In celebration of our wedding anniversary, we were fortunate to spend time at a reserve in the Kamdeboo near Graaff Reinet. Two decades ago, the land was eroded by overgrazing and most wildlife had disappeared from the famous Kamdeboo plains, where once herds of springbok kicked up dust clouds visible across the plains. Today, you can stand on top of the Kamdeboo mountains and again watch springbok and even elephant roam as they once did centuries ago. This, together with the return of buffalo, rhino, lion, cheetah and many antelope species, is a testimony to the visionaries who could see a different reality decades ago.
What is emerging as early signs of a conservation turnaround, is as a result of the dreams of visionaries, the subsequent investment and dedication and above all, their long view and patience. In order to establish a new game reserve, it required the land to lie fallow for a decade. Only after the land recovered, could wildlife be restored, one small step at a time. At this stage, successful breeding of lions and cheetah mean that some animals must be replaced so that the genetic pool remains healthy. Setbacks, like the recent, long drought, are also part of the challenge. In fact, it seems that there is little that the conservationist can directly control. Their job is to create the environment, bring back the wildlife and then to wait for nature to unfold.
Admirably they have further dreams like restoring wild dog to an area called Wild Dog Valley, to attract vultures to Aasvoëlkop (Vulture Hill) and to create a Kamdeboo corridor by linking several reserves in the area.
The Kamdeboo is just one area of early conservation success. I salute the efforts of conservationists in South Africa – it’s one of our success stories that’s not spoken about enough. The vast areas of untouched or reclaimed nature conservation areas in South Africa are a treasure for our future and will probably only get rightful recognition generations from now. The intangible value of these natural areas will become apparent in the future.
I imagine that to have stood on that neglected land and dreamt of restoring the area to its former glory must have taken enormous courage and vision, but above all, the ability and willingness to be patient. Waiting for bush to grow back is not only a lifetime commitment but an acceptance that the full result may only be seen by future generations. There is also the trade-off between making money too quickly and protecting the environment for the long run.
It occurred to me that financial planning is not unlike conservation. We also require vision to bring our future in focus. We also require extraordinary emphasis on the long run to see the result of our vision unfold. Our portfolios also require pruning and re-balancing from time to time. Above all, success requires the same kind of patience from us that is asked of conservationists. It’s the small incremental movement that secures future success. There will be setbacks, like pandemics and recessions, and much about investment outcomes are not within our control either.
We will do well to remind ourselves of these conservation principles when we judge our current financial positions relative to our planning. Above all, we will do well to continue with patience.