Inherit the Earth

Etosha National Park, Namibia – August 2015

The springbok are the first to appear. A collective sigh of relief fills the safari truck. We have been driving for an hour with no sign of wildlife. The guide passes out a checklist of all the creatures that roam Etosha. I glance at it and lay it aside. Turn my attention out the window. A thick gauze of dust hangs in the air. Grainy, diffuse sunlight. August is a strange month. The animals are restless, unpredictable. I do not get my hopes up.

More creatures emerge from the dust. Ostriches strut by. Harsh glares are cast in our direction. The brush thickens.

Long necks sway above the bushes. Curious flowers in a summer breeze. I catch my breath. Have I strayed into a dream world? The giraffe is, to me, the most fanciful mammal on Earth.

“What do you call a group of giraffes?” The guide pauses. “A tower.”

Just before I embarked on this journey, I came across an interview with a female trophy hunter. There was outrage at a photo of her with a giraffe she had allegedly shot. Its long neck was coiled at her feet. Long eyelashes eternally at rest. During the interview, the woman stared into the camera. Batted her eyelashes. The hunt was therapy for recent personal problems. And giraffes are dangerous! They can hurt you bad! More photos of her flashed across the screen: Chest puffed out. Silicone melons pressed against a tight t-shirt. Glittery fingernails clasped around a hot pink hunting bow. Then she recited that Bible quote about humans holding dominion over the Earth. And the interview was finished.

Those who truly know power feel no need to wield it. With what will her kind fill the emptiness when all of the creatures are gone?

Night and day again. I have seen elephants, a leopard, rhinos, and lions. My eyes seek out the littler ones. I contemplate the innate symbiosis. In some, there is a predatory need. It is for survival. It is nothing personal. It is up to the prey to learn how to recognize it and defend itself.

And yet some never lose their gentle curiosity.

The jackal paces back and forth, grimacing in our direction.

“Jackals are intelligent,” the guide says. “But he’s acting peculiar.”

Finally, the jackal sighs and squats. Its grimace widens as its bowels are emptied. We burst into laughter.

I lower my camera. “Aw, he just wanted a little privacy.”

Now, the winged creatures. I have always observed them by sound rather than sight. My eyes sweep across the landscape. There they are. Perched right beside us. I imagine what it would be like to hold the littlest one in my cupped hands. The rapid flutter of its heart. The song that longs to burst from its throat. I would lift it to my ear, close my eyes, and listen. Tales of its journeys far, far above.

And when they return to Earth for the last time, who will notice the void left behind by their silence?

52 thoughts on “Inherit the Earth

  1. I visited Etosha Pan many years ago… and the visuals and mmories have stayed with me… especially a group of elephants drinking, babies playing with the water. Thanks for bringing it all back. Beautiful photos and writing.

    Hunters are despicable! Just read about an elephant that turned around and trampled a hunter to death. Karma. What kind of monster kills a giraffe?!? Shocking.


    • Hi Peta – Etosha is magical. So much life in that desolation. That’s hilarious about that trophy hunter. I am usually very tolerant of beliefs that are different from my own, as long as they’re not forced on me. But I find trophy hunting to be absolutely despicable.

  2. Thanks for taking us there. Who knows how much longer such scenes will continue?

    Killer giraffes? That’s a new one. Killing for sport? I don’t know how it can be rationalised.

    • I know. And she was so proud of it, too. I have family and friends who hunt for food. They don’t get their jollies from the killing. They just want to fill their freezer. Also, they live in an area (Michigan) that has an overpopulation of deer. Many end up freezing to death. I could never do it and meat grosses me out, but they have a purpose in doing it. Trophy hunters, however….I suppose if it weren’t legal they’d probably drown kittens for fun.

  3. Fabulous, Julie. Except for the trophy hunter. And “Those who truly know power feel no need to wield it”…well said. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  4. Fabulous dusty tones and images, makes the animals colourings relevant/understandable.
    Enjoyed the pen portrait of Ms Silicone – makes you want to deliver the giraffe’s revenge.

    • The guide was disappointed by the less than optimal light, but I actually love how it muted the colors and gave everything a natural blur. I would not want to have Ms. Silicone’s karma, for sure.

  5. Ugg what a horrible person that woman is, a complete disgrace to humankind. How can someone justify killing something so beautiful for fun? I hope she gets eaten by an alligator.

  6. So glad you have taken us back to Etosha again. What a contrast between your tender descriptions of the animals you were seeing and that despicable Barbie doll with a gun. Makes me see red, and yeah, hope her karma comes home to roost (oh my god, that’s a lot of (mixed) metaphors in one short phrase! But it says what I mean – haha!)

    • You know, I used to feel outrage at people like her, but now I realize that her life must be so profoundly empty. She’s obviously a narcissist, and those types are incapable of love and underneath the “perfect” exterior they hate themselves. I suspect her “personal problems” are related to being incapable of keeping a man, no matter how much plastic surgery or other enhancements that she has. This is not to say that I feel pity for her. I just know that karma is very much at work. And it makes me smile. 😁

  7. My few nights spent in the surrounding of these animals are forever imprinted on my memory and I very much hope that we humans will allow them to continue living!! Thank you, Julie, for this important post. Very best regards Martina

  8. What fantastic photos and as always, your beautiful text. Someone asked the other day what’s at the top of my travel list: Namibia. And I should go soon because a dear friend is working there in a hot-shot UN job and would welcome me. You’ve added fuel to my fire with this post!

  9. What wonderful post you made about the country I am living in now for so many years. Even though we have the most awful drought you were lucky to capture such magnificent variation of wildlife in August. I also loved the fact that you empathized on our smaller creatures who are so stunning!
    To the point of hunting: Well, at the beginning when I moved here I was absolutely against it and now I am friends with a few professional hunters and guides who work with under strict supervision and with permits. There area always two sides to the story. Unfortunately hunting often has to happen to control population, sickness and inbreeding because we human created an unnatural environment in Africa with enclosing everything. This money from hunting goes on the other side again to conservation and protection projects to protect these wonderful animals to support for example the fight against rhino poaching. The meat is sponsored often to poor villages. We often forget this picture and comments as from this woman make seeing hunting only in a bad light. Unfortunately – everywhere you get the bad people and the good ones.

    • Hello and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m sorry to hear that there’s a bad drought right now. As you live there, you are more aware of the wildlife situation than most, so I appreciate your balanced perspective. I personally understand the need for hunting for survival and conservation. I have family and friends who hunt in Michigan (USA) where there’s an overpopulation of deer.

      It’s sad that the people who have the money to participate in big game hunting are usually not motivated by helping the wildlife, but rather to fulfill some internal void. Like this woman needed to kill something beautiful to make her feel better about herself. I doubt it would have mattered to her if conservation was not involved or not. It’s these types who get the media attention (and she sure loved the attention) and so it turns people off to the realities of conservation. Thanks again for joining the conversation. May the rains come to Namibia soon.

      • I totally agree with your comment and thank you for your consideration. It is a shame and I also met hunting tourists who just met my stomach turn around with comments and behavior which was just not appropriate. But unfortunately this is where we make the money to give back to our wildlife. Here I am so thankful for our professional hunters who guide them and actually often secretly safe the animals or make their mistakes right, who make sure permits are fulfilled and rules are obeyed.
        We are thankful for every little rain. The drought in Namibia and Southern Africa is in the fifth year and horrible. Thank you for your thoughts. If you want to read about a wonderful experience I had regarding our water situation and what water means to us please feel free to read

  10. A lovely post Julie. I’m glad you made that trip. (You have already posted one haven’t you?)
    It very much reminded me of my African teen years in Kenya. (The zebras you saw are I think very rare, Chapman zebra maybe?)
    It is a unique experience. Did you stay a few nights in camps?
    Isn’t the African night wonderful.
    Be good and safe my friend. There are mad men every where.

    • Hi Brian. This my 4th post about Namibia. So far. It’s a journey of many stories. We stayed in different camps. I can’t remember which kind of zebras they were, except that they weren’t mountain zebras. We saw those in the south. I’m not good at remembering details. I don’t remember the guide telling us that they are rare, though. I would have remembered that. Yes, there is something very special about Africa. 🌞

      • I remember only another post. I will look again. One never gets over Africa. 🙂 (I never did) Curiously very few people have written about Africa. Except of course for Blixen, who did a wonderful job.

  11. You do this so well! You have me eating out of your hand, Julie. I’ve never really felt the call of the wild in the African sense, but many long years ago I had a friend living in Zimbabwe who urged me to join her and we would go out into the bush. It is our mutual regret that I never did so. I’m slow to spot birds in the wild but the earth without their sound would be a hollow place.

    • Thank you, Jo. I’m sorry to hear that you missed the opportunity to visit Africa. It’s such a special feeling to wander among the wild.

  12. The setting of those giraffes is so outlandish! I’ve grown to see them (on BBC wildlife and RAI3 documentaries, obviously) having a wander around the bush, using their big necks to eat from trees… it’s my favourite photo of this post, Julie.
    Game hunters. I’m not a hunter myself, but I do go fishing. I know several who are hunters, over here in the Alps, but none of these guys have the attitude of little miss pneumatics you mention. None of the arseholeness, or the “I-kill-animals-cos-it’s-cheaper-than-the-shrink” and definitely not any Bible. The chaps I know do hunt according to quotas, keeping certain species from becoming too endemic, know the nature and certainly slog it up and down the mountains. Do I think they are right? Nope. Had wolves remained, we wouldn’t need hunters over here. Are they better than little miss manicured nails? Perhaps yes.
    Anyway… thanks for the safari trip! 🙂

    • Hi Fabrizio – Giraffes are just so strange and beautiful. I hope that the wolf will return to forests one day. I know that some have recently been spotted in Michigan (where I’m from) and Slovakia and Czech Republic. Not enough to help with deer overpopulation, but it’s a start.

  13. That was an interesting look at a place where I will never get a chance to go, most likely so. It’s a desert, but so much life there. These animals must be highly adaptive to the harshness of the climate.
    As for the female hunter, it’s just sad that some people can prove their worth to themselves only by destroying something else. How is it even possible to shoot that attractive animal as a giraffe? Hunting for pleasure is something I will never get or justify. As you mentioned: animals kill because that is how they survive. The natural selection. It works well in the nature, although, from our point of view, it would be described as something inhuman. That is also a natural protection against diseases spreading out in wild animal populations. The fire does that, too, it cleans up the the natural habitats of animals, although, it might seem a very bad thing. Nature has its mechanisms to keep things going.
    I hope you travel to more interesting destinations and tell us stories about these places. Have a good and pleasant spring!

  14. I can’t wait to make my way to Namibia. It looks like I’ll need to get myself a better camera too, there’s so much to photograph! I loved reading this article. What a beautiful contrast, there’s so much life there but at the same time the nature there is so dry and arid. Definitely something I look forward to seeing someday, this wonderful glimpse you’ve provided will have to tide me over for now 🙂

    • Hello and thank you. 🌞 Yes, a decent camera is essential for Namibia. I can’t imagine relying on a phone for photos of this spectacular place. May your dream to visit come true.

  15. “Those who truly know power feel no need to wield it” pretty much sums it up. Trophy hunters are scum as far as I am concerned and I have friends who hunt for their plate or help with culls to manage deer levels. It’s not hunting when you kill an animal that has no chance of escape from your gun or bow and can’t fight back. If hunting like that that makes someone feel powerful then what is lacking in their life?

    Sorry – rant over. Wonderful pics and words as always.

    • It’s okay to rant here, Alex. It’s a tough subject. I don’t get upset about much these days, but trophy hunting is something I can’t be neutral about. It’s just pathetic.

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