“White rhinos are not dangerous.” These are the words our guide said as our group of trekkers set out to walk across the savannah grasslands at Lewa Downs in Kenya. Over 65,000 acres lie within an electrified fence that protects the animals. I believed our guide’s words because he is Kenyan, he has worked on the Maasai Mara, and because our group of four was following a security guard with a rifle slung over his shoulder and 4 silver bullets reflected the sun shining on his belt.
This part of Kenya, seven miles from the thin strip of runway where our 15-seat aircraft landed yesterday afternoon, is a vast expanse of wonder. The first bird I spotted was a European white stork with half black wings that spanned six feet. Reticulated giraffes stared into my eyes as our Land Cruiser paused before them, and a Defassa waterbuck peered over the wire grasses, his horns curving skyward. Herds of zebras galloped away as we neared their dry water hole.
The loudest sounds I heard were the chirps of weaver birds and peacock-hued Superb starlings. Occasionally the winds blew through the yellow bark acacias, and the whoosh drowned out the bird song. Our walk led us within 20 meters of four white rhinos, and a baby rhino our guide said was born two months ago. They raised their heads from grazing to observe our movements, and then returned to their morning meal.
There is balance here in nature, a flowing ecosystem that seems to function with respect between animal and human. Perhaps it is because the Maasai walk past the animals daily on the Lewa Nature Conservancy, and there is no harm done. In his book, The Great Work, Thomas Berry wrote: “The orientation toward the natural world should be understood in relation to all human activities… We need to move from our human-centered to an earth-centered norm of reality and value. Only in this way can we fulfill our human role within the functioning of the planet we live on.” On this savannah, with elephants, silver jackals, giraffes, and white rhinos, I am enamored with what I learn of the natural world. My muscles relax in the crawling of time, and I remember to offer thanks for harmony with all of life.
Our morning walk took us along paths where elephants, impalas, ostriches, lions, and gazelles had traveled the day and night before. The faintest footprint in the black cotton dirt was the elephant’s. The giant shadow of the passing herd was barely visible in the dust, their steps so soft. May we all be as conscious of our footprints on our Earth and tread lightly with respect for every being.