Conservation and Guests
When I started going to the bush in 2010, up until 2019 before I left South Africa to study overseas for two years, I was so proud of how all of my bush experiences were totally centered around, and respectful of, the animals. This was the standard that I believed existed in the South African bush community. However, upon my return to South Africa at the beginning of 2021, I was not so confident to say the same. Upon two visits, I noticed that more pressure was being placed on guides to provide unbelievable sightings of the Big 5 and to get as close as possible in order to get some good photos, ignoring the animal and its boundaries.
This really bothered me and I wanted to see if it had been a growing trend throughout the guiding community, so I asked Patience and Vincent what they thought about it. Patience is currently the General Manager at Thakadu River Camp, however, prior to this, she was a guide for 15 years. In fact, Patience was the first black female ranger in South Africa and she is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. Vincent, who has also been a ranger for 14 years at Madikwe, was offered the opportunity to do so as part of one of the many community projects initiated by Madikwe Game Reserve within its surrounding communities. He is now amongst the most experienced and well-respected guides within the reserve.
As I was formulating the question, both Vincent and Patience looked at each other and exchanged a little smile so as to indicate that they had engaged in this topic previously. Vincent was hesitant to talk about the negative aspects of guests and their impact on conservation, while Patience gave an incredibly wise and, in my opinion, respectful response. She began by emphasising that it goes both ways, that guests coming to the reserve contributes to its growth as part of their money goes into conservation and community outreach. With regards to the negative aspect, Patience does indeed agree that guests are placing more pressure on guides, however, she ultimately states that the responsibility of ensuring that the respect of the animals is upheld, is one of the guides’. Although guests come with an interest, this must be not expressed as a demand.