A message from Hluhluwe

Jean and I recently travelled in South Africa, and this poem is about an unexpected experience in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. (pronounced ‘Schlewschlewie’)


A male and female Dung Beetles in Hluhluwe

Gazing down from the truck I was struck
by the frantic scene of resilient efficiency
comparing it to the fragility of our complexity,
the shaky financial structure that bought our flight
and the demanding technology that enabled it.
Our artificial elevation from rawness was stamped
in the deep tyre mark through the rhino’s midden.
A line drawn in a struggle we had long forgotten
-simple survival- exchanged for the daydream
of permanent advance by material growth,
soon to need resources of a world and a half.

Yet here was an ancient society built on shit
not casino banking or Global Markets
but a rhino’s territory boundary markers.
In the glistening fresh excreta a perfect ball of dung
evolved and revolved, as if developing life,
a task it would achieve as its artisan’s nursery.
The sphere rose from its socket, revealing its maker
perched on his front legs, the other four in motion.
This perfect construction had attracted a partner
a female dung beetle, who rode on the ball,
displaying response to her genes urgent call.
The recycling Scarabaeidae will outlast our pillage
but humanity’s future will be shackled to the heritage
of surviving on detritus from our profligate wastage.

Action in the rhino midden

Click on the images to enlarge them!


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