New project by ‘elephant man’

John Harvey

GARETH Patterson, renowned around the world for unlocking the mysteries of the Knysna elephant, has begun a new initiative aimed at restoring the core values of “African environmentalism”.

African environmentalism espouses the traditional African beliefs that governed relationships between the people of Africa and the animal world, and that there is no distinction between God and nature and no boundary between man’s habitat and that of wild animals.

Having recently restarted his tours of the Knysna forest where guests have the opportunity to see how he went about studying the movements and behavioural patterns of the Knysna elephant, Patterson hopes his new Sekai environmentalist group will reclaim these values.

Sekai is Tswana for “symbol” or “omen”.

“Modern Africa has been greatly influenced by Western separatism, becoming greedy and detached from its heritage,” Patterson said.

“Western separatism removed God from everyday life, from creation, from nature. As a result, Africa has been opened to the field for environmental plundering.”

With poaching on the rise, he said it had become common to view wildlife as objects for profit, gain and “sport”.

“The erosion of African environmentalism in the colonial period was a portion of the erosion of the African dignity generally – a loss that, coupled with original environmentalism, needs to be rediscovered and cherished.

“Humankind needs to reignite the reverence and respect for the environment.

“It needs to expel notions of superiority and entitlement and regain the African beliefs that historically governed relationships between man and animal.

“By drawing on indigenous environmental beliefs and values, this can make a vital difference today in the preservation of the continent’s wildlife and wild places.”

To this end, Sekai was dedicated to creating awareness about the re-emergence of authentic African environmentalism through a series of articles and campaigns on the project.

“The public can contribute articles, inform and educate us about communities where African environmentalism is alive and positively working to conserve wildlife and wild places.”

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