Safari West is a great place. I will never forget the time I fed an apple slice to a giraffe and wrapped its dark black three-foot tongue around my hand before twisting it back to pick its nose.
A trip to Safari West instills a sense of respect for the enormous diversity of species this planet contains, and lends a sense of mission, as many of Safari West’s protected and conserved species are critically endangered in the wild.
The genesis of Safari West is, unsurprisingly, as interesting as the place itself. In the 1980s, Peter Lang purchased 400 acres in the Mayakama foothills to safely house his growing collection of exotic animals. What was formerly a cattle ranch has become a world-class conservation breeding facility for the participating species. In a romantic setting, during the early years of Safari West’s founding, through his work with the San Francisco Zoo, Lang met the lead curator and specialist in raptors who would become his wife and partner in conservation, Nancy Lang. The two have combined their abilities to create a world-class animal sanctuary.
Peter Lang’s dedication to animals, and Safari West’s mission of protection and protection, is so strong that during the 2018 Tubbs fire, he ignored evacuation orders and spent the entire night putting out the fires and moving the animals to safe places, risking his life. Although the Lange family lost their home and several buildings in the reserve, none of the 1,000 animals called Safari West home were hurt. It is stories like this that really reinforce one’s belief in the good of man.
Back in action after the Tubbs fire, Safari West provides programming to inform and inspire, at least as much as possible during the pandemic. A particularly attractive offering is the Conservation Dinner Series, where various guest speakers give after-dinner lectures on environmental and animal related topics at Café Savannah, which offers diners the unique experience of Bray, a South African barbecue-style gathering that promotes connection, catch-up and exceptional food Cooked over wood stoves. It is a phenomenon that must be experienced on its own, and is richer when paired with insightful information from experts.
This past Saturday, Café Savannah-goers heard Dr. Sandra Curtis, Director of Innovative Projects with the Coalition Against Plastic Pollution, about their ongoing efforts and initiatives. PPC is a global alliance of more than 1,200 organizations, companies and thought leaders in 75 countries, working towards a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals and the environment. Plastic is harmful to every aspect of life on Earth, and even though it is a non-biodegradable product, 33% of plastic is used once and then “discarded,” meaning that because it is not biodegradable, it is broken down. Simply cut into smaller and smaller pieces without actually getting rid of them. Americans alone dispose of more than 30 million tons of plastic annually, with only 8% recycled. Residual waste fills landfills, spoiling groundwater. (Stats taken from plasticspollutioncoalition.org)
PPC spearhead projects like The Last Plastic Straw Project, which addresses the jaw-dropping crisis of more than 500,000 used straws. Per day in the United States, resulting in devastating plastic pollution. The ongoing effort to make plastic straws a thing of the past has gained momentum — I know most of my favorite local cafes and restaurants now offer biodegradable straws, and if I saw plastic, I wouldn’t take it — but we need to make sure these kinds of initiatives become second nature, rather than To be blazing brightly but quickly extinguished efforts towards change. PPC offers levels of participation that donors can engage in, including saying no to plastic straws, requesting that local restaurants serve popsicles only upon request and/or switching to a biodegradable product, and hosting a screening straw, a documentary by Linda Booker, named by One Green Planet as one of “the five documentaries that will make you rethink single-use plastics.” If you missed a specific post-braai talk — and I imagine most of us did — learn more about PPC and your ability to make positive change by visiting plasticspollutioncoalition.org.
I spoke with Sandra Curtis after the event, which she said was incredibly delightful. She said her focus was animal-based, to better suit the venue. There are, unfortunately, a myriad of different disasters one can address when discussing the effects of plastic. “You’ve talked about the impact of plastic, especially on ocean animal life – I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of sea turtles with their necks tied to plastic drink rings. It’s awful. I’ve done this three or four times now, and it has been the biggest turnout.” “It’s great that they are inviting us to do this – and I want to share that with you the first time I was invited to speak at Safari West, [Conservation and Outreach Manager] Marie Martinez asked me to walk around with her and then talk to the staff and make any suggestions that might be helpful so they can reduce their use of plastic. It was a very pleasant conversation with their staff. They have done an amazing job internally to reduce their plastic footprint.”
This coming Friday, December 17, the Conservation Dinner Series will host Robert D. This unscientific talk about manta rays was presented as a TEDx talk several years ago, and is a great way to learn more about the practices, patterns, and need for these extraordinary creatures. Go to safariwest.rezgo.com to reserve your Brae.