Twenty years ago my husband and I had the privilege of visiting the Dzanga Sangha reserve in the south-west corner of Central African Republic. We camped under a shelter and in the evening listened to the songs of the BaAka Pygmies which floated through the dusk from the scattered huts where they lived. Next day our Pygmy guide led us through the rainforest to the huge clearing where the forest elephants come to seek mineral salts. We clambered up on to a viewing platform and watched entranced as a big group of elephants, adults and babies, rooted contentedly, emitting low rumbles.
Leaving this peaceful spot we continued our journey along the rutted dirt roads to the capital, Bangui. Life in CAR was hard. In the villages outside Bangui people just scraped a living.
Now horror has descended on the country – terrible killings are taking place and the people who had so little now have nothing. And at Dzanga Sangha there has been horror too. In May this year armed men came and from the same platform from which we had watched such unforgettable scenes, they massacred the elephants, both the adults and the babies, and then hacked off their tusks.
Last Christmas we were delighted to be able to donate to The Independent Christmas charity appeal supporting former child soldiers in CAR. This year we are again happy to support The Independent appeal, this time to help stop the appalling massacres of elephants. I very much hope it does well.
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
You can donate here now
Long-ago visits to stonehenge
Having read Simon Calder’s article “No more going round in circles” (18 December), I realise how extremely fortunate I am to have experienced the delights of visiting Stonehenge long before anyone even considered turning it into a “tourist experience”.
There was no “Nordic airport terminal” of a visitor centre, nor a sightseeing shuttle to tow me to the periphery when, as a 10-year-old, after freewheeling down the long hill into Amesbury, I could prop my bike against a conveniently fallen lintel and wander at will amongst the gigantic stones.
I loved stroking their rough surfaces and wondering about the people who so long ago had built this vast temple. I can still recall the mysterious thrill in the atmosphere that always surrounded what was, for me, a very special place, where an added attraction was the sense of isolation.
The only people I ever encountered when I went to Stonehenge were those who had cycled there with me.
Target-setting in the finance industry
Target-setting in the financial industry goes back at least as far as the Big Bang of 1986 (Letters, 14 December). The big difference then was that staff contracts didn’t include penalties for so-called failure, as they appear to have in the latest Lloyds fiasco. Indeed, around about 1990 I took a phone call at the branch where I then worked from a minion of the area director. He actually threatened that staff would be fired if targets were not met, but he must have known that it was a crude bluff.
Now, it seems, staff had signed up to contracts which were pernicious. The customers quite rightly get an apology, and the bank gets a fine. Surely the staff should also receive an apology for having had to work under ridiculous pressure – one thing inevitably leads to another. Targets are dangerous in any line of work when set by people who have no understanding of the workplace itself.
R P Wallen
‘Labour costs’ to you means ‘wages’ to me
The surprisingly frank call by Domino’s Pizza chief executive Lance Batchelor for immigration laws to be loosened further to help the firm to fill thousands of jobs has caused quite a stir.
These comments demonstrate the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand. When the supply of something is increased (in this case, labour), its price decreases. What chief executives call “labour costs”, the rest of us know as “wages”, and nothing helps to keep wages down better than an ever-expanding supply of labour, ideally from poorer countries.
As consumers we all have a choice where we spend our money. Perhaps it is time to reward those companies which recruit local staff and pay them a reasonable wage, and to stay away from those which do not.
Tweets that show the BBC is still great
All is not lost. After David Attenborough had informed us on this morning’s Tweet of the Day that the ptarmigan’s plumage becomes white in the winter snow, and grey among the grey rocks after the snow melts, the continuity announcer’s gentle irony as he followed with... “and for those of you who are not entirely sure what a ptarmigan looks like, there is a charming picture of one posed on a rock on our website…” encouraged me no end. Thanks, BBC – after all the blunders in high places, the bit that matters is still functioning as a broadcaster without peer.
What’s so great about food banks?
So Nick Clegg is proud that the Coalition government has made it easier for people to use foodbanks. That says it all, really.
Am I the only one who really enjoys receiving Christmas newsletters – personalised or not?
Upminster, Greater London
Lives blighted by airport uncertainty
If the London Mayor wishes to expand the definition of “London airport” to cover the whole top part of Kent and put the flightpath over my house in Essex, does that mean that I should be included in the voting area for his job?
I deserve at least that, but I am not holding my breath.
The Davies Commission’s interim report released this week (report, 17 December) has put the Isle of Grain and the wider Medway community in the position of having a further year of blight placed upon it.
The creation of the status of “not on the shortlist today but potentially on the shortlist on another day” means that residents in this area are left with no clear direction as to what their future holds.
Another year without clarity will hinder the council, businesses and residents from planning ahead. I will continue to argue that any estuary airport option is bad for the environment, bad for Medway and bad for UK plc.
Leader, Medway Labour Group, Chatham, Kent
I wonder about the desire to build another airport in an already built-up and congested area. I would say that more than half of all passengers arriving in London are going on somewhere else, so perhaps the answer to reducing the pressure on the existing airports is to build one in the middle of nowhere, where the noise and the pollution will rile only a few cows – and direct all transfer passengers through there.
The land transportation could be kept to a minimum and it certainly would be cheaper (and less intrusive) than some “island” in the middle of the Thames.
I propose Gatwick for the new runway with a high-speed rail link to Heathrow with separate air-side and land-side trains. This would follow the M25 and take 15 minutes. Thus connecting flights could be easily accommodated and give a service that would be similar or better than changing terminals at Heathrow. The capital cost would be better value than an additional runway at Heathrow with no increase in the noise level on west London nor the compulsory purchase of many houses.
I was interested to read Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Commission – or should I call it Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Omission?
What was this worthy doing almost ignoring the potential of Skype and video-conferencing? As early as the disasters of 9/11 and the volcanic ash cloud, remote-control business meetings came into their own, thus saving all the wear and tear of flying hither and thither.
Davies needs lateral thinking: not to ask for runway H, runway G, or runway Boris; but to opt for a green revolution.
Godfrey H Holmes
As someone who has been living under one of the recently recommended Heathrow flight paths I breathed a sigh of relief on learning that “my” (south-west) option is no longer in the frame.
However, local friends, neighbours and I myself have always felt, and will continue to feel, solidarity with all the other Heathrow villages under threat. We will petition, march and write letters alongside them as we did when Labour were pressing their version of a third runway.