It is a very special pleasure and a privilege to write the Foreword for a remarkable autobiography by veterinarian Michael Kock who is not only an exceptionally talented photographer but also has that rare discernment to look beyond the often-platitudinous justifications for conservation of the animals and their habitats he has encountered. The romantic view of wildlife roaming free in nature and independent of humans is a fantasy.
I admire anyone who challenges orthodoxy. Through My Eyes has addressed with refreshing courage and an acute awareness that it is the people who live close to the animals that hold the key to their sustainable future. If conservation of these species is to succeed, we must address immediate issues of poverty, high rates of human population growth, accelerating land transformation, the pervasive problems linked to corruption, and above all the need to educate and mentor the leaders of the future. Michael Kock’s involvement in the innovative AHEAD (Animal & Human Health for the Environment And Development) program since its inception encapsulates his genuine commitment to working with people, as do the many superb photographs of the extraordinary heterogeneity of the communities and individuals he encountered.
In addition to these serious topics, Through My Eyes has a much lighter and most entertaining number of insouciant anecdotes of a fascinating and totally fulfilling life. All of these will surely stimulate any intrepid young person who wants a career full of exciting challenges and opportunities not only to become a wildlife vet, but also to embrace the vision to appreciate such opportunities as the valuable contribution that an inspirational group of actors from Theatre for Africa can make to inspire a message of hope for the future.
Michael Kock is clearly at peace with the world and himself when he is in untransformed wilderness areas, particularly in wild and remote parts of Africa, becoming poetic in his prose, and even penning a poem on his encounter with a leopard! But it is the photographic presentations that make this such a remarkable production, not only the moody and evocative landscapes often populated with an extraordinary celebration of biological diversity, but also the many great images he has captured of the human beings that are such an integral part of the world he has experienced and come to understand. I hope this book will encourage others to strive to leave the world a better place than we found it.