The two uniformed men led the way, their rifles slung casually over their shoulders. The rest of us followed closely, walking in single file.
As our group snaked quietly through the bush, I watched the sky lighten. I breathed in the fresh air. I took in the beauty of the wilderness area.
“This is what feeds my soul”, I thought as I took it all in.
After about an hour of walking we approached a hill and started to climb. There was a huge rock on top of the hill. The strong roots of a fig tree clung sturdily to the rock.
As we got close to the top, our group started to murmur.
“What was that smell?”
I covered my nostrils with my hand.
Nico, the leader, commanded: “Wait here. Something has died”.
As Nico disappeared around the rock, my imagination played happily. Maybe there was a kill! Perhaps we’d see some lions or hyenas. Maybe feeding vultures…
After a few long minutes Nico appeared, his face scowling.
“It’s a rhino”
Using his tracking skills, he pulled the pieces together and took us through the scenario.
The well-worn game path went up the hill, forming a gulley between the hill and the huge rock.
The poacher sat on top of the rock.
He was shielded from anti-poaching helicopters by the shade of the tree.
The poacher just had to sit and wait. Plenty of game would have passed by him but he was waiting for something special.
Eventually he spotted the big, grey, lumbering animal come up the path. He aimed his gun towards the path beneath him.
AS the rhino passed directly below him, he made a noise.
The rhino lifted his head.
One shot – right into the brain.
The rhino dropped.
It was the perfect murder.
The murderer swiftly sliced off the two horns with one sweep of his panga.
As we dissected what had happened, the passionate rage of our two rangers poured out. Our emotions dipped between devastation, depression and frustration.
This is a war.
The park rangers and anti-poaching units require military training to deal with this situation.
The villains who kill rhinos to feed the Asian market are often professionals with military training themselves.
The people who deal in rhino horn WANT extinction – this will drive the price of their precious commodity through the roof.
We, the rangers, the South Africans and many others, WANT to preserve the rhino for generations to come.
Sumatran and Javan rhino populations are almost extinct. North of our borders other African countries are losing the war. South Africa is holding its own, but we have NOT won the war.
In the future, South Africa will have the most important role to play – re-stocking the rest of the continent with rhinos.
We have to win this war.
How can I help? How can you help?
If we all do our bit, we CAN make a difference, and we can save our rhinos.
Here are two ways to help:
- Visit this link: http://www.savetherhino.org/support_us
- Spread the word: send the link for this blog post to people in your network
I’m helping in my own small way.
Rhinos are critically endangered
In 1901, there were around 1 000 000 rhinos.
In 1970, there were around 70,000 rhinos.
Today, there are fewer than 24,500 rhinos surviving in the wild.