Saving our Big Five from becoming a memory on a banknote

 
 
 

The Big Five are iconic. More than just the animals on our banknotes, they are a quintessential part of our heritage. While tourists flock to South Africa to spot lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, and Cape buffalos in the wild, Jackie Badenhorst was lucky enough to see them every day. Her encounters as a field guide were nothing short of spectacular. Eager to preserve her experiences, she turned to photography. “It was a natural progression for me to pick up the camera and start photographing the beauty around me,” Badenhorst says. But soon, what she saw in person and through the lens of her camera turned ugly.

Beyond every picture-perfect depiction of our Big Five was a harsh reality. Our Big Five are losing their lives at the hands of poachers. “What began as a creative journey became one of necessity and purpose,” Badenhorst says. The horror of how our wildlife were being treated and killed compelled her to act further. “When I saw how animals were being poached, I couldn’t stay silent,” Badenhorst says. Speaking out wasn’t enough – she had to show people the extent of the violence. Not all her images may be what people want to see, but it’s what we need to face up to. “It’s really sad that people lose sight of the damage that we are causing to the environment,” Badenhorst says. “We forget that we need to protect wildlife populations.”

The conservationist is now dedicated to reminding people of our national treasures through her photography. “I hope when people see my work they fall in love with these animals just as much as I have,” Badenhorst says. Her images inspire action to preserve what’s most precious to us. The war against poaching is a long and difficult one. By generating awareness and appreciating our wildlife, we can contribute to the fight. But if we ignore what’s really happening to the Big Five and take their survival for granted, we may soon have nothing left to take pride in. “South Africa has some of the most beautiful landscapes and animals,” Badenhorst says. “We need to make sure that that is something that can never be lost.”