is there a workshop or seminar or training program that bridges the knowledge of the Bushmen with somebody who is interested in becoming more in touch with the environment – you know. Because you read a lot about how the Bushmen communicate with the animals telepathically. You read about how they live off the land. And these are the types of things I personally feel we are actually on a mass scale level and whether we accept it or not, we are moving back to that because we are realizing that all this that we have been sold is not really fulfilling our hearts and our souls.
H. It’s not, it’s definitely not. As far as I know there is no such program, which is a pity.
A. Are you still in touch with them?
H. No, no. Laurens Van Der Post wrote a number of publications about the Bushmen -he was very close to them spiritually and tried to portray to the world the lives of the Bushmen. I tell you what is interesting – to me what was the most interesting of all of this. How we differ in our thinking – Even a very hungry Bushmen family – and they could be starving – if they came across the plant that is edible and there are 5 of this plant growing, they will take 2 or maximum 3 if they are really desperate, but they will always leave the 2.
What do we do? We take the whole 5, sell 2 and eat 3. That’s the mentality of the Western world.
It was good for me to see that early in life, that respect and understanding of an environment that you can live in it but you need to leave a portion of it alone, you need to respect some of it. That it is entitled to its space and be whatever it is. You are not entitled to utilize it just because you think human beings think they are top of the food chain (A. yes) and that is very clear in dealing with the Busmen. And that was very clear to me in a society as such and we see it here – with the young people coming in here that this society, people put themselves first all the time. All the time.
A. That is just a travesty. Is there any way we can communicate with the Bushmen? Are they readily available for those that wants to bridge that gap?
H. I think there are ….
A. Do they speak English?
H. Not many no. no. But you can see – there are places here that are holy places for the Bushmen which you can visit which are awesomely spiritual. Places where you truly feel the souls. You feel the power, (A. yes) you feel this power of spirituality. They are sacred places. You can visit them. There are some places which still have Aids Bushmen villages, sadly so…. this is a problem. You will find them with the coca cola T-shirts because when people come here they think they want go give something to the people so they give them something like that. (A. Coca Cola T-shirts?) Yes, or coca cola caps or lighters which when they run out of gas, they throw them in the desert because – (A. right, right) So you know it’s this arrogance of us people as well, tourists, the visitors, whatever, we don’t actually think of the people we come to have a look at and how they live. We don’t respect the environment, we don’t respect perhaps the lack of resources of knowledge, we just come to see and conquer, and that’s people.
I start my lectures by saying that of all the animals on this planet, people are the only ones who are not endangered. We are aggressive, we take over, we are intelligent, we can dominate each other, we are hostile, we are not endangered.
A. I think there’s been such a move on a global scale within so many major cities around the world that are opening their eyes and waking up to the reality that we have given away our power to the governments. We have allowed them to make decisions that are not based on the benefit of humanity (H. hhmm, hmmm) and therefore that this has carried itself out to the disharmony and disadvantage of the wildlife. So I think more than any other time, this is a time we have got to unify. So please provide them any other task that you feel would benefit to help this cause because I know it’s not just South Africa. If I haven’t learned anything else from being here, I learned that this truly is like no other place in the world. (H. I think so) There’s no question about it.
I was in a riverbed yesterday along Solomon’s Wall and I walked by a crocodile, and I saw the crocodile, and for a Californian I’m like whoa! (H. yes! Laughs) Okay, and it started coming out of the water and I said, okay, okay, okay, I’m going to respect you and I walked away, my heart was beating a little bit and I thought, no, no, it’s good. I look over in the distance and there’s this huge elephant, you know – (H: lovely) I’m standing in the middle of this place thinking my God, where else could I go to be in this kind of environment and yet they are just living peacefully with us.
H. But you know what the people must realize, I believe – is that how powerful we are in the way of money. If you have money today, even $1, you are immensely powerful because you can choose how to spend that dollar.
We have an internet where most people can actually find out anything and everything about anybody, it’s so bad that we have lost the privacy. (A. yes)
Now I say to my students, ‘You can change the world just by thinking how you are going to spend that 1 dollar? Who you going to support? Check on people, check on company, check on people who do good things, check on people who don’t do good things for wildlife and the environment – don’t support them, don’t buy their product. Don’t give them the power because if there is no money in it they go down. They are not going to exist because nobody is going to exist if they’re not making a living.
A. That brings up another point which is I interviewed another gentleman, Rupert, and he’s a safari tour guide and he brings in the spiritual connection to the environment and talks about things like spiders which most of us all creep out about. Then you start hearing about the complexities of a spider and we trip out and its like, wow, look how much we can learn just from a spider. His whole thing was,
don’t make the assumption to donate your money to these supposed conservancy grids that are at the tip-top owned by some of the darker agendas unfortunately. (H. hmm oh yes) Do you have any comments on that?
H. 100% comments on that. Don’t give your money to anybody who you haven’t checked out. The charity whether it be human or animal is big business – it’s a business people make a living out of. It’s in their interest to keep it going because they lose a living if it’s not going. So there is so much bad things.
The problem is that most people who come to Africa – they feel somewhat guilt by seeing the poverty they do so they think they gonna fix it by giving some money to it – it appeases that person – we say it buys their conscience (A. right) but its actually not making any difference. So there is a little rule of thumb you can use; first of all, all NGO’s, which is a non-government organization, has to be registered – you can Google each organization and check on their registration number. If they have it, it means their books have to be audited (A. okay) – it’s not foolproof, (A. sure) nothing is foolproof in this life but (A. it’s a start) it’s some good level of assurance that they are doing the right things with your money.
Then you have to be careful – every governmental organization is only required to spend 10% of the donation in the direct course – what it means is if I give you $10 I can feed this animal with $1 and I can spend $9 in administration…what does administration mean?…it means I need a new car, I need a new computer, I need a camera to do my work, I need a new office, I need a new carpet, my office is in my house so I need an extension and so on. There is a lot of space for abuse. So what you need to do – (A. It’s really out of proportion) …yes it is! But that’s what’s happening, it’s a big business. People who do human welfare in Mozambique, they come with their whole family and they stay in a five-star hotel for 6 months and the welfare organization is paying the bill. Whereby if you really want to do good go and stay in the village with those people and learn a lot more about them because you’re not going to learn a lot in a 5-star hotel.
A. Go and volunteer with someone like yourself (Absolutely! On the ground) where you can see for yourself on a day to day basis what is needed, what is being called for, how they can be protected…..
H. Exactly! So there is a way to protect yourself against giving your money to something which is not worthwhile. You can Google these organizations and they are obliged by law to provide you with their balance sheets, they have to.
A. What about some of the organizations that we are aware of that we are finding out – because this is a big fear of a lot of people that want to assist that we are finding out more and more that that money never made (H. they never reach it) it to these organizations.
If people have questions about this, would you be willing to field these questions?
H. I would yes, because it is something which I really dislike. Because if you look at the expenditure sheet, you ask for the expenditure, they have to give it to you. If they spends more than 60% or 50%, in fact, in administration you don’t give money to. You want to see…some organizations spend 100% in direct costs and they get the administration cost from somewhere else. But most of them you have to pay salaries, people need to earn a living, nobody does it for free anymore – fair enough, but anybody who spends more than 50% in administration I wouldn’t give the money to.
A. And do you find it’s the smaller organizations uhhh……you know… (H. given to?) I’m thinking right off the bat – World Wildlife Fund.
H. Well if you look at the mess that world wildlife is in you’ll have to see that they haven’t done a good job (A. yeah) they never follow anything through. (A. good point) I mean look at the mess we’re in and we’re losing wildlife hugely so. If you look at the statistics for just over the last 50 years, we’ve lost about half of our wildlife and the trend is continuing, nothing has been slowed down or stopped. In fact it is getting worse so I have to ask myself a question; Where is World Wildlife Fund?
A, So I would say the best place to come is to Wild at Tuli, wouldn’t you?
H. Yes, I hope, I hope we would attract people who could help us. We need help. It’s just two people – maybe two crazy people, just Judi and myself …
A. And you are working around the clock – I’ve seen that every time I’ve come here …you guys are really needing some assistance and let me tell you for all of you out there who are really trying to find your own niche. If you’re like myself where animals have always been a very soft spot in your heart such as myself, these guys really need your help. So if you are willing to assist them please visit their website at www.Wild at Tuli.com and you can also drop Helena an email at Helena@wildattuli.com and Judi her partner is firstname.lastname@example.org
So I can’t thank you enough for the immense amount of dedication you have shown and I just don’t want you to give up because we are in the final hour and I do know that there are people out there who hear this recording today that really do want to help you, you do have people behind you.
H. Thank you. It does make the job a little bit easier to know that we are not entirely crazy and that we are having people out there who perhaps think like us and want the same thing. And I do believe what you said about the pyramid effect and I do believe that if that if the people could unite and more people thinking alike get together perhaps we will finally get somewhere.
A. Yes and I would also put a request out there that anybody out there that is willing to fund because Steve’s and my project definitely involves this sort of thing. If you are willing to put a donation out or speak to any of us we can all work together because I feel very strongly that I want to assist you in any way I can.
H. Thank you Alex, also talking about the donation – we are very happy to have it very specific – so people can actually see the result. It doesn’t have to be sucked in with what we do.
We are very desperately trying to build a dam. (A. I noticed that) which is very badyly needed for this area for the wildlife. (A. they need the water) They need the water. So it would be specific. So if people say, okay, I want to contribute to this dam or they say I wish to keep the electric fence going so the elephants are not shot. So it can be a very specific which can be checked out and people can see the result. This way I feel ethically and morally much more comfortable accepting money. So I’d like it to be for specifics and there are many specific needs, there is to be compensation to the farmer so we hopefully we can prevent these animals being poisoned – it would be a direct help.
A. So everybody you’ve heard this, I think this is a fascinating radio program.
And again, please visit us at Galactic Connection.com. Your assistance and your donations to us where we provide a free blog each day and also a weekly radio show, these sorts of things, and the server, and everything else, it does cost us money so we are starting to ask for donations. I have never been big about doing that but my now direction is going in a different area and I really want to get out there and make a difference even more so.
Thanks everyone for listening. Thank you so much Helena, for all for your time and your work and we love you, we love all of you out there. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Take care.
H. Thank you.
A: You are very welcome. Bye bye.If you feel that these interviews are providing you with an expanded perspective, more encouragement, and additional insights into our daily planetary and galactic walk, please consider donating to my website GalacticConnection.com. Thank you for your support! And thank you for coming by GalacticConnection.com/daily-blog to peruse our online library of galactically oriented information and education.-A.M. Help Us Awaken the World with Your Donations
I want to thank my new supporter and transcriber Elaine for this transcription. I know this was a labor of love considering she had completed the entire thing and then her computer decided to lose it! She had to start all over again but here it is! Wah la! THANKS SO MUCH Elaine for your tenacity and willingness to assist those around the world who can’t understand English by giving them a means to translate and read it in their native language! THANK YOU!!!
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