… Gautrain construction devastating Gauteng Gummi bear communities

JOHANNESBURG. They’re dashing and daring, courageous and caring, faithful and friendly with stories to share, but hundreds of Gummy bears have already been pulped by tunnelling machinery under Johannesburg. According to conservationists, the Gautrain will wipe out Gauteng’s population of the magical bouncing bears “far more quickly than Duke Igthorn could ever have imagined”.

Construction workers on various Gautrain tunnelling sites say they are finding fewer and fewer traces of the magical bears.

“It used to be that we’d see them once every couple of weeks,” said mechanic Josiah Mphundu.

“We’d break through some rock, and we would see these bears, bouncing here and there and everywhere.

“But not any more.”

Crews operating the massive tunnel-boring drill confirmed that they were having to stop work more frequently to scrape the remains of Gummy bears off the specialized drill-head.

“It’s sad, but what are you going to do?” asked borer driver Blakkie Swart.

“When I was a kid you’d hear them, all through forest, singing out in chorus, marching along as their song filled the air.

“But now you sort of hear like a small scream, and then a kind of a wet noise, like someone smashing a watermelon with a hammer, and then you have to stop and scrape all that yellow and blue fur off the drill head.

“It’s kak depressing.”

Conservationist Eric Monkey-Chandler said that efforts to save the remaining bears had been hampered by a lack of knowledge about the secretive animals.

“Magic and mystery are part of their history,” he said.

He said that the bears once inhabited the forests of Mpumalanga before the apartheid homeland system forced them to the cities, where they went underground.

“It destroyed their whole culture. They stopped producing Gummiberry juice in the late 1970s, and they’ve been drinking mostly meths since then.”

He said it had been “heartbreaking” to watch the decline of the species.

“Once, when the legend was growing, they took pride in knowing that they fought for what’s right in whatever they did.

“But it’s hard to fight for what’s right when you’re stoned on meths.”

He said any survivors in Gauteng would probably be transported to the Western Cape, where a handful of Gummy bear communities still survive, working on wine estates as grape pressers.

He added that he and his colleagues would be monitoring the Western Cape’s bears closely, after receiving reports of exploitation and the use of the ‘dop’ system.

“They give the bears a dop of Gummiberry juice, and then put a lid over the grape-pressing tank, so it’s a hell of a noisy, violent situation down there.”

However, he conceded, “tramping on grapes and being paid in the Gummy bear version of crack” was better than being “turned to pink mist” by tunnelling equipment.



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