A few days ago the thought struck me that humans are the most connected species on the planet. And by far the most sophisticated communicators. This is a rather large claim when you consider the incredible communication skills animals have so allow me to explain.

Lions are intensely territorial animals. As such they have specially shaped vocal chords which allow them to roar and thereby advertise their position and boundaries. Despite this they are limited to hearing and being heard by other lions up to 10km away. Elephants have specialised cells packed into their feet and trunks that allow them to pick up vibrations made by the low rumbling of other elephants relatively far from their position. This is incredible and yet it still limits them to a radius of 15km. Essentially they’re only really aware of what is happening in their immediate vicinity.

A Majingilane male lion roars on a winter morning. Lions in general tend to avoid conflict as much as possible as an injury can spell death and thus use their far reaching voices to advertise their position and their territorial boundaries.

Elephants communicate with trumpets, squeaks, rumbles as well as some noises too low for the human ear to pick up. They pick up these rumblings in specialised cells packed in their feet and the tips of their trunks.

You may argue that birds can fly and communicate with other birds across the globe. This is true but the migratory visitors currently inhabiting Londolozi will only learn what’s been happening in Europe or north Africa when they reach there in the next month or so and by that time the news will be six months old.

steppe eagle

A Steppe Eagle, one of the Palaearctic summer migrants in South Africa. In March and April, these birds leave Londolozi and embark on a long return trip to Asia.

Humans on the other hand live in a significantly ‘smaller’ world. When something happens on Wall Street, Alaska (literally the furthest point from us in South Africa) or the moon, we can know in a matter of seconds. Despite time zones and the physical size of planet earth, we live in a virtual global realtime news feed.

The internet has literally changed our reality.

In 1993 there were only 623 websites on the internet. Today more than 100 000 domain names are registered every single day. A few decades ago, we relied on the postal service. Today we send emails. 204 million of them every minute to be exact.

My question is, has it stolen our peace or has it given us the opportunity to become more connected?

Researchers say that this new rate of communication has weakened our attention spans and increased our stress levels. We tend to panic about events happening in far flung places unlikely to actually impact us and that every day we spend more time glued to our devices. In China, there are even camps now where people can check themselves in for internet addiction.

A Londolozi ranger films a leopard on game drive as it strolls past another vehicle on a territorial patrol. The use of devices such as cell phones on safari has risen significantly in the last few years, allowing people to capture and share their experiences more easily.

I like to think of the rise of the internet as a huge positive though. Rather as something we can use to our advantage and for good. Despite the above impacts all being true, it has also created communities where none could exist before. Friends and family can stay in touch despite vast geological distances and people can learn about and rally around issues that they believe strongly in. Information and experience can be shared and virtually lived. We can now learn from each other faster, make shifts at a global level quicker and ultimately make new decisions about how we choose to live and relate as a species.

Thirty years ago you would have either had to learn about Londolozi by word of mouth or read about it in a magazine. If you wanted to know what was happening with the Sparta Pride, you would have had to visit. Londolozi could have landed on a conservation philosophy with great potential for other game reserves and yet it would slipped by unnoticed. Now, people from all over the world can be connected to and have an experience of this wilderness from their very own homes at any moment they choose. If you live in the middle of a bustling metropolis with limited or no access to wilderness, you’re still able to tap into the energy of a place like Londolozi in just a couple of clicks on a device.

Sparta pride early days

A group of guests watch the Sparta Pride in the early days of Londolozi. Before the arrival of the internet, there would have been no other way for them to get an update on these lion’s movements.

A group of guests watching the Sparta Pride in the present day. With digital camera technology nowadays, guests can now share their experience with the rest of the world from the safari vehicle.

It allows you to get a taste of the Londolozi experience before you get here and savour it long after you’re gone. Our understandings of time and space have broadened; connection now has possibility that extends beyond a face to face meeting with someone at a specific time and place.

Essentially what the technology has allowed us is to create a global family connected to nature through a series of invisible threads.

A Londolozi guest films the incredible sighting of lions killing a buffalo off the Varty Camp deck. With the rise of internet this sighting can be shared to social media from the wilderness instantly, allowing people to connect to it virtually in real time.

The importance has become so apparent that organisations such as the Good Work Foundation are setting up Digital Learning Centers in rural communities allowing the people living there to access the internet and technology and engage in this new world. Imagine the children that maybe can’t travel the world but can now experience the Amazon or Mount Everest or the Antarctic. In amongst them may be the next great conservationist. It opens up a world of possibilities for those with less power to have greater influence. Possibilities that I think we haven’t even begun to wrap our heads around yet.

Two of the young learners play on an ipad at the Digital Learning Center in Hazeyview. These children are learning important skills and are being giving access to world class education through modern technology.

Spook Sithole hooks up to the internet despite being in ‘the middle of nowhere’. Although he was born into a generation prior to the rise of the internet, he has gained the skills to engage in this new modern reality.

The speed at which we now operate, volume of information we’re hit with daily and diversity of news we have to digest may be making our lives more difficult in some ways. Our hope though is that via whatever medium you choose, the internet is now giving you a portal to the wilderness. And that from the comfort of your bed you can access a bit of this peace and beauty. There’s no doubt that the world we’re living in is changing rapidly, the question is how can we make the best of it?

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Amy Attenborough

Media Team

Amy has a rich field-guiding history, having spent time at both Phinda and Ngala Game Reserves. This diversity of past guiding locations brought her an intimate understanding of different biomes across South Africa, and she immediately began making a name for herself as ...

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9 Comments

on Connection at our Fingertips

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Peggy
Guest

Thank you, Amy. You’ve nailed it as far as man and technology are concerned. In somany respects it is overpowering humanity and needs to be kept in check on an individual basis. But the positives are fantastic! How I wish our ancestors could have a glimpse at what has happened. Keep up the good articles!

Amy Attenborough

Thanks Peggy. It’s so true- can you imagine what our ancestors would think of the world we live in now! And can you imagine what we’ll be saying when we look back decades from now?..

Jeff Rodgers
Guest

Great article . . . and having gone on safaris for almost 20 years, clearly the internet represents a huge challenge for safari lodges. Upon arrival, what guest doesn’t ask ‘what is the WiFi password?’ Yet is it more important to see/hear/learn about elephants, termites & the rest of the critters . . . or check email and the latest headlines on CNN. We always encourage those traveling to the bush to disconnect as much as possible . . . and use all of the senses to truly experience Africa.

Amy Attenborough

Absolutely Jeff! We couldn’t agree with you more! The more you can switch off here and connect with the wilderness directly the better and then take advantage of the technology when you’re home to tap back into Londolozi and share the experience with friends..

Odie
Guest

Nice blog as always

Odie
Guest

The Sparta pride grab my attention those young males are West Street males?thank you

Phil Schultz
Guest

Amy, I was a varty camp guest May 2016 and have been reading the daily Londolozi blog almost daily since I planned that trip from far away Austin, TX…proof that humans are indeed the most connected species on the planet. I monitor the behaviors of the Tsalala pride and previously, the Matimba males I had the privilege of making the acquaintance of over a Kudu kill courtesy of a kill made by a lioness with two cubs one morning in late May 2016 through yours and others posts on this blog. Currently planning a return trip to Southern Africa for May 2018 with Londolozi an almost definite return visit. On a side note: have Austin wondered if your Attenborough name might be descended from another Attenborough that often narrates wildlife docs on the BBC. Have always enjoyed your blog entries

Sibu
Guest

Wonderful article !! The internet has indeed shaped the world massively, these days we can watch a live Game Drive from the comfort of our homes !! Thank you Amy.

Lea
Guest

Nice blog Amy. You are right when you say “wonder what we will think of the world” further down our road in life.

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