The Nature of Ingenuity


By David Banks, Managing Director, TNC Africa

I awake to the sound of the first short rains of November dripping off the thatch. The guinea fowl are chattering and a Hadada Ibis noisily plunks down on the roof. It’s time to get up. After months of drought, the land is awakening. Pajama lilies burst forth on the hillsides and the animals have a different energy, smelling new green shoots in their savanna kitchen.

I’m sitting on an escarpment in Kenya, looking across to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, a wildlife refuge that TNC helped protect. With the clear fresh air you can see the high peaks of the Mathews Range at the core of the Namunyak Conservancy. The land ahead of me makes up the expanding footprint of the Northern Rangelands Trust.

The landscape is very wild. I see little human geometry—no square scars or straight lines. The spirit of this place sings wildness. Honing strategy and focusing priorities will always be essential, but we must not lose touch with the spiritual and physical importance of wild places.

Most of us now worry about Africa, its people and its wildlife. To me they are intricately linked. And it’s scary to think Africa’s population will rise from 1 to 4 billion people during my son’s lifetime. Consumption will follow. In one generation, we could watch these wild places dissolve.

It’s crunch time. We have no more than 50 years to get it right. But looking out from this spot, I feel hopeful for the still pristine waters of Lake Tanganyika; for Zambia’s big protected areas; for Gabon’s densely forested and undammed Ogooué River Basin; for wild places important to both people and wildlife.

I can see it now. I can hear its song. With your help, I have great hope the song lines of wild places will endure forever.

Read more in our 2013 Year in Review.