Fishing for a Better World

December 16, 2015

In Southern Africa, lies a 2.5 million square kilometers basin that extends into Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. This is where the Kalahari Desert is located, a semi-desert with huge tracts of excellent grazing after good rains. The Kalahari Bushman, also known as the San people, is the last remnant of the previously indigenous hunter-gatherer people in this part of world, where the human race is believed to have first begun.


They use a hunting technique called persistence hunting in which hunters use a combination of running, walking, and tracking to pursue prey to the point of exhaustion. While humans can sweat to reduce body heat, their quadrupedal prey would need to slow from a gallop in order to pant. This technique which has evolved 2 million years ago is thought to have been one of the earliest forms of human hunting before the discovery of hunting tools such as bows and arrows.



During the persistence hunt, the prey, such as a kudu (antelope), is not shot or speared from a distance, but simply run down in the midday heat. Depending on the specific conditions, hunters of the central Kalahari will chase a kudu for about two to five hours over 25 to 35 km in temperatures of about 40 to 42 °C. The hunter chases the kudu, which then runs away out of sight. By tracking it down at a fast running pace the hunter catches up with it before it has had enough time to rest in the shade. The animal is repeatedly chased and tracked down until it is too exhausted to continue running.  The hunter then kills it at close range with a spear.


A ritual will be performed by the hunter to express his gratitude to the kudu for providing him and his village with food. Before dealing the final death blow to the prey, he can feel its exhaustion from the chase as without guns and gunpowder, a native hunter, to be successful, must come close to his prey if he is to take away his life. Physical proximity is required and this closeness must also be emotional, empathically entering into proximity with the kudu’s ways of sensing and experiencing. This apprentices him to the animal he would kill, helping him track the prey down when footprints of the kudu cannot be found. One may wonder how we can feel the emotions and senses of an animal. In fact not only do we have this ability with animals, we were able to do it with plants too.


Many past ancient civilizations worshiped plants and tried to converse with them through rituals and other means. You would have heard of how growth of plants can be affected when they are exposed to our music. All these are examples that animals and plants can actually communicate with us. We live in and share the same world. It is no surprise that we used to speak a common language in the past. But as time went by, we lost touch with this link between us and our cohabitants. Perhaps we feel that it is not important to listen anymore in this modern era, and eventually our inner selves will be shut out too.


Immersing ourselves in nature can help us recover this lost ability of ours. You may not be able to feel the animals and plants immediately, but you can start by appreciating their existence and be grateful to them for making this world a beautiful place to live in. What will be a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon by the beach, listening to the waves? How peaceful will it be to stroll along a stream in the forest, with the sound of distant waterfall in the background? Pick up a hobby that allows you to indulge in the wonders of nature.