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I recently read a Facebook post by one of the past finalists of the Best Nature Tour Guide Award processes. It was so beautifully written, I asked if I could have permission to include it here. Enjoy this piece by Alan McSmith from Alan McSmith Safaris:

What does my hashtag #tellthemwhowereallyare mean? This is the story.

For over 30 years now, my life and work can not be separated. If you ask me WHY I do what I do, my answer is crystal clear … I create space to explore and re-connect with our fundamental reliance on nature. The heart of the present moment; the space to recalibrate our priorities and intentions.

To recognise the consequences of modern society’s split from nature and ecological leadership, and that social turbulence and conflict for territory, power or resource is merely the other side of the same coin.

In order to fully integrate this, I turned to elephants. About 30 years ago I had a surreal encounter with a herd after a crocodile attack in the Okavango, when they spent a night peacefully surrounding my improvised campsite. This was the catalyst of many meaningful encounters along the way, after which I was left in no doubt of their advanced sentience, intelligence, wonder and mysterious connection … one that frequently crosses the boundary between what is logical and what is naturally intuitive.

Elephant, for me, connect these two landscapes. They bridge the gap between what we consider objective reasoning on one hand, and what we experience in the deepest joyous, instinctive, blissful and inspiring sacred spaces within us.

They provided me with a vocabulary to adequately articulate what wilderness means and represents for us. And in ecological terms, our own insignificance. To access a secret and universal humble dialect of the heart. Once you fall in love with elephant, you fall in love with the other animals, the birds, the plants, bugs, bacteria and fungi. Only then perhaps, will an inclusive conservation culture emerge.

Elephant conservation is one of Africa’s most controversial narratives. And elephant, due to the demand of ivory as a precious commodity, have often been at the sharp edge of it. Their sentiency and complexity are often overlooked, as is their ecological keystone impact as habitat landscapers. The complete story of elephant is seldom completely told. Poaching and habitat loss indicate that within the last century we have lost a staggering 90% of our elephants.

It’s not only the future of elephant that is at risk, but also this precious gateway toward a deeper awareness of the wonders of our natural world and inter-connectedness. A world we are dependent on for our own survival.

Elephant conservation therefore is a delicate, complicated and urgent affair.

Because of this, it was inevitable that I would dedicate my life and work to this narrative. To share the story, from their side. As if in partnership with the elephants themselves and as a voice for their silence. I’ve often wondered what an elephant would say to me if it could speak, and perhaps this would be it: “tell them who we really are”.



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