26 October 2007

The White Lions of Timbavati

Blogger for Positive Global Change AwardThat's three times, now! Three times that I've been tagged as a "Blogger for Positive Global Change". First by Sarah at Farming Friends, who tagged me months ago1, then, just in the past couple of days by James of "The Good Life" and Robbyn on "The Back Forty".  Wow! Thank you all!2  I'll take the opportunity to act on something that has bothered me for a while, now: Reading this blog it would be easy to think that the whole "self-sufficiency, sustainable future, post-peak-everything" idea is, for us, mostly about gardening. It can never be that simple.

Africa's Most Sacred People
Last night we went to a fascinating, shocking, terrible, wonderful talk/video/fundraiser in Plettenberg Bay (a schlep -- about a 50 minute drive away) presented by Linda Tucker, to raise funds and awareness of the plight of the White Lions of Timbavati.  Linda (who was at school for a while together with J) wrote an incredible book, "Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sun God", which we are lucky enough to own in its first edition. Her book documents her incredible, 15-year spiritual journey from international model to being named "Protector of the White Lions" by no lesser a person than the Lion Queen of Timbavati.

White Lions are considered by the High-Shamans of many tribes to be Africa's most sacred animals. According to sacred tradition they were sent by God to teach us how to become human.  It is said that if ever the White Lions disappear from the Timbavati, all Africa will die.

Science and Business
The White Lions are a genetic variation on ordinary tawny Lions, their white (and they really are snowey-white, not merely some lighter shade of brown) colouring results from a recessive gene present in the Timbavati lion population, exactly like blue eyes in humans results from a recessive gene.  They are not albinos; they are a true white colour.

Scientific estimates place the number of White Lions at less than 300 individuals. Not one White Lion is left in the wild.  The Global White Lion Protection Trust is engaged in efforts to reintroduce White Lions into the wild, and things are looking hopeful. The trouble is that, in the wild, the lions become vulnerable to criminal "hunters" who have no compunction in illegally selling a kill to some rich first-worlder3. So, ironically, keeping a lion free turns out to be quite expensive. The Trust is also trying to get various legislative measures, CITES listings and other pushed through to protect these unique Spirit Guides.  Sadly the battle is made difficult because the White Lions are not a genetically distinct species from ordinary tawny lions; they are "simply" a variety of Panthera leo. And, because Lions are not an endangered species, trade in Lions is permitted between zoos, parks, private collectors all around the world. Sadly, this means that trade in White Lions thrives, too, since they are afforded no special protection, despite the deep spiritual significance they hold.

The Timbavati lies in the Eastern part of the country, bordering the Kruger National Park. Besides being famous for the White Lions, the area is infamous for what has become known as the "Canned Hunting Industry." Wealthy landowners "farm" animals for trophy hunting. The White Lions are the most prized of these trophies, fetching upwards of US$70,000 a head. They are bred and raised in captivity, never knowing freedom, never knowing the hunt, denied the freedom of their natural homeland. They are tranquilized and constrained in tiny compounds. And then shot dead by some Brave Hunter standing safe outside the fence, to become a stuffed trophy.

The video showed several lions being "hunted" in this manner. A mature lioness, majestic in her power, awesome in her might, her beauty, confused, dazed and frightened by drugs and strangeness, tethered to a truck. Leaps into the air, screaming and twisting as shot after shot after shot after shot hammer into her...  Her cubs paw at her dead body...

I cannot imagine the worldview of a person who is comfortable with this travesty. I cannot comprehend the soul sickness that must attend such depravity. It would be all too easy to fall into the trap of hating the people who run canned hunting operations and their customers. But really I think they're no more than a manifestation of a sickness that runs deep in our western-mode society (and the whole world lives to a greater degree in that western-mode society.) The sickness that starts with us seeing ourselves as distinct from the natural world, somehow superior to it and aloof. The sickness that results in our believing that "it is up to us to save the planet" -- from the global climate change we have induced, from the poverty of the strip-mall culture, from the soul-sucking aggression of the money system, from the poisons we've spewed into our air, soil and water.

The Earth exists quite happily without us. The Earth has been self-correcting against all manner of disaster for billions of years. The Earth and her people need us big-headed monkies not at all.  The only thing that needs saving is humanity itself.

Take Action
Please click over to the Global White Lion Protection Trust website for more information than I can reasonably fit here. Make a donation while you're there, or, better yet, become a member of the Trust. Your Dollars, Euros and Yen are more powerful currencies than ours; what is a small amount for you is a large amount in Rands, and packs a correspondingly powerful punch.

I highly recommend Linda's book as a fascinating insight into the spiritual heart of Africa. Proceeds all go towards saving White Lions and reintroducing them into the wild.

Please blog about this, write about this, shout about this, talk, sing, dance about this. Help us get the word out to more and more people. Help us celebrate the fact of the White Lions.  Marketers and business-people, politicians and the bloggeratti, all are saying how powerful is this new mode of conversation, how quickly and viral a message can become.  Let us prove that power now.

As an African I beseech you to help us save our spirit guides. As an apprentice human being, I tell you that we are lost if we cannot save these White Lions -- our guardians.

They were sent here to teach us our humanity.  It seems they're not done teaching us yet.

[1] I'm practicing hard to make the SA Olympic Procrastination Squad, but am being outcompeted by the bureaucrats in the Dept. Environmental Affairs and Tourism.  I don't think it is fair that government employees should be allowed to compete for Olympic Teams.

[2] I'll tag some other blogs as Bloggers for Positive Global Change in a separate post. I don't want to stray too far from the desperate, urgent, terrifying, heart-rending message of the White Lions.

[3] Just so you don't get the wrong picture: the people running these canned-hunting operations are not impoverished AK47-wielding third-worlders trying to eke out a living anyway they can. They are extremely wealthy, powerful, well organised business people who will stop at nothing to keep their multi-million dollar a year business intact. The government is set to finally enact legislation (it's been  years in the making) in February next year to ban canned hunting. The canned-hunting industry has already made it clear that they will spend whatever it takes to fight the legislation through the courts, all the way to the Constitutional Court.  Meanwhile, I am certain, they will simply bribe their way around the law -- just another business expense -- so I doubt the law will have any real effect.

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