Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Conference Scene

Bird sounds fill the air. Two dancers nod their heads like hornbills and carry wooden beaks on their noses as they move across the stage.
A “kudu” arrives. The “kudu” is a male dancer who holds spiral horns on his head while another male dancer bends over and holds on to him.
Male and female “warthogs” appear. The “warthogs” have curved white horns and make jerky movements.
“Whoop” sounds and bird chirps fill the auditorium.
A “hyena” with white round ears slinks out of the curtain.
A man skateboards across the stage with “wings” on his arms.
A man carrying a “baby” is followed by the rest of his “baboon” troop. The “baboons” walk and groom one another.
A “giraffe” strides across the stage. The “giraffe” is a woman who sits on a man’s shoulders while another man forms its rear. Two giraffes drink and entwine necks.
An “elephant” with big white fabric ears appears. The “elephant tusks” are open basket-like objects that fit over a man’s arms.
A “crocodile” crawls across the stage.
A “hornbill” follows. A kudu drinks.
Men with cattle arrive. The men crack whips.

This was how the Opening Ceremony of the Fifth World Parks Congress, September 7-17, 2003 Durban, South Africa began. It was sponsored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Her Majesty, Queen Noor of Jordan took the podium and described how fences were removed in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to create Great Limpopo Park. Its purpose- to protect migration paths for Africa’s wild animals. Queen Noor then added Nelson Mandela’s comments. (He was leader of the fight against apartheid in South Africa, who became the country’s president, and later married a woman from Mozambique.) “Nelson Mandela said that the transfer of elephants to Mozambique was payment for his bride,” said Queen Noor, “Although some elephants try to return, we hope they honor Mr. Mandela’s bride price.”

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