I don’t often affiliate myself with any one cause in particular, and working for a conservation based company with so many unique opportunities to get involved in… well it can seem a little overwhelming! But all of that changed a few weeks ago. Christie Fynn, a girl I met on the Put Foot Rally and a contributor for Getaway Magazine, recently tweeted some of the most haunting and disturbing animal photos I’ve ever seen – one rhinoceros at Aquila Game Reserve was killed as a result of poaching, and another named Absa, fighting for its life. When she first met with Searl Derman, the owner of Aquila, I started following her tweets and status updates and was heartbroken to learn ABSA died as well.
Only a two hour drive outside of Cape Town, Aquila Game Reserve is a popular excursion for tourists looking for the Big 5 safari experience without traveling all the way up to places like Kruger National Park. The fact that something like this cold happen quite so close to where I live is too close for comfort. I shared the news with my colleagues, and Nikki, who handles the coordination of our volunteers on our South Africa Wildlife Expedition spoke up as well and said a friend of hers recently saw a rhino lying on the side of the highway up near Kruger that had been a victim of poaching. So far in 2011, a total of 279 Rhinos have been poached, with 169 of them in the Kruger National Park. This is a dramatic increase from years prior where only a dozen or so were poached annually. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “approximately 4,000 black rhino and 20,000 white rhino are all that prevent Africa’s rhinos from sliding over the brink, into extinction.”
So why are so many poached? Partly to do with the myth that the rhino horn is a cure-all for life-threatening illnesses in Asian countries like China and Vietnam. African governments need to take a more active role in working with the private sector to enforce anti-poaching campaigns locally. We also need them to pressure Asian governments to quash the demand in the markets on their side of the world. We have the tools to actively make a difference – from rhino notching and micro-chipping, to DNA finger printing, radar technology, to simpler things like night-vision gear, binoculars, radios, bullet-proof armor, and camping equipment… A rhinocerous horn is what makes a rhino a rhino, and none should have to die because of this.
For more information: theWWF Black Rhino Expansion project. If you shop at Woolworths and have a MySchool card, you can apply for the rewards to go direct to the Endangered Wildlife Trust MyPlanet Rhino Fund here. If you’re based in Cape Town, check out this event –High Heels for Horns. It’s a charity walk for Rights for Rhinos at Kirstenbosch Gardens on November 12th.