“I believe that humanity is suffering from a great separation sickness, a real disconnect from nature.” ~ Anna Breytenbach
What would it be like to be able to communicate with other animals on this planet? With two-thirds of all nonhuman animal life already destroyed by us, we are in need of redemption to save them and ourselves.
In order to speak to us, animals usually have to overcome a lot of trauma. Imagine being a Wisconsin woodland creature, having watched your young fawns or best friend shot in front of you. Imagine watching your mother bear run by packs of dogs and shot out of a tree, never to return to help you survive your first winter. Imagine walking along the creek in winter to find a young beaver in a trap, struggling to breathe and stay above the waterline, or a fox dying in a steel jaw trap.
Trust is the basis of all relationships. When one has been hurt, it takes a lot to forgive and trust again. But animals are faced with that hurt and challenge all the time.
An ex-policeman, Jurg Olsen, and his wife, Karen, set up the Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa in 2005, rescuing big cats often sold off to canned hunts by petting zoos.
Jurg writes, “Africa’s lions have virtually no more space left due to human invasion into their territories.
“Adding to this the huge amount of poaching that is taking place internationally and the black market trade in predator species body parts and you have a no-win situation for any big cat anywhere in the world.
“Researchers have estimated that lions will be extinct in the wild in Africa in the next 20 years, all tiger subspecies will be extinct within 15 years, several leopard species have only a few hundred left in the wild and jaguar numbers have dwindled from approximately 10,000 to less than 5,000 in the wild in a very short space of time. In the U.S. pumas are seen as problem animals and killed on sight and cheetahs are considered vermin by Namibian farmers.”
The Olsens rescued a black leopard named Diablo from a European zoo where he had been abused. For six months the leopard did not leave his night shelter and snarled at everyone. Jurg survived one encounter with the cat and one bite put him in hospital for a week.
Anna Breytenbach lives in South Africa and has devoted her life to interspecies communication. She believes that by understanding animals more deeply, we can begin to heal ourselves. She sends pictures and thoughts to animals and receives detailed information from them in return.
Jurg was extremely skeptical that an animal communicator could make any difference for this dangerous and hostile big cat. He said, “I honestly cannot believe that an animal can talk to a human.”
In this beautiful true story, Breytenbach was called out of desperation.
They made sure she had no information about Diablo’s past.
The minute the leopard saw her, he calmed down.
Breytenbach looked at the leopard and listened intently and then told Jurg that the cat had been conditioned by an unfortunate past and did not want anything to do with humans.
“He is immensely powerful and not just physically … but immensely powerful with wisdom and energetic presence and personality far bigger than anyone has ever appreciated about him before — and he commands a certain amount of respect for that. Not in a needy way but by virtue of who he is as a being,” Breytenbach said.
The animal communicator said that he had a very particular concern about his name — he did not like the association with the darkness, the blackness, the diabolical — and he wanted the name changed.
She then said that when asking about his past, “He expressed concern about two young cubs that were next to him. He is asking what happened to them with a great sense of care and concern.”
Jurg and Karen were stunned because they had forgotten, in the excitement and turmoil of moving Diablo, that there had been two young leopard cubs housed next to him.
There was no way for Breytenbach to know that except by communicating with the cat, as even they had forgotten about it.
Breytenbach assured the cat that nothing was expected of him at the sanctuary, and said it gave him a huge sense of relief.
For the first time, that very afternoon, the leopard walked out of his night space to explore the outer large enclosure.
Jurg decided to rename the leopard “Spirit.”
He felt he had nothing to lose by telling the leopard verbally that the two young cubs were safe. And then he said, “Wow — you are so beautiful.” The cat answered him with a short grunt 19 times. For the first time Jurg felt at ease with him, and that the cat was relaxed. “I don’t know what it felt like for him, but for me it was the most amazing moment,” Jurg said.
Breytenbach came back later that day to check up on Spirit and asked him about the communication with Jurg. Spirit told her that it was the first time that someone had directly expressed verbal appreciation for who he really is, not how they see him to be … and it really surprised him.
She said he is so relieved that nothing is being demanded of him. When he was grunting back, he was saying, “Thank you.”
Jurg said, ”It changed my whole life.”
He took Breytenbach’s communication workshop and uses those skills with all of the animals in their care.
The House Appropriations bill just emerged with a rider banning the Endangered Species Act from protecting wolves in the lower 48. The Senate will likely consider a similar measure. Contact your representatives and senators to oppose the measure. Tammy Baldwin, up for re-election, especially needs to hear from you. Please flood her offices with calls against delisting wolves.
Sign petitions to save Yellowstone grizzlies here.
More powerful, call your senators, representatives and the president and tell them to protect Yellowstone bears.
This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on July 16, 2017.