Spotlight South Africa: tonic for the soul on World Wildlife Day

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World Wildlife Day takes place today, 3rd March 2014, as declared by the United Nations.

The news no sooner shared when I knew without a shadow of a doubt how best IFAW Southern Africa should acknowledge and celebrate this newly dedicated day of awareness that commemorates wildlife.

In the rural landscape of the Magaliesburg, in the North West Province of South Africa, the community of Syferbult comprising of about 1,200 people, face life’s daily challenges.

Young and old go about their daily activities, young attending school, helping with chores, bringing up siblings and old collecting fire wood, keeping food on the table, maintaining their humble homes to keep rain out and provide protection from the harsh African sun.

I have had the privilege of working with Cora Bailey of IFAW’s Community Led Animal Welfare project in the community of Syferbult on a number of occasions. CLAW provides animal welfare and humanitarian support to the informal settlement and, thanks to CLAW, all of Syferbult’s much loved pets are in fine health. CLAW’s interventions have also resulted in much media attention for the privations faced by the people living here, and have literally shamed provincial authorities into addressing service delivery issues.

Recently Cora shared some video she had taken of the Ipopeng Cultural Group. This is a group of young people who have formed a dance troupe. With very little in the form of entertainment in the dusty, rural landscape which they call home, these young boys and girls use their incredible talents to express themselves through dance. The video she sent was mesmorising, watch this wonderful video below!

The group range in age from 6 to  20, and I just knew we had to give them the opportunity to celebrate World Wildlife Day, especially since they live side by side with many small antelope, hares, reptiles and other wildlife. This ultimately led to an early morning arrival in Syferbult, with the sun just having risen, to accompany 53 very excited members of the dance troupe to Delta Park Environmental Centre in Johannesburg. 

With great jubilation, dancing and singing, the group prepared themselves for their guided tour of the center where they learnt about the wildlife they encounter at home and learn about at school, their environments and habitats and how they as individuals fit into our shared world. 

From classroom to play park, what child can resist the opportunity to put all your troubles aside and enjoy the moment, especially when you know that moment is going to be short lived…which is just what they did as they made a b-line for the play park and spent the rest of the afternoon picnicking, on the swings, climbing frames and playing soccer.

Their outing was close to drawing to a close and they would soon be on their way back to the hardships of life in their humble community, but not before entertaining us with a special dance to thank us, although, as Cora Bailey so aptly put it, it was truly a tonic for the soul to see the enjoyment on each and every one of their faces and, in fact, it was us who needed to thank them.

--LCH

For more information on IFAW efforts in South African communities, visit our project page.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia