'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Group Areas Act, 2008

The higher gardening in South Africa seems convulsed by a campaign to eradicate 'alien' flora and populate 'native' species in woods and gardens. My land management friends tell me this is a project doomed to failure, but in a country with a history like South Africa's, it's difficult not to see this approach as a metaphor.
Up on the Wild West Coast at Lambert's Bay, next door to 'Potato World' (incredibly, not a starch-related theme park for the couch-bound but a chip factory - it seems that when the Atlantic fishery got all fished out they diversified into the other half of the fish and chip market), a colony of 16,000 gannets sits atop a quarter-mile-square slab of guano. Things turned ugly a while back when a colony of seals arrived in search of food (a result of the same ecological pressure that caused the fishermen to move in on the potatoes), worked out that what fish there were to be found were inside the gannets and promptly started eating the seabirds. We heard all this over a beer with a tanned and grizzled gannet-warden in the bar of the Lambert's Bay Hotel. His solution to the competition-for-resources problem was admirably simple: the gannets were confined to their white guano-stained slab; the seals to their wave-darkened promontory rocks. A wide no-creature's land was decreed between the two groups and patroled by conservationists. Any seal straying into this area was deterred with extreme prejudice and deported back to its rocky homeland. The DMZ was then fumigated to remove the enticing odour of seal and the status quo preserved. The day we were there both communities seemed quite content with their separate developments. Some things don't change.

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