Changing the Landscape for Africa’s Lions

Canadian freelance journalist Jacalyn Beales features the following blog on her page “Out of Wilderness”.

 

Donalea Patman, Founder of Australian-based NPO and registered charity For the Love of Wildlife, stops by out of wilderness to discuss her crucial role in Australia’s world-renowned stand against lion exploitation and how she first got started advocating for Africa’s lions. 

The past 18 months have been remarkable. As most would know, I campaigned my local MP to create a global first. Australia announced in March, 2015 that it would ban the importation of lion trophies and body parts…well before the death of Cecil. France has recently done the same.

How this came about is because I believed and trusted my guidance. Scientists will scoff, trophy hunters will tell you I’m crazy, politicians will say I’m not a normal activist…and they’re right. I don’t fit any particular mold.

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Donalea Patman, pictured here MCing the event which saw Australia’s Environmental Minister, Greg Hunt, announcing the immediate ban on lion trophies & body parts (Federation Square, Melbourne – March, 2015)

I’ve always deeply loved and spoken up for nature and animals. Even as a little girl, while on a family holiday off the Western Australian coast, my father and his friend decided to ride the turtles. I wept and told them that they were “interfering with nature.” I was born with an innate sense of justice and I’ve been fierce in that.

“A spiritual traveller, questing for deeper meaning and purpose, but never dreaming I’d find myself working on wildlife issues, assisting the Australian Government. ”

What ignited my heart and a love for Africa was attending a workshop at the Global White Lion Protection Trust in Timbavati, South Africa – hosted by Linda Tucker, the Trust’s founder, and Andrew Harvey, author and Sacred Activist teacher. The first morning out we surprised the Royal Pride, the founding family of white lions of this project; they sat bolt upright and engaged. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the immense beauty and presence of these magnificent white lions. I’d never seen nor imagined anything like it. But what was pivotal was that one of the young males locked eyes with me and I was pierced through, my heart broken wide open.

Back at camp, Linda talked about the threats facing Africa’s lions, and specifically white lions, as they are targeted by trophy hunters, obviously because of their stunning beauty and high trophy value. She also described the horrors of canned hunting (which I’d never heard of) and to say that I was white with rage is to put it lightly. In my disgust and despair, Andrew Harvey looked at me and said something along the lines of, “Now that you’ve been brought to your knees by your righteous indignation, your rage, your disbelief and sorrow, I want you to take that heartbreak and turn it into passionate action fuelled and informed by your heart.”

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I returned to Australia, sharing what I knew about the plight of Africa’s lions, signing petitions and the like. [In] December, 2012 (and many know the significance of that date) I was again at the Global White Lion Trust for a gathering of people from around the world, including Pippa Hankinson – her history in conservation, specifically lions, led her to produce the recently released film on canned hunting, Blood Lions. We left Timbavati knowing we had to do more and get very serious about it.

“On these early trips it became blatantly obvious that Africa, and more specifically her wildlife, is under siege as wildlife is intensely commodified. I needed to contribute, I needed to do something! ”

I’ve attended workshops with people like Anna Breytenbach (interspecies communication), Jon Young (deep nature connection), Alwyn Myberg (bird language) and one thing is for sure, we better well start listening (deeply) to nature if we’re to stop the race to extinction.

Should conservation be the responsibility of conservationists only, and if so, why are so many species facing extinction? Is it the responsibility of scientists, activists, ecologists or governments? Whilst all are absolutely necessary, and I am so very grateful to those that work in these incredibly confronting and challenging fields, I accomplished something that, even in the week leading up to the announcement, was declared impossible.

I have a background in design, and a few years back attended a government led workshop where designers were engaged by big business. Creatives see what others don’t – musicians, poets, writers, artists…we view the world differently. Bring those eyes into an organization or a problem and hey, opportunities, possibilities, ideas are uncovered which are often overlooked because everyone is busy getting the day to day done.

I’m testament that the old rules of engagement don’t necessarily apply. We need creative partnerships – to think outside the usual constructs and safe zones if we’re to manifest radical, passionate action which cuts through old limitations and just maybe, create a bit of magic. We don’t have time for further reporting or consultation – it’s been done to death and we’re losing our wildlife because of the human, bureaucratic process.

I navigated the work with the Federal Government as it presented – no training or experience in strategy, conservation or policy and certainly no attachment to outcome, just being courageous and being prepared to learn along the way. I know I was guided once Icompletely committed to the process and I was blessed to have Ian Michler (Blood Lions) and Pippa Hankinson mentor me.

A great initiative that is currently brewing is listing lions as a World Heritage Species – it’s brilliant and necessary. But of course, we are in this predicament because we haven’t been able to stay connected to nature; we have forgotten that, intrinsically, we are part of the web of life.

Wildlife belongs to the planet, not to any government, individual, organization, corporate or group – animals have a right to exist, on their ancestral or endemic homelands as part of their specific ecosystems and the greater ecology. Commoditising wildlife will be our undoing.

Moving species to other countries to save them, to live in captivity, is not conservation, it’s desperation. In certain instances, it’s a bid to use an old paradigm to mask lucrative wildlife trade. We’re on dangerous ground when we continue to mess with the natural order of things. It’s time to drop our arrogance and allow nature to inform us, and we must return to our rightful place as guardians – not gods.

We are racing extinction and the truth is, if the animals go, so do we. What I ask myself everyday is “what am I going to do about it?” We all having something unique and practical to contribute.

“I don’t know how to save the world. I don’t have the answers or THE answer. I hold no secret knowledge as to how to fix the mistakes of generations past and present. I only know that without compassion and respect for all of Earth’s inhabitants, none of us will survive, nor will we deserve to. ”

— Leonard Peltier

 

For the Love of Wildlife invites you on our 2016 African Tour that invigorates your relationship with the living earth and your wild soul. Stella Horgan, Ruth Underwood and Donalea Patman will guide a conscious safari, different from other tours, as with our approach to and experience in nature, we believe in deep immersion and even deeper respect; that as we are humble, nature reveals herself. This is not about watching wildlife through the lens of a camera, or from afar: we want you to feel her under your skin. To experience the subtleties and patterns, to be a sacred witness to whatever is revealed, to be absolutely, exhilaratingly present.

For further information on the African expedition, please get in touch with For the Love of Wildlife by sending your inquiry to: fortheloveofwildlife@gmail.com