Christian Patrick Ricci: Ordinary scenes of wildlife
The more I learn what is a man, the more I want to be an animal.
Time cannot touches those dreams and those fantastic adventures, projected into mind and lived with the heart of a child.
Delving in memory everybody can find far and dulled memories which belong to teen-age, when we were used to spend our days to imagine how the world could be.
And in that precise moment, an oak becomes a baobab and the dog becomes a lion, the boundaries vanish in an instant; you can even fly and becomes an eagle or run like a cheetah in the savannah. Never become big, do not stop, nothing will hurt you.
When I was a child, I imagined Africa as a wild, magic, charming and mysterious land, even thank to the books of Kipling, Burroughs and Salgari who have accompanied my childhood amusing me.
I am so grateful to them, because they gave me so many great adventures.
And now…now I am finally here, in Namibia as an adult. Being here is so important for me and as the jeep proceeds through the Kalahari, I am sure that this land will match expectations. Now I am ready and aware, I know I will meet animals like nowhere else in the world and maybe, with a bit of luck, I will have the honor to observe them closely. For me, this is a privilege to live with a light heart and without the prejudices of adulthood. My legs are trembling and I am really emotions, we are on elephant’s trail; personally I never had any experiences with these giants, but the observation in some zoo.
We spend the morning observing tracks and look for trails left all over the bed of a dry river when, finally, the pack appears around noon, a fortnight of individuals. We are greeted by a young teenager who once staged a position to demonstrate its strength, Pearce, our guide, motions me to calm down, to stand there and let the elephant smell me.
I confess I had a rush of adrenaline, an elephant is really great. Here you can really witness the stark, rugged beauty of the desert and the unique life cycle of the desert-adapted elephant.
After the stunt of the young elephant, the calm which is essential to enjoy this show was restored. The matriarch appeared with some puppies and the aunts involved in the care of children.
They are so beautiful: they are a manifestation of beauty and strength at the same time. I believe they represent the soul of the earth, as well as whales.
The valley where we are gives to elephants a very bizarre context. I was sure I’d only seen savannah, but here, at Doro Nawas, the bush meets mountains, which are formed by a red rock which remind me a Martian atmosphere.
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In the following days the meetings are becoming more intense: the gazelles (springboks) are everywhere, it is easy to see them in herds of hundreds on the track. I cannot help but think what the first explorers felt: in their eyes the wealth of this land must have seemed really unbelievable.
We proceed to the wildlife heart of Namibia, the Etosha National Park, reserve and protected area for the conservation of the species. This park has the distinction of being one of the first national parks established in the world with an extraordinary concentration of wildlife: more than 90 species of mammals, from big predators to small herbivores, and 325 species of birds.
Etosha means “the great white place of dry water” in Owambo, because the rains are rare and the central depression is almost always dry. The Etosha Pan is in fact the vast saline depression that occupies much of the eastern part of the Park and, occasionally, it is reached by the waters from the Angola Basin. The pan is mostly dry but after a heavy rain it will acquire a thin layer of water, which is heavily salted by the mineral deposits on the surface of the pan, which most of the year is dry mud coated with salt.
Here in the Etosha, the wild side of Africa is soon to be showed and any observation gives unforgettable scenes of wildlife. We feel like inside a documentary by David Attenborough, a lioness with her cubs, undisciplined and curious, the giraffes close to a pool, zebras, gnus, oryxes together in huge herds … is truly a sight.
During my visit, after observing all the main actors, that is animals; I cannot help but think that there is no greater joy than to see them free to roam in their environment. It is very different to observe them in captivity, although they are the same species, but is not the same thing. I can say that captivity does not exalt the spirit and the character of a lion but it just emulates its morphological features.
We are facing a historic transition, namely the risk of losing the great biodiversity of Africa. It is terrible to think that our posterity may not be able to see what today is still usable. In fact the development and the rapid economic growth, if not properly planned, could lead to the loss of valuable lands for wildlife.
Namibia shows how it is possible, through preservation and awareness campaigns, to favor the development and to promote employment in countries and areas characterized by a high natural interest. This is possible thanks to population who feel involved in the conservation of species and territories.
Thus it provides an economic future in these countries, which can last over the years and which allows the promotion and enjoyment of natural tourism increasingly aware and numerous.
© Christian Patrick Ricci 2012