Monthly Archives: October 2012

South African Adventure #6 – Wildlife Challenge of the Day

Here I am on my soapbox, about to pontificate and verbally gesticulate about all the reasons why I think we need to conserve, rehabilitate, and otherwise appreciate the beauty around us. But I won’t. Not really. I’ll just twist your arm gently.

My original title for this post was “Why Wildlife Makes Me Happy, and Why I Believe We Need to Cherish and Protect It.” I still think that is an apt name for the post, but what I’d prefer you to think of this post as is a challenge, a game.  t is an opportunity for you to step into my shoes for a few minutes and live like I do. You may run screaming at the thought of that, and I would understand. To some extent, at least. But what I’m proposing is something that I believe everyone should do everywhere in the world, no matter who you are. And it takes nothing but a few minutes of your time. So hear me out.

I swear if anyone took a moment to sit and watch a troop of baboons playing in a field, they could not help but to smile. Maybe not smile when the baboons jump on the car and eat the aerial or poop on your roof (which has happened to me on more than one occasion), but you still have to chuckle at their audacity, and their exploits as they toss each other around and genuinely enjoy life, even when they are getting beaten up by their more senior family members. Kind of like a human family, in fact, where the older brothers and sisters tease the younger ones incessantly and then go screaming off to whoever will listen as soon as the little one wises up and starts fighting back. In fact, baboons are uncannily like us. I’ll be honest – I kind of wish one would saunter up to me and start picking through my hair in an attempt to groom me.

I smile every time I see an animal, even the more mundane ones we take for granted, like squirrels and pigeons. Sit and watch them for a few moments before automatically judging them. Take a few minutes to observe without judging. The more you do this with wildlife, the more you will find yourself doing it with human life, and the more patience and compassion you will find you possess. It all starts with our ability to see things clearly, and not through the filters we’ve put in place through experience. The more often you allow yourself to see things without pretense, without judgment, the more often you will find yourself in a better mood. Better mood = happier people overall. I don’t know about you, but for me,  happiness is just about as good as it gets in my book.

So cherish wildlife. Appreciate it, take a moment for it, actually stop and smell those roses. No matter how busy you say you are, you always have time for it. I know. I lived and worked in New York, one of the most high-intensity places in the world, and I worked in media. If you don’t think I know a thing or two about being highly stressed, overworked, underpaid, and strung out, you are sadly mistaken. But I chose to make a change, one baby step at a time. And I always always always took a few seconds wherever I could to step back and bring the whole world into focus, stripping off the tunnel vision blinders I had been trained to use by a society so out of touch with ‘reality’ as to believe that we don’t need the outside world.  We do, and it needs us.  Just in the right balance.

So here’s my challenge for you – I challenge you to take five minutes today to sit quietly and watch a bird, a squirrel, an ant, whatever wildlife you can find. Watch, listen and don’t say a word, mentally or literally. If you do decide to try it, please, please share your experience with me.

 

All rights reserved. ©2012 Jennifer Vitanzo

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Categories: Africa, Animal, Bush, Conservation, South Africa, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What Cats (Cheetah in Particular) Find Interesting

Two male cheetahs sitting watchful and alert

Two male cheetah sitting pretty as they scan the neighborhood for prey and pretty lady cheetah

I sat (and I mean sat) in the freezing cold wind with a cheetah for three hours the other day.  During that time, we spent at least a half hour each devoted to staring at the following – springbok, donkeys, cars, and random people WAYYYYYY in the distance.  None of these creatures/items were within striking distance of the cat, nor did she make a move to get any closer to them. But apparently that doesn’t matter. It was like the cat had DSTV and was just switching channels between kitty NASCAR, the Discovery Channel, Farmer’s Weekly, and E!  She didn’t move in three hours. Just turned her head slightly in four directions to take in her four different shows. I was less than amused, and kept myself entertained by drawing pictures in the hard dirt. Then I practiced throwing stones.  No, not at the cat.

When she did eventually move her feline butt, she walked up to me, nuzzled me under the chin and waited for me to give her some belly and behind-the-ear rubs before finally sauntering back to her enclosure. That was my afternoon. I sat throwing rocks, sketching masterpieces in dirt that by tomorrow will have blown away, and occasionally watching her TV shows with her.

The cheetah isn’t much of a conversationalist, to say the least. And their interest level seems pretty much contained to moving objects of any kind, particularly if tied to a colourful string. Watching them follow me blindly as they swat at a plastic bottle filled with rocks and tied to a string sort of diminishes their exotic allure a bit. All in all, not very much different from your common house cat.  Just a bit bigger and spottier, honestly.

 

All rights reserved. ©2011 Jennifer Vitanzo

Categories: Africa, Animal, Bush, cheetah, Conservation, rehabilitation, South Africa, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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