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Kian Barker
Shakabarker Tours

Kian Barker



The Meaning of Life

Greetings and Salutations,

Have you ever thought about the phrase  "The meaning of life"'?  There does not  seem to be one single answer and furthermore, it relates to all aspects of life, all forms of life, physical or spiritual. You are most probably wondering what I am pontificating about. Easy! It is an  ecosystem full of life that I am pontificating about.  I regularly take guests to Hluhluwe and Umfolozi Park, which is Africa's oldest nature reserve. Here we look at all the wonderful forms of animal and plant life, while the scenery is good too. This Park is indeed a window into the past, when there were no civilizations changing the environment, except of course the animals. Their effect is considered minimal, but if you look carefully, it is nevertheless apparent, such as  the occasional game path, midden, broken tree or mud wallows.

On one such outing, some of the animals we saw included a magnificent herd of elephant comprising calves and adults. The young calves are really amusing, especially the ones younger than six months. They can walk from day one, but it takes them six months to learn how to use their trunks. Imagine if humans had trunks, how long it would take us to achieve the functional use of it!.  For the first six months of their lives they have this long appendage fixed to the end of their faces. They toss it around for six months and then finally discover a function for it and then life takes on a far more serious meaning. But this anecdote is not about elephants , neither is it about the female cheetah with four cubs and the impala she had just killed, nor is it about the  rhino lying next to the road. No,  It was a lot more subtle than that....

Dung beetles are fascinating and... wait, there is a moral to this tale. I am sure you have heard all the anecdotes about dung beetles, however, no story is complete without the correct amount of garnishing. Here I am implying that a guide should give a certain amount of information when he  points out various sights to the smiling faces behind him , especially when tourists tend to hang onto every word. It is not a case of driving along, merely pointing and saying, 'zebra', 'tree', 'ant', 'grass'...You take your time and explain.....

On this occasion we stopped more or less in the middle of the road. This was the section of tar road just north of where the R618 crosses the corridor section of the Hluhluwe Imfolosi Park. In front of us was a mobile lump of rhino dung, a  large lump that appeared to be under it's own propulsion. However as a guide, there was little need to first analyze the situation, but rather to get stuck in and explain the actual dynamics and apparent propulsion of this piece of dung, which was almost the size of a cricket ball (If you are a German, or a nationality other than English, you might not understand the reference to cricket or to the size of a cricket ball). It was pointed out that dung beetles see a remarkable value in dung and that the females cling onto the side of the dung ball while the male uses his four rear legs to grip the ball of dung, while using his front legs to  propel the dung ball in a suitable direction to find the right burial site for it.The male dung beetle we were watching had his chin a mere two millimetres from the surface of the hot tar road , while the female was just clinging on and seemed to be playing no active role in the proceedings.  After explaining this process to my guests,  I then turned to them to expound   on how the Egyptians revered the symbolic nature of these beetles, as they believed that these scarabid beetles rolled the sun into the sky and .... At that very moment a yellow billed kite swooped down from the sky and snatched the dung beetle off his ball of dung, leaving the female, still attached to the dung ball, to roll down the hill, .. uncontrolled dung! - dung without a driver...

Firstly, we were amazed at the brazen nature of the kite, but there seemed to be some moral to this scenario. Sometimes when you feel that you have four feet in the proverbial pooh and the other two to push you along, count your blessings, get your focus and be grateful, because you are being  watched and when you allow yourself to become complacent or are unaware, then you could be displaced, allowing something or someone to  find some  form of gratification if you are not cautious. So off went the hard working dung beetle  in the claws of a kite and his last sight must have been of a long green Land Rover, and of an out -of -control ball of dung and he had no possible way of rectifying the situation...Eish!

So even if you think you are pushing dung uphill everyday, be grateful!!!!

Hasta la vista,

The Knait Wrydah in the Day

Posted by Kian Barker

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