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Lions, Tigers And Ubuntu, Oh My! Boyd Varty On The Interconnected World Of South Africa

12/14/2013 11:14 am ET | Updated Dec 15, 2013

"I am; because of you."

That's the traditional meaning of the South African ideology, "Ubuntu." In other words, “people are not people without other people,” according to Boyd Varty, and it's this philosophy that guided his empowering TEDWomen talk.

Perhaps no other person, says Varty, embodied Ubuntu better than South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, who strove for peace, equality and dignity. It is that reason why the speaker gracefully dedicated his recent speech to the leader, who passed away just before Varty hit the stage on December 5.

But through his work as the custodian of the Londolozi Game Reserve -- one that’s been in his family for four generations -- this native South African learned that Ubuntu encompasses much more than human relations. As Varty shares in his talk, he’s been leading tours into the African bush, getting up close and personal with lions, crocodiles and other wildlife for as long as he can remember. So close, Varty describes, that he nearly lost his leg to an aggressive crocodile, but a close friend and coworker -- upholding Ubuntu -- saved his life. In another tale, Varty describes seeing a herd of elephants slow down their pace, year after year, to accommodate a handicapped female elephant, Elvis. And it was Elvis and her herd members that made him realize Ubuntu abounds in wildlife, too. Varty masterfully links Mandela, wildlife and humans on TEDWomen, and his passion for these topics will ignite joy in any animal lover.

The privately-owned Londolozi Game Reserve is a safari destination that’s been in the Varty family for over 80 years. It sits on the Sand River in the larger Sabi Sand Game Reserve in eastern South Africa, and is home to lions, buffalo, white rhinos and many other wildlife. To learn more about Ubuntu, check out this TED Blog by Kate Torgovnick May.

For more ideas worth spreading, check out TEDWeekends -- a weekend break from shouting heads, celebrity soundbites and kitten videos, where we combine a thought-provoking TED Talk with new perspectives from contributing writers. Check it out, and join the conversation.

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