Why is it that a few can ruin it for so many? I know this is not really the right forum for deep philosophical questions about us as a species, how we live our lives, what is a good life and how do we achieve beauty; but, in the world of conservation and community, we can try and interrogate how to all get along on this seemingly ever-shrinking planet.
As a South African, I have been embarrassed about a few ruining it for so many before, but now I fear that a greedy few might just wipe out rhino forever in my country and I cringe to the core. There is so much mistrust and corruption around the subject that it befuddles the mind completely. There are many men and women who have dedicated their lives solely to the purpose of saving threatened species all around the planet. This was the case with Blythe Loutit who, together with Ina Britz and others, created the Save the Rhino Trust in 1982 in response to the heavy rhino poaching and slaughter occurring in the Kunene region at the time. Now, tourists are able to join up and follow the SRT trackers on their daily patrols to find rhino.
So there we were, bouncing along in the game vehicle with the SRT team when I posed the obvious question of how rhino poaching was being managed in the Kunene region.
Martin, Cisse and Denzel collectively have over 20 years’ service with SRT, so with a fair amount of authority they told me that the poaching has reduced dramatically since inception in 1982. To the extent that there was only one rhino poached last year and the perpetrator was caught within 24hours of his crime being discovered. His trial is imminent now, but in the meantime he has been sitting behind bars awaiting his fate. Prior to that the last rhino poached was in 1995. That is an impressive statistic, but for Martin and his colleagues, that is one rhino too many. There is no chance any figures will be released on rhino numbers as it is just too dangerous. So the work is being done, but only a very select few know the statistics. This is important to the ongoing protection of these prehistoric-looking beauties.
The partnership between SRT and Wilderness Safaris is now 10 years old. While we track for the privilege of a photograph, SRT guys track to collate data that is fed back into their extensive database. This data is compiled in all means of useful and scientific ways that is hugely valuable to the conservation of the desert adapted black rhino. Tourism supports this good work so while guests have an adventure-filled experience to find and photograph a protected species, they contribute to its preservation. For the surrounding communities, the people working for SRT and the staff of Wilderness Safaris, the protection and preservation of the black rhino is a life-long commitment that is immensely rewarding; it’s almost as if the rhino become their adopted precious children.
By visiting this region, Wilderness Safaris’ guests make a direct and meaningful difference that is critical to the sustainability of this project. Take a chance and see if you too can get to see the bad-tempered black rhino and save his butt at the same time!