Monday, January 11, 2010

Question #2: Why don't we think through things?

Sunnye Dreyfus, South Africa Expedition

This is a tale of shark bites, baboon encounters, broken bones and garden penguins.

African penguins, Boulders Beach (Photo: Sunnye Dreyfus)
Allow me to touch on the subject of shark nets. I have had the chance to chat with Chief photographer for Save Our Seas Foundation and marine biologist, Thomas Peschak. In his most recent Africa Geographic article (May 2009) he questions the relevancy of shark nets. Fifty years ago, there were five folks along the KwaZulu-Natal Coast in South Africa who had unfortunate encounters with sharks resulting in either injury or death. The remedy: installing 45 km of gill nets along the coast to avoid future encounters between sharks and humans. This "equal opportunity" method has resulted in the deaths of not only tens of thousands of sharks, but also of turtles, rays, dolphins, whales, and countless other non-target species. Over the course of my lifetime (give or ... give a few years), over 33,000 sharks have been caught, with hammerheads and dusky sharks receiving the biggest blow (accounting for nearly 50% of that number and ironically 0% of the initial shark bites). That is in addition to the tens of millions that are killed every year by fishing fleets throughout the world.

Conservation considerations
Why don't we think through things? I will be the first to admit that knee-jerk and (in many cases) pressure and fear-fueled reactions seem natural and appropriate in the beginning. How many times have you said to yourself, "it seemed like the right decision at the time"? These decisions can range from deciding whether or not to go back into the house to grab your reusable grocery bags, print double-sided, buy organic or, in this case, whether or not to install shark nets as the best tactic to reduce harm to humans. Isn't this the essence of sustainability? The key to living sustainably, or "living blue" as we say here at the Aquarium, is to question the intention. Is your intention to do your part in reducing waste or to get your to-do list checked off before sundown? Is your intention to protect humans, reduce shark populations, keep the mom and pop beachside businesses afloat, or subconsciously instill a fear of sharks? All of the above? Some of the above? It's tough to think, moreover act sustainably, no? I love to cook. And as a lover of food, I would like to submit my recipe for sustainability.

2 cups questions
1 cup thought (the fresher, the better)
1 cup intention
1/2 cup consideration
1/2 cup balance
1/4 cup butter, softened (because Julia Child said so)
2 tablespoon (heaping) moderation
1 tablespoon accountability (same amount of Activism may be substituted)
1/4 teaspoon backpedaling
Pinch of guilt (careful not to over season)
Add effort to taste

Slowly sift in intention. Mix thoroughly and let sit overnight. Fold in consideration, balance and moderation. Mix in accountability, backpedaling, guilt and butter until stiff peaks form. Bake in solar oven until browned. What is your recipe? Would you care to share? [Comment below!]

Cape Point, South Africa (Photo: Sunnye Dreyfus)

I almost forgot the bit about the broken bones. So, there I was hiking in the ostentatious African sunshine at Cape Point. My friend thought it would be a great idea to go check out some of the tidepools. South African tidepools? A rainbow of anemones, mussels and urchins? Sweet little endemic fish that trail your heels like puppies? OK, twist my arm ... No, really.

Baboons (Photo: Sunnye Dreyfus)

I was warned, not once but twice about the slippery seaweed-coated rocks and the waves that would love nothing more than to sweep me off my feet and make a mermaid out of me. Did I listen? Not so much. The waves didn't get me, but the rocks pulled me down with such gravitational longing that the moment I landed, I smiled acceptingly and calmly and yelled across the rocks to my friend, "I'm pretty sure I just broke my wrist." So, after a brief encounter with a male baboon that nonchalantly opened my car door, and after spending some beholding the wonder of the Cape of Good Hope, I took my wrist to the hospital. The X-rays confirmed that my little distal radius, like a favorite piece of pottery, was broken and in need of repair. Thankfully, it did not have to be reset; it wasn't my right hand, or my leg. I have to remind myself of this every time I think of feeling sorry for myself when I can't go diving or even peel an orange without assistance. I haven't had a cast on my arm since preschool. Why don't I think through things sometimes?

African penguins, Boulders Beach (Photo: Sunnye Dreyfus)

I might not be able to do everything I set out to do on this trip, but I refuse to see it as a set back. I just might need to flex my creative muscle a bit more. The rough plan right now is to do an 8-day exploration around the Western Cape. And now, for the wildlife...

Parasitic wasp who just paralyzed and laid her eggs in this rain spider. Once the eggs hatch, they will feast on the spider. (Photo: Sunnye Dreyfus)

skink (4"), not sure what species... (Photo: Sunnye Dreyfus)

Wildlife list:
1. Skink
2. Parasitic wasp
3. African penguin!!! (Boulder's Beach, urban population. I find it hilarious that the residents find it a nuisance when the penguins wander into their gardens. Do they have any idea of the street value of penguin guano? A gardener's dream!)
4. Ostrich
5. Chacma baboon (note to self: they can open car doors)
6. Cape cormorant
7. White-breasted cormorant
8. Kelp gull
9. Cushion stars
10. Cape anemones (denim blue, cotton candy pink, creamsicle orange)
11. Cape sea urchins
12. Bontebock (antelope endemic to the fynbos region of South Africa)
13. Southern rock agama
14. Angulated tortoise
15. Klipvis (the little endemic tidepool fish that liked my toes)
16. Rock sucker
17. Mussels
18. Limpets


1 comment:

  1. Boulders Beach in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa has about 3000 penguins which can be observed from close quarters.
    The first pair of penguins was brought here in 1982 and after that there has definitely been no looking back.
    Penguins at boulders beach