My first introduction to South Africa was the train ride from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. I was struck by how vast, plain (flat) and empty the landscape was. Aside from some sheep and cattle, we saw no animals, very little vegetation, and few villages in the 23 hour train ride.
We saw endless miles of flat farmland
The next day at Addo Elephant National Park, I was wondering why some adult elephants have no tusks, as both male and female African elephants have tusks. I later learned it was from inbreeding. There are just so few elephants left and they are kept separately in National Parks and Sanctuaries. This leads to inbreeding. Officials are trying to address this by moving elephants around to promote cross-breeding, but I have to wonder about the stress this places on the elephants.
Elephant without tusks in Addo Elephant National Park
Unfortunately, this may be the best solution, because most of South African land has been divided up and fenced off, so there are no truly free roaming or wild animals left in South Africa.
At the Cheetah Sanctuary we learned that the only ‘wild’ cats left are leopards and even they live on private land owned by farmers.
While the animals we saw on the safari have a lot of territory to roam about, their territory is still limited by electric fencing all around the property.
The Lions were following the fence at Schotia Safaris. Sometimes the lions from Addo come to visit on the other side of the fence
Even with a growing number of private sanctuaries and Safaris, the animals are still at risk. This is particularly true of the black rhinoceros, whose horns are being taken, even from those on private lands.
These rhinos were saved after their horns were stolen, but the male has become more aggressive trying to protect the female.
On the Cliffpath walk in Hermanus, we learned that the Western Cape has the highest extinction rate in the world. This is truly sad, because South Africa does have a lot of land. Much of the animal loss can be attributed to farmers and I have to wonder if all these farms are truly necessary. I also wonder what this land looked like before it was cleared for cattle and sheep. I imagine it was much more beautiful than it is today.