Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lost, immersed, found, revived.

I sense time and universe expand
Horizons clear wherever I stand
Salt crust icing across the pan
Silence dwarfs this mortal man.

With awe-inspiring desert all round
Where every mountain has been ground down
As time has weathered to grains of sand
By wind and rain, rocks can't withstand.

I feel the power of lonesomeness
No worldly goods of uselessness
 My wounded soul gains time to mend
By each glowing rock I now call friend.

Alone, I'm embraced by a vast crowd
Of granite soldiers standing proud
And baobab sentinels on guard
As Sol begins his march upward.

I see the birth of this glorious day
Where once a green island lay
In brackish waters of an inland bay
That time has long since washed away.

Where ancient lake has long been drained
Reborn each year with season's rain
The migratory fowl remain
A mere short months to lay again.

I hear the voice of this desert scape
As eerie silence resonates
A refuge where my soul escapes
For Nature to rejuvenate.

I release my mind to its free rein
To walk where ancient spirits remain
Never more aware of life's refrain
And become as one with this terrain.

Kubu Island
Makgadikgadi Pans

All pictures by Jim McIntosh.
And I'll own up to the lame lyrics too!


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Elusive Condor: World's largest flying bird.

I have always dreamed of seeing a Condor- the Andean Condor preferably. The Andean Condor is slightly larger than the Californian Condor, having the largest wingspan of all birds measuring up to 3.2 metres! That is huge and must be a photographers delight to photograph these in flight! Even at rest they are impressive birds.

First Trip.

On our first trip to South America, I set my heart on not coming back until I saw a Condor!

No, not a Condor, this is a Bald Eagle at Parque Condor, Otavalo.

However, like all large raptors and vultures, Condor numbers are declining due to habitat loss, illegal wildlife trafficking, and even eating poisoned carcasses when extermination programs are carried out against other unwanted animals: those poisoned carcasses, if not all picked up, will be consumed by carrion eaters! And that's what condors are designed by Nature for- cleaning up all the dead carcasses.

Parque Condor.

So on our trip to Galapagos Islands, we would spend 3 extra weeks in Ecuador, with New Year in Otavalo, and visit Parque Condor just 5 km's from there. The sanctuary has condor and that was a must-visit for me!
Otavalo, a city of 50,000 inhabitants is a 2hr 30 mins comfy bus ride north of Quito. Our budget really got busted with the fare- $2.00 each! Then we caught a taxi for $5 from Otavalo. It's a walkable distance if you want to do it that way.

And nope, not a Condor. 

Parque Condor is a sanctuary and education centre for birds of prey ranging from condor to falcons, even owls. I'm not too fussed on seeing birds locked up in cages, so I looked with a very critical eye on what this sanctuary was about and how they cared for their captives.
We were assured no birds were taken directly from the wild but were rehabilitated injured, or rescued from unsuitable activities or poachers who supply the illegal wildlife trade.
The centre offers performances and lectures for the public in a purpose built amphitheatre at 2pm and 4.30pm. These education and flight demos, allow the public to get arms distance from the tamed birds, encourages valuable appreciation of their beauty, and educates about the pressures upon them in the wild and the important role they have in the natural world.

Not a Condor, this is a Harpie, or Monkey Eagle. Cool looking dude!

We watched a cautious public begin to relax and then enthusiastically enjoy the falcon master introducing a falcon, then a beautiful range of well trained birds before a bald eagle was flying just above their heads- awesome!
No, sorry. A Snowy Owl.
There's a natural tendency for young kids, especially boys, to grow up around air rifles (BB guns) or with shanghais - well, that's what we called a forked stick with a strip of bicycle tube rubber stretched between the 'y', with stones or ball bearings for ammo. Many a bird suffered as we acted out our great hunter-warrior roles.

But things could have been so much different in those days if just one person had taken me aside and talked to me about the great beauty of birds- their colours, the infinite variety of size and shapes, the majesty of their mastery of flight and how their singing brightens our lives.

Nope, no, never a condor here.  3 Barn Owls. Cute wee fellows!
Observing the joy on so many children's faces at that amphitheatre on that sunny afternoon, I couldn't help thinking that these kids will not be firing stones and ball bearings at any birds. I'm sure they will come away with a new respect for all birds now they have enjoyed such a close experience.

And therein lies the true value of sanctuaries that do have educational displays- changing attitudes of our children and adults to wildlife before it's too late. 

And my Condor? Well, they have one at Parque Condor but he hid away in his cave in the large aviary-probably just to annoy me! I was too interested in all the immense variety of other birds to wait around. Plenty to keep me occupied!
But as we left I did feel that disappointment at not finally seeing my condor. Was I destined to leave Ecuador never having seen one? To come so far, spend so much, dream so long and miss seeing one?

On our last full day in Ecuador a long walk around Guayaquil city centre and waterfront brought forth an unexpected surprise- I found my Condor!
A big, beautiful well cared for bird, proudly displaying just for me! How about that? My condor, on our last day in Ecuador!

My Andean Condor at long last!

Parque Condor


Sunday, April 15, 2012


"Why do you want our horns?"
"Why do you want our horns?"
犀牛角被用來在中國傳統醫學,磨碎成為粉末後,再注入沸水,坊間誤以為犀牛角可以為處理發燒,風濕病,痛風等疾病。它也被誤傳可成春藥。在亞洲,每公斤犀牛角售$65,000美元,每6千克犀牛粉末價值$380,000美元。 因此激勵亞洲犯罪集團,資助在非洲和亞洲的非法盜獵犀牛行動。 由於各國亞洲和非洲政府與供應鏈的各個層次均嚴重貪腐。因此難以打擊非法盜獵犀牛行動。請停止購買使用犀牛製品。
在科學上,犀牛角是角蛋白,就像我們的頭髮,腳趾或指甲一樣,它有沒有藥用價值。但亞洲和非洲不道德卑鄙商人,利用舊的信仰,製造新的謠言, 愚弄無知消費者,假稱犀角可治愈癌症。另外,中國和越南的富裕令犀牛角需求大增。在2008年,韓國前總理聲稱犀角治愈癌症後,偷獵犀牛角的情況達到猖獗地步。在2010年,艾麗麥克弗森愚蠢地打趣及吹噓說,她以犀牛角作為一種抗衰老的治療。自2007年,中國政府投入大量資金推動其傳統的中醫藥產業,加速殺害瀕危野生動物。請停止購買使用犀牛製品。
很久以前, 犀牛被發現出沒於非洲,亞洲,北美和歐洲。濫殺犀牛 ,令犀牛數目現在下降到低於27,000。犀牛如何在濫殺的風氣下掙扎生存呢?
現存世上犀牛只剩下5 類:- 白犀牛: 20000隻,黑犀牛:4500,獨角犀牛:2,800,蘇門答臘犀牛:200,爪哇犀牛:44。 以上數字只是最樂觀的估計,一些人認為以上數字被誇大,未能實際反映世上現存犀牛的數字,而且沒有反映偷獵犀牛的急速增長數字。即使在過去的40年來,非洲的白犀牛和黑犀牛在犀牛保育者艱難的保護下,非法殺害犀牛的損失將超過目前犀牛的自然繁殖增加。
在南非,被接受培訓的保護犀牛志願者正在禁獵區巡邏和保護犀牛。我們正向政府乞討,施壓,要求政府幫助及資助反盜獵犀牛單位,有效執行法律,使犯罪組織者繩之以法。在南非,起訴率低於5%。 偷獵組織針對全球所有可用的資源,以謀取暴利。
保護犀牛是各國政府的責任。南非政府需要擔當領導地位,展示其承諾保護其主要的旅遊珠寶- 即它的野生動物!
與此同時, 犀牛被槍殺。
目前,偷獵是非常快,高科技的,由前軍,前警察,獸醫,專業獵人使用直升機,最新的熱成像技術,使用注入鎮靜劑的飛鏢槍,電鋸 : 這種高科技的偷獵方法是很難對付。請停止購買使用犀牛製品。
犀牛嬰孩也慘被殺害。 人類的殘暴是令人難以置信。誰應得在這個星球生存呢?偷獵犀牛者為托高犀牛售價,殺害犀牛嬰孩,人為推低現存犀牛數量,製造供不應求的現象。
此外,有越來越多的關注團體加入阻止屠殺犀牛。 犀牛保護團體向政府施壓,針對犯罪的組織者,以結束這一駭人事實。
在肯尼亞,Sheldrick大衛. 薛得利的野生動植物信託基金關心年輕的犀牛和許多孤兒小象。
你可以捐出,甚至收養犀牛,小象孤兒。我們已經收養2個孤兒大象。每個月我們收到他們更新的資料。大衛. 薛得利的野生動植物信託基金亦歡迎人們探訪保護區。
停止貿易犀牛,象兒,是各國政府的責任,但南非政府需要顯示領導地位,並展示其承諾,保護其主要的旅遊珠寶 - 它的野生動物!
我們需要您無處分享及反映犀牛的困境! 請停止購買使用犀牛製品。

This is a Han Chinese  translation of my original article  here warning-graphic-images-from-rhino-wars.html


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

All This Must Pass.

So you're repelled by this face
where horns have been slashed away,
your helplessness seems a deep crevasse.
Dig down in your soul,
climb out of that hole
... and all this will pass.

When you're crying for their loss,
and tears are all you've got,
there is pain in your heart you must surpass.
They need you to strive
to help them stay alive
... or so they will pass.

When you pray by their cross
in remembrance of their loss,
have a thought for how humans trespass.
So now we create
a world so desolate
... when all beasts will pass.

When we struggle on alone
and consider why they've gone
with our environment in a deep morass.
Such industrial decay,
I think you'd better pray
... as all Man may pass.

Rhinos are being poached at a staggering rate. 488 in South Africa in 2011, and total so far this year is 161 indicating 2012 could exceed 600!
Read more about this tragic trade that threatens the existence of rhino on this planet-
Poachers moon.

Want to help?

Share this article everywhere!
Join us on Facebook Save Our Rhino. saveourrhino/


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Poacher's Moon.

There were stars that I once wished upon.
There was the moon, my guiding light.
They were signs that God was watching
Over all my friends each night.
But now a poacher's moon is rising
In this cloudless starry sky,
There's an evil hand stalks across this land:
Another rhino tonight will die.
So take the stars out of the heavens.
Take the moon down from the skies.
My friends now need the darkness,
In the darkness they must hide.
There's a cross for all who've fallen,
I hold a vigil by candlelight.
There's a prayer I share with those who care-
"Keep Our rhino safe tonight."
So take the stars out of the heavens.
Take the moon down from the skies.
The moon that was once my guiding light
Brings me misery tonight.
'Cause there's a poacher's moon now rising,
Death stalks the bright moonlight.
If another dies, I'm going to cry,
My heart will break tonight.
I'd take the stars out of the heavens.
I'd take the moon down from the skies.
I would mix them with all my tears and fears-
A magic shield so they can hide.
So take the stars out of the heavens.
Take the moon down from the skies.
Please God we need your blessings,
"Keep Our rhino safe tonight."

The inspiration for this post lies with some verse I sent to Ray Kieran, but the real genesis is the work that other rhino conservation activists are doing each full moon with a cross planting in Cape Town, South Africa to highlight all those rhino slaughtered merely because of Asian demand for their horn for Chinese Traditional Medicine beliefs.
Please read and share this group's work-
Planting Crosses For Fallen Rhino

 You can read more about this tragic situation of rhino poaching here-

This is the picture that inspired the above words-

Another cross planting takes place for this coming Poacher's Moon- 6th April.
Ray Kieran.
The above poetry arose out of a conversation with Ray Keiran, a rhino conservation activist on OSCAP Facebook group-(Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching).  I sent her a few lines and Ray was ecstatic over the words and meanings captured by them. So I developed the verses from those simple lines and sat on this poem for a few weeks seeking out suitable images to illustrate this with. 

 Ciske Kruger.
Then I approached Ciske Kruger, another gifted activist from OSCAP, sent her the words and asked her if she could interpret the words with romantic yet tragic imagery hoping the lyrics would inspire something special to include in this post. Ciske then posted these images on various Facebook groups where they received rapturous applause - as they should. And at the same time sent me the same images, less the text that appears in the originals. I asked Ciske to add crosses into her artwork!
Thanks Ray and Ciske!

Oh and keep checking this site...maybe these lyrics start something else!

Travel Photo Thursday is on again where travel bloggers post up their great pics from around the world. Join us! Head over to Nancie's  travel-photo-thursday-april-5-2012 and post up your travel photo and link into the fun!