I have read the opinion piece by Rob Fryer about the Lamloch Farm development proposal wherein he identifies two major areas of concern: Firstly the emotive issue of the exploitation of ‘wild animals’ held in captivity, and secondly the negative effects that the proposed development would have on the ecology of the site.
Although he claims that the focus of his article is on the latter, he nevertheless writes some paragraphs on the former. Personally, I see little distinction between a ‘Wildlife Sanctuary’ and a ‘Game Farm’; both are areas where animals are held captive in relative security and can be observed by people who would not otherwise see them in their natural habitat. As to the moral dilemma and the semantics of whether the animals can be regarded as ‘wild animals’, that is a whole separate debate that I don’t want to get into here. Not that I don’t have a view, but doubtless so does everyone else.
I am more interested in the environmental issues. I have lived at Arabella Country Estate for nearly 20 years and I have no doubt that there was serious opposition from the environmental lobby before this development became a reality. I am certainly aware of the fierce opposition that accompanied the subsequent Phase Two application, and the hoops that any developer would have to jump through to pursue this. It seems to me that responsible developers more often than not become custodians of the environment, and even enhance what is otherwise of little value. This, I believe, is certainly true of Arabella.
The Bot River Lagoon is in a sorry state, covered in parts with filamentous algae and often smelling quite foul, yet the environmentalists would have us believe that this is an important ecological asset. Correctly managed this no doubt is true, but the likelihood of this, given the economic priorities, is not great. Similarly, would it be better to do nothing with the Lamloch property and allow it to become progressively more infested with alien plant species and in the words of Rob Fryer, “risk destroying sensitive and endangered ecosystems critical to the endemic fauna and flora”? That has a terrifying ring about it, but in the 20 years I have been driving past it, this piece of land has contributed little to my enjoyment of the area. I would love to see animals gracing the landscape, whether indigenous or not.
Maybe the type of interactive facility proposed would just be a whole lot better than a boring landscape of scrub fynbos and aliens. A man is proposing to spend a lot of money developing and enhancing the area to provide sanctuary to animals that might otherwise live in far worse places, if at all. He has done it quite successfully elsewhere, and there is no reason to believe that he is not a responsible environmentalist and lover of animals. He certainly isn’t doing it to make a quick buck. CapeNature is a responsible body and, personally, I am quite happy to accept the checks and balances that they impose when assessing an application such as this.
Doubtless this debate will go on, and hopefully, some middle ground will be found. Such that we can have a prestigious wildlife sanctuary/game farm on our doorstep that will give pleasure to locals and tourists – and won’t endanger the future of the planet.