Man-eaters, mambas and marula madness: A game ranger's life in the Lowveld, by Mario Cesare
This is Mario Cesare’s introduction to his book Man-eaters, mambas and marula madness: A game ranger's life in the Lowveld.
Dr Ian Player, one of the world's most respected conservationists, addressing a gathering of the Game Rangers Association of Africa, once said, 'Keep records of your experiences ... write, write, write!' His advice could not have found a more eager audience than Mario Cesare. Thoroughly inspired and motivated by his words, I have taken notes and documented my observations for as long as I can remember - and finally, I have compiled my thoughts into some semblance of order. Which brings us to the here and now. Olifants River Game Reserve, 'Olifants' from here on, is a privately owned Big Five game reserve, unique among Lowveld reserves in that it has a perennial river running through it. Over the years I have done my best to keep the shareholders up to date with the happenings in this fascinating place, in their piece of real Africa, and this ongoing task has proved to be as rewarding as it has been challenging. Through the production of regular newsletters, initially with ballpoint and notepaper, then with typewriters and latterly with laptops and PCs, I have been successful to some degree in bringing the Bush they're so passionate about into their offices and homes. I have never been asked by a secretary or personal assistant to call back later. No matter the profile of the captain of industry, the workload of the busiest professional or the time constraints of a packed commercial or personal schedule, if the shareholders of Olifants just can't take my call at that moment, they will tell me personally. Invariably, this courtesy then includes a brief enquiry as to how things are on the reserve. The shareholders, the 'family' of Olifants, always want to know the latest news from the reserve and I always want to share it with them.
This book is a synthesis of my experiences and this reserve's growth over the years and is peppered with selected features from the newsletters produced from 1993 to 2009. It is presented in no particular order or sequence. It is designed to be picked up and opened on any page at any time and to strike a chord or re-ignite a memory. The topics range from the earliest recollections of my interest in wildlife through a broad spectrum of nature conservation and environmental issues, to tales of my interaction with the bush and its inhabitants mostly viewed from the reserve's perspective. Both the content and the intent range from conventional to controversial. In some cases, I may disturb some of the dust that has gathered on traditional thinking and may seem insensitive on sensitive matters. The intention is not to be provocative, however, but rather to question history, the status quo and alternative futures with an open mind, very much coloured by the realities and the challenges of life on Olifants.
Of course, there are personal and anecdotal recollections of some days in my life as a game ranger, and the nuts and bolts of practical conservation work. I hope these will offer some respite from the more serious moments and will help create a greater awareness of this wonderful reserve and the pivotal role it plays in a greater conservation system. We know that conservation ecology is not an exact science. Broadly speaking, the basics can be and are successfully practised by some of the most primitive peoples on earth. There is no magic formula, it is practical common sense and the dependence on and respect for the environment that is the key. Nature is patient and forgiving, she will tolerate honest mistakes with remarkable resilience, and providing that we learn from them, we stand to benefit and prosper.
I am the first to admit I am not a scientist. However, of necessity, a smidgen of technical stuff weaves its way in and out of the meandering road map of this book. I have attempted to make this of interest to those of you who do not wear white dustcoats and thick bifocals. Equally, I am not a seasoned author, so although the words that have emerged as this publication may have been typed by my fingers, they come from the heart often with the emotional content unedited and loosely structured. In the end, though, it is my innate desire to share my experiences that has motivated the production of this book. I have drawn on some 32 years in the bush, including the years spent beyond the borders of this reserve before my arrival in the embryonic Olifants River Game Reserve. I have also drawn on the experiences of many shareholders, and have named them and their individual lodges or reserves and acknowledged their contributions. At the same time, there has been no selection process for inclusion and there are no favourites, no inner circle.
Kobie Krüger coined the apt saying that 'Game Rangers get paid in Sunsets' and I am sure she would agree that these rewards are so often worth sharing. So it was, earlier this year, when I crested one of the higher ridges on Olifants in order to get an uninterrupted view of a particular sunset. It was one of those events which, given my limited vocabulary, frustratingly defied description. Utterly humbled by the magnificent sight before me, all I could do was grab the radio microphone and blurt out to whoever was out there listening ... 'How's that sunset?' I hope that as you travel though these pages you may get to see and share what I have seen. I hope that you will be with me in spirit when I once again blurt out 'How's that sunset?' and you will share, through my eyes, all that is Olifants River Game Reserve.
This is an extract from the book: Man-eaters, mambas and marula madness: A game ranger's life in the Lowveld, by Mario Cesare.
Book title: Man-eaters, mambas and marula madness
Subtitle: A game ranger's life in the Lowveld
Author: Mario Cesare
Publisher: Jonathan Ball
Cape Town, South Africa 2010
Softcover, 15x23 cm, 300 pages, several colour photos
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