By guest Blogger, Ryan Sakinofsky.
My journey starts with me standing on the viewpoint looking out over the confluence of the Shashe River joining the Limpopo, separating South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe, you can almost see back in time to when animals and people lived in harmony. The history and culture of the area heavy in the air. It was then that I vowed that my first trip to this forgotten wonderland would certainly not be my last.
I came to the area to do work for Green Dogs Conservation and I certainly did not expect to fall in love with the people and the area in just a few short days. Driving north from Polokwane, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn, and being surrounded by a never-ending sea of green mopane was certainly something I had never experienced before. It was in stark contrast to the perfectly manicured gardens, enclosed by 10-foot walls in which I grew up. It was there that I was able to witness my first real African Sunset, a sight that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It is surreal to look out in almost any direction and know that the beauty of the wild mopane forest carries on for hundreds of kilometres without one having to encounter the border fence of a National Park.
From that viewpoint it brings joy to the soul to see that animals have safe passage into three different countries, where they can travel safely without having to encounter too many people. I was lucky to have Rox Brummer, the director of Green Dogs Conservation, share her boundless knowledge of the area and give me a crash course on conservation efforts in the region. It seemed impossible that poaching and retaliatory carnivore killings was happening in this haven. It was there, at 17 years old, that I decided my life would be dedicated to conservation.
I was fortunate to be able to study Animal, Plant, and Environmental Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. I found a passion, not only for Carnivore Conservation but for Behavioural Ecology, Animal Behaviour and Landscape Ecology. Through the University, I had complete access to all the journal articles and other material I could ever need to fuel my passion for conservation and ecology. It was only after I graduated my Honours degree that I realised how lucky I was to have all those resources at my fingertips.
I found out about The Mingati Wildlife Foundation from Antje Mouton and Martin Meyer. They told me that they want to make a revolutionary new foundation that shares resources, instead of keeping them closely guarded. The idea clicked with how I was feeling about people needing fair access to resources for any kind of research they are performing. Furthermore, they want to allow people to actively get involved in conservation efforts on the ground. A trip I feel that everyone needs to do to help them understand what the daily life of field ecologists and conservationists is like. Then the cherry for the top of the cake presented itself. They want to work in the Greater Mapungubwe Area. I personally feel that with the help of the public, Mingati can change the world, one day at a time.
Ryan has completed his Honors degree at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. His honors thesis was about the effectiveness of Livestock Guardian dogs in Limpopo and their role in Mitigating Human Wildlife Conflict through preventative livestock predation.
Ryan is a passionate environmentalist who is furthering his expertise in Animal behavior and dog training.