When you start to become aware how much damage humans have done to planet Earth, it’s almost hard to figure out why we’re still allowed to be here. The increasing evidence presented through books like Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, and documentaries like ‘David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet’ unfortunately shows how little consideration we’ve given to the world around us.
We keep dogs as pets, smile at videos of Christian the Lion and adoringly share photos of sleeping otters, while simultaneously keeping fish in disease ridden cages, and hunting for weekend entertainment. It’s part of life. But then so were so many things we look back on in shame. As humans evolve, so does our understanding of what it means to be human. And while some might roll their eyes and consider animal rights or veganism a hype, I see learning these lessons as an opportunity to activate Maya Angelou’s great lines:
“Now that I know better, I do better.”
But how to reverse some of the damage that’s already been done?
In a new documentary, ‘The Boy From The Wild’, Peter Meyer shares what he witnessed of human and animal collaboration, growing up in South Africa. On a man-made space, a dream of his father’s, they worked to build a home which gave back to safari animals some of what had been taken.
“When my father created the Game Reserve, we naturally wanted it to be home for us but also the animals. And for the animals we mean a home for them to be free, to be able to roam and be safe in a natural environment, not a Zoo. In a place like that when you deal with Wildlife it is important to be mindful that they will require space, own their territory, protect their offspring, defend themselves etc and often as visitors people can forget that.” – Peter Meyer
I loved being able to get a sense of the space your father wanted to create for the animals. In a reserve like this, what do you do about protecting the animals from predators within the space (if anything)?
Well one of the main things we did was separate key predators in the beginning in large open space enclosures in order not to have the wildlife killed, but very soon into the project that was not what my father wanted so he moved key predators like lions, crocodiles and hippos out of the game reserve to other game reserves which were considerably larger. My father brought wildlife in and the last thing he wanted was them being killed. We were a small game reserve in comparison to others.
What does it mean to you to be able to build the legacy of your father – what exactly do you think that is?
He was a successful man and loved by many, not because of his success but because of what he gave and how he presented himself. He gave in so many different ways, he started by building homes on a large scale in the UK to then Offices etc in the commercial world and then created home for wildlife. He would give love, kindness, wisdom and protection not only to his family but to others too. He put others before himself and that is why when he passed I wanted to create a legacy that shows that and in the world of conservation, a legacy towards that also. If your back was against the wall he was the kind to put himself between it and not only support but push you off it. His lessons were not only by being generous and kind to others but to do it through learning, though experience, and to know how to earn for what you get, it isn’t just given.
“He was a successful man… loved by many, not because of his success but because of what he gave”
The Boy from the Wild is available on Apple TV, and the Book is available at major book retailers.