Former Kruger trail ranger Johan Fourie is bubbling over with inspiring and eye-opening tales from the field. His two new Afrikaans books combine the high drama of environmental crime with the wondrous setting of our wilderness areas. By Arnold Ras
Talking to author Johan Fourie, his passion and drive to educate South Africans about the world of environmental crime is as clear as daylight. After a long career as a SANParks employee and trail guide in the Kruger National Park, Johan is now set on sharing his knowledge and experiences with SA’s youth. His goal is to make a difference by educating the next generation.
With three books already on the shelf, Johan will soon launch two new titles, A luta continua and Alternatief, which focus on poaching and alternative medicine. Up for grabs is a copy of each of his new books. Enter below!
Could you give us a short introduction for A luta continua and Alternatief?
“A luta continua” is a slogan which I took from the Mozambican freedom fight. Used by Samora Machel [Mozambican military commander and politician], it means “the battle continues”. I see the battle of anti-poaching fighters continuing – this is one war that is not likely to be won in a hurry. The forces participating are just too strong. We must be prepared for an ongoing struggle.
Alternatief is about the use and knowledge of alternative medicine in our modern world. Big pharmaceutical companies dominate the industry and money drives the creation of chemical and medicinal substances. The book is about introducing the reader to the concept of alternative medicine, the knowledge that it does exist, and how to use it.
What makes your approach to environmental crime different?
It’s very much based on facts, my personal experiences and the experiences of my SANParks colleagues. I worked for SANParks for 20 years; this background and those experiences shared with me have provided me with great knowledge. Environmental crime is a different level of crime, and because I’m an environmental educator at heart, I wanted to make people aware of how they can play a role in combatting these crimes. I educate through my books.
How do you apply your bush knowledge in your writing?
Hands on. For instance, in A luta continua I describe a close encounter with a rhino that is based on personal experience. It happened once that I stumbled upon a rhino and had to hide behind a tree. Between myself and the rhino was only that tree – I had to wait it out until the big guy decided it was time to leave. These real experiences I build into a fictional plot. What people read is the truth; it contains guidelines for surviving in a wilderness situation. People that read the book will know this is how I dealt with, for example, a lion charge.
Talking of applying bush knowledge, the second book in the series [Kodenaam Tau] is very much based on a Kalahari experience: how to survive in the Kalahari if you have nothing with you – that’s what the characters have to do. Their experiences and the advice given comes from one of the greatest Kalahari experts, Vet Piet Kleinman, a famous Bushman tracker who taught me these things.
In the case of Alternatief, it is about natural medicines and their application, for instance using a mud pack to stop itching and swelling induced by plants.
Poaching is a grim topic. What inspires you to stay positive?
That’s a difficult one. The thing is, if you don’t remain positive, what’s the alternative? It’s a collapse of everything around us. It’s that sense of survival within us that drives us on different levels, so we refuse to give up.
When I was approached by someone with access to rhino horn, I was totally shocked.
– Johan Fourie
What were some of the biggest challenges writing the latest books?
I have a neurological condition called Parkinson’s disease. The physical act of writing has become difficult. I battle to write – my handwriting is so bad, I can’t read it myself. Writing on a computer has become equally difficult because of the coordination required. I write a little bit slower than previously. My biggest challenge is being able to produce at the rate at which I would like to.
How does wildlife crime affect society at large?
If we look at rhino poaching, for a start, people from all walks of life get involved like you wouldn’t believe. People that we share our day-to-day lives with are part of poaching rings. When I was approached by someone with access to rhino horn, I was totally shocked. This makes us aware that poachers are part of our societal structures – it could be your neighbour, somebody in your workplace, they’re everywhere. By being alert, you could make a difference.
WIN! WIN! WIN!
We are giving away a copy of Alternatief and A luta continua worth R175 each. To stand a chance to win, email the answer to our question below to [email protected] (subject line: Johan Fourie) before 18 June 2017. Remember to include your full names, postal address and contact details. Wild will randomly select the winners. Winners will be notified via email.
Question: What does “A luta continua” mean?
Don’t want to wait until Alternatief and A luta continua are available in bookstores? Pre-order your copy online, or send an email to Tertia Swart on [email protected] for more information. Account details: Absa, Naledi (J. Coetzee), 4067431961. Email your proof of payment to Tertia and remember to include your postal address. Books will be posted with a tracking number.