Friday, September 12, 2008

Greg Mitchell - Unsung Hero

Unsung Hero, Greg Mitchell - Enkosini co-owner

Greg Mitchell or 'Mitch' could be described as a mild mannered, soft spoken gentleman, who uses his diplomacy and people skills to help the cause of conservation. Of course if anyone described him as that he would probably brow beat them to death with his handgun!

Mitch used to be a sergeant in the South African Army, with stints in Angola and it shows. If Mitch tells you to jump you don't say 'How high' you say 'Off which Cliff?'. Given the choice between running into a bush fire and Mitch's wrath I'll take the bush fire any day. If diplomacy means shouting and swearing a lot then he would be president of the country. He is a self confessed people hater - it doesn't matter who.

Having said all that his passion for conservation is overwhelming and infectious. He used to work with lions (what else!) and was a vigorous campaigner against canned hunting. Enkosini was originally a lion sanctuary but because of his outspoken views he rubbed up too many people who had money to burn (or rather bribe people). The lions he was protecting were taken away from him under the pretence that Enkosini was an unfit environment - something that was totally untrue. He is still hopeful of seeing his lions again - assuming they have not been sold to the highest bidder.

Now he and his partner Kelcey are trying to turn Enkosini into a mountain game reserve where conservation volunteers can come and work, do hikes and horse back riding amongst wildlife and spectacular scenery. Unfortunately the current political situation in South Africa is making this dream virtually impossible. Already mining interests have come to check if there are any minerals worth extracting (thankfully there weren't). At any time the government might decide to do a compulsory purchase of the land based on farm valuation, not the potentially more valuable eco-tourism. If that happens all the time and money that they have ploughed into the place will have been for nothing. With any luck the place will be completed and they can finally start stocking it with game.

One other thing about Mitch. He may be as hard as nails but when it comes to animals he's soft as shite. My residing memory of him will not be the manic roaring at people to put out fires but him running around the grounds of his house shouting 'here wicky wicky' so he can get his beloved vervet monkeys in to the safety of his house.

Greg Mitchell, a peoples man - um, no! A conservation hero - definitely.

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