Experience, Henry James said, is “a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.” It is so intricate and immersive—the sunlight, the mist, the colors, the faint sounds and those that impose, everything down to the way the air envelops you—that it can feel impossible to convey in words.
And so I can only say this about experiencing the African wilderness for the first time: It would feel magical if it wasn’t so striking precisely because it is real. Driving in an open-air safari vehicle on dirt paths overgrown with grasses, looking out over the wild, I felt exhilarated and serene. I felt as if only that moment existed and as if I could touch eternity. I felt that this is the way the world should be—was meant to be.
There is a drama of life that unfolds every day out in the wild. It is life—full to the limits life—every second of every day out there. As birds call to mates with varied songs, and cheetah skirt stronger, threatening lions. As a mother leopard plays with her two eight-week old cubs, so tiny they don’t even look like leopards, in a thicket away from view. And two juvenile male lions hide from dominant males to avoid being killed, so that they can one day grow strong enough to challenge for the territory. As the dominant males, with their massive, regal manes, roar in the twilight, calling to each other and nearby lionesses. There is a drama, from the life of the dung beetle to the life of the lion, that most of us never get to see.
Sadly, this world is fast disappearing. And if we don’t make a change, it may be lost to us forever. We are at a tipping point. If we want these gorgeous places to survive, we must come together and demand it. The earth’s remaining wild places get smaller each day, often limited to reserves that are not large enough to sustain themselves over time. In the last 50 years, the population of people has more than doubled to over 7 billion. In the same time, the population of lions has been decimated: Where once 450,000 lions roamed the earth, now there are only 20,000. And while that may still sound like enough, or even a lot to some, when it comes to the long-term viability of a healthy lion population, it is worryingly small.
The same is true for the other iconic cats. There are only 3000 tigers left in the world and 12,000 cheetah. The leopard population has plummeted from 700,000 to 50,000, possibly less.
I don’t have an easy solution. What I know is this: Change won’t occur unless enough of us want it. And that’s where this little blog comes in. I want to try in some small way to bring the beauty of Africa to those of us that live in cities, sharing images and information about these animals that capture their unexpected beauty, their surprising social dynamics, and their ecological importance.
I will also share campaigns and organizations that can be supported, liked, shared, tweeted, and joined in an effort to build the population of us that are determined to live in a world capable of inspiring us, captivating us, and thrilling us because it is a place where lions still roar, cheetah still spring, and leopards still hunt.