Innocent Strangler

I created this photo-essay in June-July 2016 alongside a partner's 12-page written essay. The essay, by Sage Isabella, has not yet been published. The location of all of the following photographs is northern South Africa.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  African Wild dogs easily travel in and out of fenced reserves, and have earned notoriety for escaping reserves and killing livestock. They have been hunted nearly to extinction by humans throughout Africa, and although their numbers are highest in South Africa’s game reserves, their mobility raises their risk of being hunted. 

African Wild dogs easily travel in and out of fenced reserves, and have earned notoriety for escaping reserves and killing livestock. They have been hunted nearly to extinction by humans throughout Africa, and although their numbers are highest in South Africa’s game reserves, their mobility raises their risk of being hunted. 

  An elephant grazes in the greater Makalali conservancy, which was a cattle farm just 30 years ago, but is now comprised of 8 independent nature reserves united as one large enclosure. Makalali, along with 80% of conservation land in South Africa, is privately owned. Histories of European influence led to South Africa’s legal foundation of private land ownership, which in turn led to racial separation and apartheid. In neighboring African countries, land ownership is more communal.       
  
 
  
    
  
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An elephant grazes in the greater Makalali conservancy, which was a cattle farm just 30 years ago, but is now comprised of 8 independent nature reserves united as one large enclosure. Makalali, along with 80% of conservation land in South Africa, is privately owned. Histories of European influence led to South Africa’s legal foundation of private land ownership, which in turn led to racial separation and apartheid. In neighboring African countries, land ownership is more communal.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  A visitor of Makalali conservancy photographs a white rhino. Makalali offers people opportunities for eco-tourism, involving wildlife viewing, photography and leisure. Conservation areas in South Africa may also exist as for hunting or for breeding animals to sell to other reserves. Game reserves are businesses, and universally serve humans first and foremost. 

A visitor of Makalali conservancy photographs a white rhino. Makalali offers people opportunities for eco-tourism, involving wildlife viewing, photography and leisure. Conservation areas in South Africa may also exist as for hunting or for breeding animals to sell to other reserves. Game reserves are businesses, and universally serve humans first and foremost. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Visitors in Makalali nature conservancy attend a nature walk, led by two armed guides. A long history of hunting has conditioned wildlife to attack a human on foot, and walking guides are trained to kill animals should they threaten human life.

Visitors in Makalali nature conservancy attend a nature walk, led by two armed guides. A long history of hunting has conditioned wildlife to attack a human on foot, and walking guides are trained to kill animals should they threaten human life.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  A woman reclines at Timbavati Safari Lodge after her morning game drive. Timbavati caters to European and American tourists, like most safari lodges. At the most luxurious all-inclusive lodges, visitors return from an afternoon game drive to a gourmet dinner with white tablecloths and crystal. Local South Africans who enter the hospitality industry learn to set a table, explain a wine list, mix a gin and tonic, and inquire about a visitor’s day. 

A woman reclines at Timbavati Safari Lodge after her morning game drive. Timbavati caters to European and American tourists, like most safari lodges. At the most luxurious all-inclusive lodges, visitors return from an afternoon game drive to a gourmet dinner with white tablecloths and crystal. Local South Africans who enter the hospitality industry learn to set a table, explain a wine list, mix a gin and tonic, and inquire about a visitor’s day. 

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  The company Khaki Fever caters to tourists passing through the town of Hoedspruid. Small, specific companies like Khaki Fever along with large, multifaceted companies like Jeep all play a part in supporting the massive industry of western tourism in African conservation areas.

The company Khaki Fever caters to tourists passing through the town of Hoedspruid. Small, specific companies like Khaki Fever along with large, multifaceted companies like Jeep all play a part in supporting the massive industry of western tourism in African conservation areas.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Idealists, arguing for romantic ideas of empty wilderness and against notions of wildlife as a utilitarian commodity, helped create the vast Kruger National Park. Even so, the first written objectives of Kruger National Park outlined that it would exist primarily for exploitation by students and other visitors, not for the land and wildlife. Every day, the roads at Kruger are crowded with such visitors.

Idealists, arguing for romantic ideas of empty wilderness and against notions of wildlife as a utilitarian commodity, helped create the vast Kruger National Park. Even so, the first written objectives of Kruger National Park outlined that it would exist primarily for exploitation by students and other visitors, not for the land and wildlife. Every day, the roads at Kruger are crowded with such visitors.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Audrey Delsink holds the type of dart used for administering elephant contraception. In 2000, she started Makalali’s benchmark program for elephant contraception, which became the most cost-effective and humane option for elephant population control. Contraception has not proven effective for most other animal populations though, so other options like relocation and culling become necessary to control South Africa’s individual, enclosed ecosystems.

Audrey Delsink holds the type of dart used for administering elephant contraception. In 2000, she started Makalali’s benchmark program for elephant contraception, which became the most cost-effective and humane option for elephant population control. Contraception has not proven effective for most other animal populations though, so other options like relocation and culling become necessary to control South Africa’s individual, enclosed ecosystems.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  An ostrich peers from behind a fence at Daktari Bush School. The school adopts animals orphaned or injured by human intrusiveness – animals that would otherwise have been euthanized. Daktari walks the thin line between cruelty of caging an animal that once roamed free and the necessity providing low-cost conservation education to local children.

An ostrich peers from behind a fence at Daktari Bush School. The school adopts animals orphaned or injured by human intrusiveness – animals that would otherwise have been euthanized. Daktari walks the thin line between cruelty of caging an animal that once roamed free and the necessity providing low-cost conservation education to local children.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Staff members feed Makalali’s new herd of disease free buffalo. A pregnant cow from the herd is worth about a million rand. Ross Kettles, Warden of the greater Makalali Conservancy says, “We don’t want to release them into the open area because they will make an expensive snack for a lion.” The park will release the cows once they have 60 or 70 cows.

Staff members feed Makalali’s new herd of disease free buffalo. A pregnant cow from the herd is worth about a million rand. Ross Kettles, Warden of the greater Makalali Conservancy says, “We don’t want to release them into the open area because they will make an expensive snack for a lion.” The park will release the cows once they have 60 or 70 cows.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Trigive Nxumalo, a leader of a village called Impala Flats, stands in front of his gate that depicts his family’s totem animal. In South African local tradition, a totem animal is a family’s surname along with an animal that the family understands, praises and vows not to kill – a basic form of conservation that goes back centuries. Black South Africans were legally prohibited from visiting most nature reserves during apartheid, and local South Africans today remain largely restricted from visiting nature reserves because of their cost and luxury. Thus, family totem animals have become more of a metaphorical relationship. Many children and teenagers in Impala Flats have never seen a lion.

Trigive Nxumalo, a leader of a village called Impala Flats, stands in front of his gate that depicts his family’s totem animal. In South African local tradition, a totem animal is a family’s surname along with an animal that the family understands, praises and vows not to kill – a basic form of conservation that goes back centuries. Black South Africans were legally prohibited from visiting most nature reserves during apartheid, and local South Africans today remain largely restricted from visiting nature reserves because of their cost and luxury. Thus, family totem animals have become more of a metaphorical relationship. Many children and teenagers in Impala Flats have never seen a lion.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Suzan Hlabangwane both attended and now teaches at Sihlekisi primary school just adjacent to an entrance of Kruger National Park. The park was not open to her when she was a child during apartheid, and Suzan visited the park for the first time just months ago with her 6th grade students. Still, she says that she was happy in her childhood to have Kruger National Park nearby.

Suzan Hlabangwane both attended and now teaches at Sihlekisi primary school just adjacent to an entrance of Kruger National Park. The park was not open to her when she was a child during apartheid, and Suzan visited the park for the first time just months ago with her 6th grade students. Still, she says that she was happy in her childhood to have Kruger National Park nearby.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Welverdiend, a village created for peoples displaced by Kruger National Park, used to be a black township 20 years ago during apartheid, and the village still suffers financially from this history. Over time, Western notions of land ownership not only warped long-established wildlife patterns and habitat, but also warped time-honored human lives and territories. Patterns of separation and ownership instituted during apartheid established a bleak future for not only wilderness, but also for society. South Africa has many visible and invisible fences to lift, leftover from its complex separatist history.

Welverdiend, a village created for peoples displaced by Kruger National Park, used to be a black township 20 years ago during apartheid, and the village still suffers financially from this history. Over time, Western notions of land ownership not only warped long-established wildlife patterns and habitat, but also warped time-honored human lives and territories. Patterns of separation and ownership instituted during apartheid established a bleak future for not only wilderness, but also for society. South Africa has many visible and invisible fences to lift, leftover from its complex separatist history.

Fenced Dreams

By Kristen Stipanov

 

On African Safari

You pretend that you can be

 

                        Invisible

                        Imperceptible

                        Noiseless

                        Voiceless

 

The forests may see,

The forests may hear,

They don’t take any notice.

 

The lions eat their meat.

The lions walk the road.

The lions fight to kill.

And you are there with them.

The lions feed your lenses.

 

At night you trundle home

Through gates and toward the fire.

You sleep in comfort alone.

Through lenses of your dreams

You return to watch the lions.

 

 

 

In the African forest

By necessity you grow

 

                        Invisible

                        Imperceptible

                        Noiseless

                        Voiceless

 

The forests may see,

The forests may hear,

They don’t take any notice.

 

The fences break your gait.

The fences help you hunt.

The fences rise from dirt.

And you are there with them.

The fences coil your path.

 

At night meander on

Past fences toward a scent.

Your sleep is like a spasm.

With fleeting nightmarish breath,

You also dream of lions.

 

 

 

 

In the African township

You never wished to be

 

                        Invisible

                        Imperceptible

                        Noiseless

                        Voiceless

 

The government may see,

The government may hear,

Still,

They don’t take any notice.

 

The white men walk the roads.

The white men run your business.

The white men become your friends.

And you are there with them.

Still,

The white men send you home.

 

At night run quickly home

To crowds inside the fences.

Your sleep is hard and cold.

With dreams of light and dark,

You never dream of lions.

 

You dream that you are not

 

Invisible

            Imperceptible

            Noiseless

            Voiceless