Monday, August 28, 2006

Exterminate! Exterminate!

It's spring, and a glorious Sunday at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the slopes of Table Mountain. The giant parking lots are full, the massed ranks of the picnic hamper regiment stream over the rolling lawns accompanied by their offspring. Pretty well everything is flowering enthusiastically, strelitzia straining to fly, red ericas, proteas of every hue, the purple blooms of the keurboom (tree) emitting a heady scent. The guinea-fowl, perhaps the stupidest bird in this region, peck away at the grass; a mongoose comes out for a swift and sinuous inspection.

We went on a good walk up the mountain from the garden, into the peace of Cecilia Forest, a peace which is about to end, as the envirofascists bark-strip the eucalyptus and other "aliens" and tar their flesh. Many are dead or dying and bark lies thick on the ground. Others have already been logged. The declared aim is, as one of the more extreme "conservation" groups puts it "to rid our nation of all invasive aliens". South Africa, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Just up the road from my house, the poplars surrounding the Noordhoek common were scythed down almost overnight, to the horror of incredulous locals. It seems the environazis want to create a museum to the distant past, when the Khoisan roamed the scrub and vast beaches, without a scrap of shade. The snag is that this is a metropolis of 3 million people, not a giant nature reserve. Dunno how concrete fits into this "vision". Petitions are now being drawn up, but the Parks officials are a merciless and literal-minded tribe.

Conservation here seems to be mainly about killing things. Already the tahrs, shy Himalayan mountain goats, aliens without passports, have been exterminated by sharpshooters. Next the fallow deer, also foreigners, though the parks death squads won't be involved; they are being relocated, mainly because there is only so much the people of Cape Town will tolerate.

The last vestiges of the colonisation of the environment by everyone from the Dutch to the Brits (and Cecil Rhodes in particular) are not yet threatened: the great oaks of Newland Forest and Government Avenue -- and, indeed, as can be seen, Kirstenbosch -- with their thriving population of grey squirrels that shamelessly panhandle the tourists for nuts. Lazy little sods. Still, they wouldn't dare -- I think.


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