BIRDSCONTOUR CALLS FOR LEADERS TO FOLLOW
Was Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) a Birder?
Photos and text by Stefan Rust
(In terms of the Geneva Convention the copyright of these texts belongs to Stefan Rust)
Mandela was praised as an extraordinary politician and his values in the fight against domination, no matter be it black or white domination, resonated so much with the people that the world supported the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa despite Margaret Thatcher, prime minister at the time, calling him a “terrorist”. The world sanctioned South Africa, boycotted sporting events and supported the Wembley stadium concert calling for the release of imprisoned Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, being watched by 600 million people.
Not only did over 90 heads of state unite on the 10th of December 2013 in celebrating at the memorial service former President Nelson Mandela’s life, but also nature saluted this extraordinary man with steady rain for his contribution to nature conservation. In African culture rain is a blessing, welcoming you into heaven.
Mandela not only spent his life striving for political justice but also achieved many accomplishments in regard of conservation. Mandela, a born conservationist, said that while being imprisoned for 27 years he ”felt the lack of the wild.”
Despite all the restrictions on Robben Island, prisoner Nelson Mandela still managed to plant a garden in the early 1970s. This garden was a place for him to lose himself from the harsh life to find himself. Gardening gave him big pleasure and he produced vegetables in such an amount that he even gave vegetables to the guards for their families and he was allowed to create a second garden. How important these gardens were to him became clear when he once, after having been released, asked a person that visited Robben Island if he was shown where his gardens were. This person replied that the guiding person didn,t even know about the gardens. Mandela was disappointed.
Mandela did not only study agriculture through books he paid for while being in prison, gaining good knowledge about agriculture, horticulture and fertilizers but also studied birds by observing them flying, feeding and resting during the time he cultivated his garden. Even his opinion about shooting birds on his farm was challenged when a 5 year old boy once asked him: “Why did you kill that bird? Its mother will be sad.” And Mandela writes: “My mood immediately shifted from one of pride to shame; I felt that this small boy had far more humanity than I did. It was an odd sensation for a man who was the leader of a nascent guerrilla army.”
Mandela, together with Dr. Anton Rupert, founded the Peace Parks Foundation in 1997. This organization works to establish protected transfrontier conservation areas (TFCAs) that conserve animal migration routes.
This project supports Mandela’s plan in wanting South Africa to be an exceptional country in the world but is seriously challenged by some South African politicians that took over from Madiba (Mandela) and failed him by being greedy and inefficient.
As always when a country becomes politically unstable, nature conservation becomes sidelined and Mandela said: “If we do not do something to prevent it, Africa’s animals, and the places in which they live, will be lost to our world, and her children, forever. Before it is too late, we need your help to lay the foundation that will preserve this precious legacy long after we are gone.”
For South Africa to prosper in all aspects, including nature conservation, BirdsConTour calls on leaders to work harder in emulating the former President Nelson Mandela.