Jim Feely’s Role in Creating the iMfolozi Wilderness Area
We hereby wish to record and honour the direct link between the late Jim Feely and the iMfolozi Wilderness Area we are fighting so hard to protect from Ibutho Coal’s proposed Fuleni open cast coal mine.
When Ian Player was in charge of the iMfolozi Game Reserve back in the mid-1950s, Jim Feely joined the management team. He has been in the USA and arrived with an immense amount of American literature on wildlife management. Jim’s inquisitive mind and constant search for information resulted in him sourcing a wide range of publications, including a book by Reuben Trippensee that contained a document entitled The 11 Fundamental Principles of Wilderness.
By this stage Ian had a deep intuitive understanding of wilderness through his personal experiences in wild nature but he did not have a name for it. When he read this document he immediately realised how critically important it was to set aside wilderness areas in iMfolozi and at Lake St. Lucia. Though it was a long tough battle it was eventually won, opening up the way for wilderness trails for the public for the first time in the history of South Africa’s game reserves. Since then over 100 000 people have gone on a life-changing wilderness trail. Many have recently written letters to the Wilderness Leadership School expressing their gratitude for the experience of going on a Wilderness trail and outrage that the iMfolozi Wilderness Area is being threatened by the Fuleni open cast coal mine
In honour of Jim Feely and Gednezar Dladla who passed away last week and our dear friends Dr Ian Player and Magqubu Ntombela, we will not allow the legacy they left for future generations to be desecrated by the greed of Ibutho Coal and supporters in high places. This comes at a time when the extraction of coal has been shown to be the biggest contributor to climate change with the severe hardships it brings to communities like Fuleni whose sustainable livelihoods depend on a healthy environment. With growing support from the recently formed iMfolozi Communities and Wilderness Alliance (ICWA), we are steadfast in standing together in our opposition to the Fuleni coal mine. THIS MINE WILL NOT HAPPEN!!
TRIBUTES FOR JIM FEELY FROM FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES
The following tributes have been submitted by friends and colleagues who worked closely with Jim in the early days of conservation. All of these men played leading roles in conservation in SA and are still active in their 70s and 80s, a reflection of the passion the Wilderness stirs in the human soul:
I was very privileged to have known Jim. To me he was a great game ranger, wilderness ranger, wildlife enthusiast, naturalist, a scholar and researcher working with all reserve staff. He was not swayed by language or different ethnic groups.
Jim’s appointment as ranger to the Umfolozi Game Reserve in 1950’s was “a synchronistic event” – to quote Ian Player. Jim showed Ian Player the American wilderness fundamentals that set Ian off on a mission to get the Umfolozi wilderness area designated. This was a significant step forward in establishing wilderness conservation in South & Southern Africa. Jim also played a significant part in saving the White Rhino in the 1960s that, again, are under such great threat, this time from poaching.
Jim greatly influenced many young rangers, as he did me, along with the numerous people he took out on wilderness trails, including teenagers still at school, when he worked as a trail guide with the Wilderness Leadership School.
Jim was instrumental in setting up the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa in the 1970s and the Association still has the words he crafted in the manifesto. He was very concerned about the future South Africa’s protected areas and wilderness areas never fearing to question the way that they were being protected and managed.
We will miss his voice of reason and questioning. Having given his very best in the protection of the wilderness areas, the protected areas and the wildlife in our part of the world, Jim is now with other great game rangers and conservationists who gone before him.
I salute Mabekapanzi and Hamba Khale,
Dr Bill Bainbridge
It was very sad to learn of Jim’s passing. I first met Jim in KZN, perhaps with Ian Player, but subsequently in Zambia. Jim came to visit in Livingstone, but subsequently he became a “staff problem” with which I had to deal, shortly after I was appointed Chief Game Officer in the then Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and National Parks. Jim was the Game Ranger at Mpika and part of his responsibilities was the then North Luangwa Game Reserve (now a National Park). Jim had just submitted his resignation because of the intolerable behaviour of some minor local politicians. I tried desperately but in vain to persuade him to stay on, but he returned to KZN. I suppose in retrospect this was for the best, given all the incredible work he subsequently did in Zululand and later in Transkei. We remained firm friends though we only met occasionally, but appreciating each other’s company. I join the others in saluting the man, and his many outstanding achievements.
I wish to add to the tributes to Jim Feely through this contribution about his achievements:
After Zambia, when Jim came back to Zululand, he and Norman Deane started Zululand Safaris. Then Transkei Nature Conservation and his links with Universities. Basher Attwell and I were going to propose him for an honorary PhD at KZN and were waiting for a list of all his papers.