You know the feeling? You hear a song for the first time in your life and it hits you so hard that tears start rolling before you know it. I've experienced it 3 or 4 times in my life. It happened to me when I heard the best love song ever: First time ever I saw your face from Roberta Flack.
Earlier this week I experienced something similar for the first time with a book. A friend gave it to me: The end of the game by Peter Beard - fourth print, 1988. When I held it in my hands, I immediately realized that this was something special. But it was only when I really took the time for it that it hit me.
And just a few pages was all it took. The photo of the elephant fetus I had seen before. But once again it touched me deeply – what a spectacular, divine image. Only seconds later I opened a spread, imaging 1,000 elephants on 1 photo. I did not know that it ever existed.
And so it goes on. Diary fragments interspersed with black and white images from the bush, presented in a way I never saw before. Hard, unfiltered. I see hunters, lions, vultures, danger, death and decay, heroism, beauty. The destruction of a world so magnificent and extraordinary – in a book so beautifully designed, like a great piece of music - perfection in print. And then the grand finale: 20 pages stuffed with aerial images of dead elephant: hundreds, in an endless series that can not leave anybody untouched.
The end of the game was first published in 1965, my birth year. Already then there were people that realised the white invasion of Africa meant destruction on such a massive scale that it was doubtful whether this could ever be stopped. That was then. Now we are more than 50 years ahead and the prospects are even more gloomy..
The content of the book touches me even more because I have experienced all this beauty myself – I still do every year during my expeditions in Namibia. With every elephant, lion or rhino that I encounter in the wild (I’m not talking national parks, game parks or whatever) I feel how vulnerable and fragile their lives are. That the fate of each and every one of these animals is seriously threatened. And that I might very well be one of the last human beings to experience something spectacular as this.
This book made me realize what I already knew, but just don’t want to know. And that is that the fight for conservation is a battle most probably already lost long ago.
The end of the game.
What a gift ..... thank you Mike Muizebelt!