The South African Conservation Success Story by Peter Flack Editor’s note: Several years ago, on occasion of the CIC General Assembly in Belgrade, Peter Flack, and I, together with a small band of South Africans, watched Shane Mahoney’s documentary “Opportunity for All”, relating the story of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model. A minute or so of stunned silence elapsed after the lights went on again – we were all thoroughly impressed, then Peter said, more to himself than to us “… In South Africa we have experienced a similar conservation success story, yet nobody knows about it! I am going to produce a documentary to tell this story to World!” Peter, ever hands on when it comes to hunting and conservation doesn’t make such promises lightly. And now he presents this stunning documentary which I had the privilege to see during a preview in November 2010. I sat spellbound during the presentation, and when David Mabunda spoke about the intimate connection conservationist and hunters share in South Africa, I could not help but spontaneously applaud! This documentary is a factual and unemotional presentation of the tremendous biodiversity South Africa harbours, and the efforts of a broad spectrum of people who work and continue working in its preservation for all mankind. I sincerely hope that the documentary finds its way into all class rooms of South African Schools, onto the desks of our parliamentarians and decision makers in business and into the homes of all who have South Africa’s wildlife at heart. The South African Conservation Success Story - An Introduction Video After nearly five years of work, 18 months of intensive research and using two award winning film crews, the documentary on the South African Conservation Success Story is complete and South African National Parks, in conjunction with the Confederation of Hunting Associations of South Africa, the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa, the South African Hunting and Conservation Association and the Wildlife Ranching Association of South Africa, will host a premiere of the film on 23 February 2011 in Johannesburg. The brief introduction to the documentary encapsulates what the film is all about. The narrator says: “I am sitting here among the fynbos at the foot of Africa, the Cape of Storms. The first Europeans to settle in Southern Africa landed a few kilometers away in Table Bay, in 1652, in three small ships under the leadership of a man called Jan van Riebeek. Their arrival ultimately led to the greatest destruction of game that this continent has ever known. Over the next 300 years, game animals in what was to become the Republic of South Africa, were reduced to barely half a million animals. And then, over the following 50 years or so, their numbers recovered to the nearly 19 million. Why did this happen? How did this happen? And what does the future hold? This is our story….” time when we lost two and almost many other cherished wildlife species that occurred nowhere else. And then see how people rallied to protect our wildlife legacy.” It goes on to state: “Using stunning wildlife and habitat footage filmed by the award winning production team, as well as archival photos, The South African Conservation Success Story drives home how politicians and private citizens fought side by side to ensure we all can enjoy the natural riches of our country.” And then asks the viewer to, “Discover the facts to help you make sound decisions about our wildlife and their future conservation, how thousands of outdoors people like you are keeping wild animals plentiful in our country – and how you can do even more to ensure this great heritage.” The three narrators of the documentary are Peter Flack, the producer of the film, who reads the brief introduction quoted above. The main narrator is Shane Mahoney, a renowned Canadian wildlife biologist, writer and researcher who makes the key point in the second part of the documentary as follows: “Somehow, extraordinarily, approximately 150 years ago, a great conceptual leap was made by mankind. A conceptual leap that, in my opinion, is probably the greatest intellectual invention that we’ve had in centuries. And that is to change our attitude towards the natural world and to believe that progress and civilization really was associated with how well we could manage to keep wild nature with us. This launched the movement that we have come to know as conservation. A movement that has swept the world, a movement that has played itself out in virtually every continent and in virtually every country. We now believe that the measure of our progress is how well we do for wildlife, not how much we take.” The important concluding section is narrated by Dr. David Mabunda, CEO of the 22 South African National Parks. Amongst the many important points he makes is the following: “Parks and preserves cannot and have not in Africa in themselves maintained the biomass and variety of wildlife that is possible in combination with a strong game ranching industry. Furthermore, most game ranching and hunting takes place in the arid or semi-arid regions of South Africa, land that is unsuitable for crop growing and will revert, at best, to sheep and goats and the inevitable erosion and desertification that will follow.” The documentary sets out the facts relating to the conservation of wildlife, or lack thereof, that has characterized South Africa over the last 360 years. It has no agenda, no bias. The object is to provide the viewer with the factual foundation he or she may needed to make wise and informed decisions regarding our wildlife and their conservation in the belief that, if they do, wildlife will be with us, our children and grandchildren and so on, and provide marvelous opportunities for all of us in perpetuity. To this end, copies of the documentary will be made available to politicians and school principals, free of charge. Various organizations participating in the Johannesburg premiere will host local premieres around the country from March 2011 and CIC has kindly offered to host the European premiere at their General Assembly in St. Petersburg in May 2011. The DVD will be on sale at the various local premieres, in National Parks, at selected outlets, as well as via Rowland Ward (www.rowlandward.com), after 23 February 2010. A book on the documentary, including the DVD, will be on sale in the above outlets from April next year. Proceeds from the sales will help fund future distribution of the DVD.