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Following the Flight of The Bird:

Two orphaned baby baboons undergoing rehabilitation enjoying their time spent in the wilderness at the gorge: (photo: Lynette Johnson)

The spirit of man is nomad, his blood bedouin, and love is the aboriginal tracker on the faded desert spoor of his lost self; and so I came to live my life not by conscious plan or pre-arranged design but as someone following the flight of a bird.

Laurens Van der Post   


Humanity’s search for self-knowledge has continued as we progress along the new millennium.

We ask questions about how to lead a more meaningful existence. Some of us travel to far away lands, exploring foreign cultures on the road to recovering an inner self.

Others look for life’s answers in the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao-te Ching, the Bible or the Talmud. This search speaks of a universal need, an awakening.

This blog is an unusual one; it describes an internal awakening: I discovered a lost part of the self during my journey into the world of the Chacma Baboon, the Vervet Monkey and the natural environment we share.

The only words that come close to describing this lost part is to name it the "inner primate".

Following the flight of the bird can be compared to following our inner truth; living life as authentically as possible.

Do you feel that your life is true to who you are – that it expresses your centre, your unique purpose for being on earth?

Or do you feel that your life has been directed by the expectations of others, society, family etc.?

The gorge at the DPG where I commune with the wild troop at full moon:

Full moon on the 5th May rendered the thick forest clear enough to walk through towards the gorge. And once again I came across our resident wild baboon troop sitting on top of the rock formations at the highest point, one of their regular sleeping places. Upon seeing me arrive on the other side, they started to vocalise in unison - a mob grunting that increased in volume. How could I resist comfort grunting in return?

As we spoke to each other in the night, as if affirming the sacred presence of the other, I was struck by the primal drive deep inside me - a feeling of coming home. A wordless knowing that points to our relationship to other primates, and what we have lost about our human selves in the self induced process of separating from the rest of nature.     

 Recalling the first time I observed this inner voice, way back in 1998 while releasing a baby baboon into a wild troop, it struck me how that experience has changed the direction of my life from a path that followed what others expected to one that has over time become in synch with the authentic self.     
Above: Karin releasing an orphaned baby into a wild troop.

The process of rehabilitation of related primates -  at times -  requires the rehabilitator to act as surrogate mother in order to be accepted into the troop and direct the process in the best way. Simultaneously, these wild primates need to understand the potential darkness in humans, ensuring they do not come to generalise about all humans, and assume they are all "safe". Baboons know people as individuals. A well adjusted baboon exposed to the lessons of life in the wild will learn to differentiate between those who are kind and those who are not.

It is important to understand the distinction between rehabilitating a primate and rehabilitating a species that is unrelated to humans (leopard for example) as our close relationship to other primates, and the access we have to communicating directly, is an aspect that cannot be ignored during this process.

"My mind’s forest had formed new paths, heading towards a profound new worldview. Near a small town called Naboomspruit in 1998 where I’d been introducing my foster baboon infant - Gismo - to a troop of 17 Chacma baboons on a private reserve named Mosdene, something internal had stirred and woken up. Admittedly, it was a personal journey. One that life had blessed me in particular with, but it spoke of much more, offering a unique glimpse into our place within the rest of nature. More importantly, it revealed what we’d lost and how to retrieve it."

Karin Saks - from the book: Life With Darwin.