"Of silk and sand" by J. du P. Bothma

The origin, life and times of the lion and leopard

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The vast expanse of the sky reduces the existence of man to an infinitesimal speck in the universe. When sitting around a camp fire on a silent night under a myriad of stars and seeing the golden shadows of lions or a leopard suddenly appearing on the ancient, red Kalahari sands in the pale light of the moon to glide past like silk flowing over the deep red sands, it is inescapable to agree with the deep truth of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau’s words about life on Earth when he wrote: “However long your stay [. . .] and whatever happens during it, the most important thing is that from time to time you feel life’s sweet caress.” There will undoubtedly be failures on your way, but they should be used as steppingstones for the next successful step instead of as fonts of despair. Then one’s life becomes a long and unknown journey which starts with the first uncertain step, but eventually creates memories which last forever.

My research on the wildlife of Africa, which stemmed from a lifetime of interest in leopards and lions and culminated in participation in the pursuit of the Shayamanzi dream, have created precious memories and a deep admiration for these large cats which have survived so many pressures of the modern world. My experiences are recounted here as a font of knowledge and understanding of two of the greatest creatures with which I have been fortunate to spend my life. The ultimate privilege was to become involved in the Shayamanzi Dream of the Parsons family and could contribute to a meaningful programme, which has opened a window to the mysteries of the natural world of Africa and it all started when Earth was formed some 4.6 billion years ago.