Issue 22
Chinese Whispers
Travelers from China learn the science of conservation management
Edited by Jo Kromberg  ·  2016-03-09  ·   Source:

EcoTraining pioneering a new venture with partner, Ye Travel, in China to try and educate curious travelers in the delights of the natural world. By enlightening about eight groups per year, hopefully some being potentially influential people, the knock-on effect may have a huge impact on the future of our once spacious and green planet.   

 

Enjoying the natural experience (Photos courtesy EcoTraining ) 

 The science of "conservation management" is a fast growing discipline with new methods and ideas being tested continually. However, most of these ideas are reactive, trying to combat problems that are already rife. To save our wilderness areas and their species, proactive measures are needed. The simplest of these measures is education, and more importantly, who is educated about the importance of the environment in the planet's survival. The root of the environmental crisis is the over-population of our fast-vanishing home.  

Asia is perceived by many to be the root of the population boom and thus a huge cause of habitat loss and over utilization of natural resources as people use them to survive. The continent itself holds two thirds of the world's population! A proactive measure therefore is to educate this vast population so that they understand what the relentless spread of humanity is doing to our planet. Using the bush as a natural catalyst to experience the wonders of the natural world will hopefully increase the chances of a collective effort to save the planet. 

The EcoTraining EcoQuest seven-day course is designed to immerse its participants in the wilderness and whilst time is limited, as much information as possible is included - concentrating specifically with reconnecting to nature, ecology and of course, conservation initiatives. Activities are tailored around such topics as symbiotic relationships, ecological roles, poaching issues and survival, and the inter-relationships between all aspects of the ecosystem, especially our own. 

 

Meeting the ranger (Photos courtesy EcoTraining )  

The Chinese EcoQuest students last year spent a week with EcoTraining at their Karongwe tented camp. What better classroom in the world?  Days were spent exploring the reserve and many great sightings were made, including lions feeding on a giraffe kill and various encounters with white rhino. Situations like these do not need much interpretation as the subject matter speaks volumes. For many eastern visitors, rhino and lion are just words and pictures or are associated with medicinal resources. Transformation should take place as seeing is believing and nothing beats spending up close and personal time with these iconic beasts.  

EcoTraining focus is not only on giving participants a glimpse of what may not be around for their children to experience, but also the essential roles played by flora and fauna in maintaining the stability of this now fragile ecosystem.  

The best way to learn something and appreciate it fully is to actively experience it, and this is where much of the focus is placed in educating participants. The last group's senses were tantalized on a daily basis as they tasted the sweet leaves of the buffalo thorn, chewed the moisture rich roots of the aptly named mother-in-law's tongue, sampled tea brewed from russet bushwillow samaras and attempted to make friction fires. The latter exercise is always a favourite with young and old, and the addition of some children on the last course made for a moving experience as they delighted in their efforts. Although smoke and a blackened baseplate were achieved, fire was not forthcoming despite the blistered hands! 

The group exercise was enjoyed by all and their fascination of how the bush can be sustainably used was further heightened when Norman Chauke, a local Shangaan tracker and instructor, fashioned some traditional traps used by the tribe's people to gather food in survival situations. For demonstrative purposes rope was used, but the group also learned about which trees and plants can provide fibrous material if nothing artificial is on hand. Norman made perfectly clear that these traps should only be used when necessary: for a man to catch an antelope to feed his family is one thing, but the relentless capture of millions of animals to fuel an organization's financial gain, be it through nutritive demand or medicinal belief, is not condonable.  

 

Off on another adventure (Photos courtesy EcoTraining ) 

 Discussions also revolve around energy flows, symbiotic relations between them and other organisms but there is also time for reflection and tranquillity. A favourite among many is to sleep out under the twinkling blanket of the night's sky.  The world we live in is three dimensional and for people who spent their lives in a concrete jungle of office blocks, traffic, noise and pollution, many have never witnessed the infinite beauty of what lies above us all. It is easy to lose yourself in the stars. It is time to let your imagination extend to the furthest reaches of the universe and to consider our insignificant role in eternity.  

Waking up to the beating heart of Africa as the cerise sun shows its face above the horizon is a primal experience, and for many can ignite the spark of environmental awareness. We hope that by the end of this short exposure to the wonders of the natural world, the eyes of these ordinary people will open up to the extraordinary environment in which they live, one that they did not know existed. We hope that when they return to their homeland, the experiences and knowledge gained will percolate through their social and business circles and create ongoing momentum.  

The whispers of a few can influence the many, and the whispers of many can influence the masses. This has always been EcoTraining's philosophy and with the current state of our fragile environment, everyone needs to buy into this philosophy. Jerry Xu of Ye Travel recognizes EcoTraining's mission and together with EcoTraining, this partnership is set to soar to the far corners of Asia. 

Contact: 

Go to http://www.ecotraining.co.za/ for more information.  

Getting there: 

Air China now flies direct to South Africa from China. The Beijing-Johannesburg flight is equipped with a Boeing 777-300ER and departs from Beijing for Johannesburg every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and returns every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. 

Go to http://www.airchina.com.cn/en/ 

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