Thursday, 21 June 2012

Higgins and Lady our 2 Heroes

These 2 Rhinos were brutally attacked by poachers in Dec 2011. They had their horns removed with pangas which left huge wounds in their skulls. They are still alive and being very well looked after but the emotional scars will never heal. Please watch and share this video to the World please! Thank you

Project Rhino KZN: An united response to saving our rhinos

Africa has lost more than 100,000 rhinos in the past 45 years - proving that rhino poaching is one of the most lucrative of black market industries. 1,013 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa since 2008 -- 448 of them last year alone.

25% of South Africa's Black rhinos and 20% of White rhinos reside on state, private and community-owned game reserves in KwaZulu-Natal. Faced by a rapid increase in poaching threats and realising that effectiveness lay in working together, the province's leading conservation organizations -- including Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, privately-owned reserves such as Thanda Game Reserve and top conservation NGOs -- joined forces last year to form Project Rhino KZN.The group works cooperatively to improve anti-poaching responses, share information and intelligence across large geographic areas, increase community knowledge of the value of rhinos -- tourism value as well as job creation - and raise funds for priority anti-poaching and rhino conservation strategies. All the members have experienced losing rhinos to sophisticated poaching networks that operate from community level and up to the faceless buyers at the top of rhino poaching crime syndicates operating within South Africa. With rhino horn fetching up to US$60,000/Kg (R480,000/Kg) in Asia, and poachers earning as much as R240,000 (US$30,000) for a successful nights' work, the temptation is high.Anti-poaching work across all 16 organisations runs into millions of Rands and Project Rhino KZN is actively seeking support from business, donors and the public to help us protect more than 500 rhino in our care.Cameron Pet Foods has signed an agreement with Project Rhino KZN that will see R2.00 from every bag of the company's dog food sold through retailers, pet stores, co-ops and Veterinary clinics nationwide being donated to Project Rhino KZN's AerialSurveillance and Security programme. Through this year-long partnership, pet owners around the country will be contributing over R500,000.00 directly to fighting the rhino crisis.Reitz du Toit (MD) and Anire van der Walt (Marketing Director) and the African Conservation Trust's Skydive for Rhinos team were invited to participate in a rhino darting and micro-chipping experience at Thanda Private Game Reserve in June 2012. The rhinos filmed in this video were both fitted with a foot collar and a micro-chip in their neck for tracking purposes on top of being ear-notched for physical identification. DNA samples were also taken (blood, skin and hair): these samples, as well as the micro-chips inserted into the horn, are used in investigations in the event of a poaching incident. 

This was a once in a life time experience. One the one hand, not many people have the opportunity to get so close to one of Africa's most magnificent creatures -- to touch them, feel their bodies breathing beneath your palms, hear them snort as they're 'chipped and sampled' and watch their ears twitch at the muffled sounds around them. On the other, you begin to realise the hard work, time and effort that goes into protecting these animals. Darting a rhino is no easy feat and can be traumatic for the animal -- but we are facing a crisis and all must be done to protect them.Only united will we be able to stop the scourge of poaching in South Africa. 

Are you willing to unite?
To donate to Project Rhino KZN via GivenGain: 
Rhino KZN
Twitter: @ProjectRhinoKZN
Skydive for Rhinos:
Twitter: @RhinoSkydiverCameron 
Pet Foods
Contact:Sheelagh Antrobus (Skydive for Rhinos and Project Rhino KZN Secretariat):
Tel: +27 33 342 284

Rhino Poaching in South Africa

Dr Joanne Shaw of TRAFFIC, discusses the severity of rhino poaching in South Africa and why it's happening. She also explains why banning the trade of rhino horn has not solved this major problem.

Produced by Justin Archer and Thomas Mills

Rhino de-horning cruelty

Red eye Finch

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Louise du Toit - CD albums @

WE MUST SPEAK OUT TO SAVE THE LIVES OF THE FEW REMAINING RHINOCEROSES. Tibetan monks, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernst Graf Hoyos, Count Robert de Bourg de Bozas, Javan and Yemen hunters, African and Asian poachers, suppliers and buyers of Traditional Chinese Medicine - these are just a few of the countless individuals and groups which have contributed to the fall of the rhino population throughout the centuries. 
Since 1970 the world rhino population has declined by 90 percent, with five species remaining in the world today, all of which are endangered. The hunting of this precious animal, for its horns, continues day after day. In South Africa, which is custodian to over 80% of the world's rhino, 333 rhino were killed in 2010 alone by poachers. Although is has been proven time and time again that the horn has no medicinal value and is neither a cure for cancer, it is still sought after. The rhino will only be saved from extinction if action is taken by all to reveal the horror of these extremely cruel crimes towards these beautiful, precious animals. 
Music, performance and recording by Louise du Toit in Greece, 2010. Video created and produced by Louise du Toit. Digital mastering at Studio Natural Sound in Athens. Copyrights to the music are reserved by Louise du Toit, Greece 2010. None of the images in this video are the property of the producer. This video was made as a contribution to the salvation of rhinoceroses, for nonprofit educational purposes, without any intention of commercial advantage or private financial gain. There is no intention of copyright infringement either. Historical images and information courtesy of the RRC - The Rhino Resource Centre.
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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Rhinos under threat

This movie was produced by UNTV in collaboration with the CITES Secretariat in an effort to raise public awareness of the current crisis faced by rhinoceros through illegal killing and international trade in rhino horn. The movie was be first shown on 18 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro on the occasion of the Rio+20 Conference.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Tragic Story of Geza the Rhino

Geza and his mother Nomabongo

This is the story of a white rhino callously mutilated by poachers and leftalive with his horns and part of his face hacked off with pangs.
By Dr. William Fowlds
Wildlife Veterinarian

This deeply moving personal journey in the race to save Geza the rhino is told bythe veterinarian who was called in right after the poachers’ brutal attack.Dr. Fowlds kindly gave us permission to share it with the hope that hearts wouldbe softened and this vicious war on the rhino for its horn might be curbed.

Fateful Day
On 11 February, 2011 I found myself forced into a personal experience of the most horrific, man-inflicted animal suffering. An experience that has affected me beyond what I thought was possible. More than five months on and I still struggle to contain and express the emotions burned within me, that churn to the surface every time I talk about that day.
I don’t expect to make sense of it, or the similar rhino deaths that take place daily in my country. I do intend to ensure that the account of this one rhino’s tragic end, will reach into the conscience and hearts of all men and woman, and compel each of us to do something towards stopping the suffering of this magnificent species and others like it.
I count myself truly blessed to be able to live my dream as a wildlife vet in a part of Africa that satisfies my senses and fills my soul. One of my many privileges is that I get to work with rhino in the wild. These living dinosaurs are truly iconic symbols of our successes and failures as custodians of this planet. The current rhino situation is a dying testimony of our conservation efforts. If we are not able to save the rhino from extinction, this flagship species that’s larger than life, what hope do we have of saving the rest?
On that fateful morning in February, I was called by Mike Fuller of Kariega Game Reserve, in the Eastern Cape, who informed me that one of their rhino had been poached. My heart sank, as I relived that dreadful feeling, a few months before, which had hit me when news of a rhino poaching on my own game reserve came through. Knowing how slow the initial crime scene proceedings can take, I expressed my heart-felt remorse and said I would get there later in the morning.There was a silent pause before the sledge-hammer ..... ”William, he is still alive!”

Images of the hacked bone and bloodied tissues I had seen previously came flooding back, doubting the truth of this outrageous claim. As I fumbled for questions to check my own doubts, the description of this poor animal began to take shape. “The horns are gone, it’s a bloody mess”, added Mike. I had seen one picture of a rhino who had suffered the same fate and the anger when I saw it the first time, crowded my oughts as I tried to listen to directions and get my planned day out of the way.
As I drove rapidly for 30 minutes following the directions; the location, the description and the circumstances around this animal started to sound familiar. I remembered that two rhino from my own reserve, Amakhala, had been moved to Kariega three years before and had been joined by another two animals from a different reserve, making a sub-adult group of four rhino. At least one of these four, was now in an unthinkable situation and I prayed it wasn’t one I knew.
On approaching the location where the rhino had last been seen, I was struck by the tranquil beauty of the place. A small, open area alongside a meandering river with broken vegetation joining up into thickets of valley bushveld on the hill slopes. A picture-book setting which could have been used to depict a piece of heaven. It just didn’t seem possible that somewhere here, there was an animal that was going through a living hell.
Mike could not bring himself to accompany me, having been to hell and back already that morning. I grabbed my small camera and began working my way into the wind to where I was told he was last seen.
The horror of that first encounter will remain branded in my memory forever. In a small clearing enclosed by bush, stood an animal, hardly recognisable as a rhino. His profile completely changed by the absence of those iconic horns attributed to no other species. More nauseating than that, the skull and soft tissue trauma extended down into the remnants of his face, through the outer layer of bones, to expose the underlying nasal passages.

CAUTION: Graphic video footage as Dr. Fowlds found Geza

Initially he stood on three legs with his mouth on the ground. Then he became more aware of my presence and lifted his head up revealing pieces of loose flesh which hung semi-detached from his deformed and bloodied face. He struggled forward and turned in my direction, his left front leg provided no support and could only be dragged behind him. To compensate for this, he used his mutilated muzzle and nose as a crutch and staggered forward toward me. His one eye was injured and clouded over, adding to his horrific appearance.
At first I stood shocked in front of the sight before me, then I struggled to comprehend the extent and implications of the jagged edges and plunging cavities extending into his skull. As he shuffled closer in my direction, now scarcely 15 meters away, the realisation of his pain overwhelmed me. I had been so stunned by the inconceivable, I had neglected to consider the pain. What possible way could I have any reference of understanding the agony he was in? How long had he been like this? Were his efforts to approach me a weakened attempt of aggression towards the source of his suffering or was there a desperate comprehension of finality, a broken spirit crying out to die. 
I crouched down trying to steady my shaking hand which held the camera, as I realised that this was possibly Geza, the young rhino I had sent to this sanctuary three years ago. Thoughts and emotions raged through my head. How low had we fallen to inflict so much suffering on such a magnificent creature whose care had been entrusted to us? Could any reason justify this happening? Without thinking I apologised under my breath, “I am sorry boy, I am so, so sorry.” His breathing quickened in response to the sound. Was he trying to smell me, was this their characteristic huffing which is part of natural investigatory behaviour or was this a pathetic version of rhino aggression in response to a source of threat. I was close enough to see the blood bubbling inside his skull cavities and wondered how every breath must add to the agony, the cold air flowing over inflamed tissues and exposed nerves.
I expected at any moment for his suffering to snap into a full blown rage, but it never came. I backed away slowly and he kept staggering in my direction, not showing any aggression, just one agonising effort after another. For a moment the thought even crossed my mind that this animal, in an incomprehensible amount of pain, acting completely out of character, could be desperately seeking something, anything, to take away the pain.
I didn’t trust my own eyes to recall the detail of these injuries and so I recorded some images, and backed away from this vortex of emotions and pain. On the walk back to the vehicle where Mike now waited, the weight of responsibility began to descend on my shoulders. This poor animal, suffering at the hands of my own species, through at least one night of absolute agony, now relied on me for relief from this torture. My gut instincts told me he had little chance of healing even though I had experienced rhino making some spectacular recoveries from severe injuries. I recalled having heard of a few other cases of rhino having survived and scrambled for the details somewhere in my swirling mind.
Thinking I should be fairly hardened to trauma and the sight of poached rhino and mutilated bodies, I had to re-assess my own reaction to what I had just seen. This took things to a new level. This stirred up anger and despair and regret and shame more than anything I had ever experienced. This brought the suffering of this and many other rhino right into the living room of my soul.
Surely, I would never be able to think of a rhino poaching in the same way ever again. If we are shaped by our experiences, then this experience was a watershed moment in my life. Part of that watershed was out of my control, but the other part involved decisions which were optional and would take me across an ethical line which had been formed by a lifetime of nurturing and training. 
Knowing that this reserve relied on my professional opinion on what to do next, I buried my personal emotions and approached Mike with three recommendations.

The Recommendations
Firstly, I confirmed their fears that, in my opinion, there was no chance of saving this life and the most humane thing to do would be to end this tragedy by euthanasia for this animal.
Secondly, I asked for time to consult with some of the other vets who had experienced similar survivors just in case there might be some hope for this animal.
Thirdly, with considerable trepidation, I asked if they would consider allowing the world to see the horrendous suffering that was taking place a short distance from where we stood. The practicalities, though, would involve getting a camera on site to take broadcast quality footage, something that would take a few hours to happen in this remote part of the reserve.
Could a vet, who is supposed to care deeply for animals; who is trained to be the mouthpiece for those that can’t speak for themselves; who more than most should understand the extent of suffering that this animal had gone through and was still enduring, be at ethical liberty to extend the suffering of this animal a little longer. Would those who do care, and even those who purport not to care, be shocked out of their complacency at the sight of such inhumanity?
The request sounded irrational to my own ears, and I wrestled with the thought of it. For the previous three years our association of private game reserves had built up measures to combat the looming threat of rhino poaching. I had seen the mortality figures escalate in 2009 and double again in 2010 despite a series of attempts to curb the carnage. Seven animals had been poached during this escalation within 60km’s of me, and there was still no sign of the public or the law enforcement agencies finding the will to stop it.
Many of the animals poached were being immobilised with veterinary drugs before having their horns and underlying skull bones hacked off with pangas and axes. The assumption is that these animals are under anaesthetic and so don’t feel anything. I assure you, they feel; as, in many instances, the amount of drug used does not kill the rhino. If they don’t bleed to death, they wake up under circumstances which I am finding difficult to describe.
I had always wondered why the poachers made such a mess of the rhino’s faces when their modus operandi suggested that these were well organised criminals.The sight of Geza that terrible day brought the realisation that many of these animals were probably still alive and responsive to the mutilation that they were being subjected to; hence the panga marks chaotically arranged around the facial areas.
My mind was telling me that to keep this animal alive was wrong, but somewhere inside I felt certain that the story of this despicable suffering could get to even the most hardened minds. The people driving the demand for this bizarre product, who say they take rhino horn to feel good - surely, they couldn’t feel good knowing that animals are suffering to this degree at their hands. If they could, in some way, be made to feel part of the massacre, then perhaps this cruel and senseless killing might stop.
It was agreed to call in a camera to get the footage while I phoned colleagues for second opinions. For the next three hours I went back several times and agonised over my decisions while watching his condition deteriorate. During those hours I learned that this rhino was indeed “Geza” – the Naughty One - a male born on Amakhala, the reserve on which I live. He was born in January 2006 as the second calf of “Nomabongo” – the Proud Lady. His mother was the first rhino to come to our reserve, which like many in our area, was a reserve which had transformed previous farm land into protected areas.

That Day in Nomabongo
I vividly recall the day Nomabongo arrived in 2003. Her presence, just one rhino, immediately transformed the whole atmosphere of that landscape from farmland into wild land. I also remembered the first week of Geza’s life. Unlike Nomabongo’s first calf, which she hid from us for 6 weeks, the “Proud Lady” showed off her boy calf within a few days of giving birth to him and a photographer friend captured these moments in some breathtaking photos.
Geza's name came about because from a very early age he would challenge older rhino in a mischievous manner and then bundle back to the safety of his ever protective mother. In social gatherings with other mothers and calves, Geza was always the instigator in the interactions, always playful to a point of seeming to show-off.
Typical of normal rhino social structures, when Geza was two and a half years old his mother pushed him away as she prepared to give birth to her next calf. During this time Geza joined up with another rhino cow and her female calf named Landiwe, who was born in May 2006.
Geza stayed with Landiwe and her mother. The mother provided the protection from mature bulls that Geza now needed as he was still not old or big enough to protect himself. This grouping remained until it was decided to remove some rhino off our reserve and Geza and Landiwe were relocated in August 2008 as a pair. They adapted well, as they knew each other and, as young rhino in a new environment, this helped ensure a successful relocation.
The group of four young rhino, were the first to be introduced into this section of this sanctuary and their presence there had the same effect of transforming the reserve back to wild land. Now two and half years on, Geza was critically injured and the other rhino had disappeared into the thicket vegetation. Even if they were still alive, this event would ensure their removal from this area and with them a part of the soul of the land would die too.

Poaching Site
As the hours passed slowly by, the location of the actual poaching was discovered and a crime scene investigation commenced, piecing together the train of events which had taken place there. A large pool of blood marked Geza’s initial fall and where the hacking took place. Pieces of flesh and bone lay in the blood stained grass nearby. He had stood up at some stage and staggered about ten paces before falling on a small tree, where, judging by the signs of his struggling, he had lain for some time. Again, a large area of blood stained earth bore testimony to his solitary ordeal. Every dozen or so paces another pool of blood marked where he had stood a while. I imagined his body going through the phases of drug recovery which, without an antidote, would have taken him through cycles of semi-consciousness before he was plunged back into the reality of his painful wounds. It could not be accurately ascertained how long he had been left in this state. Could this have possibly happened two nights ago? We were not sure. The possibility of this was too much to comprehend so, for now, I kept it out of my mind.
His front left leg had been cut off from circulation while he struggled on his side and this accounted for his eye injuries too. When cells get starved of oxygen they die off and release inflammatory chemicals inducing a cycle of swelling, pressure and pain ending in necrosis. By the time Geza was found, he had lost all use of his left front leg. Through blood loss, shock, dehydration and pain this animal was paying dearly for man’s senseless greed.
The wait for what seemed like ages eventually passed. The camera-crew arrived and I was finally able to bring this nightmare to an end. The most humane way to end it all was to administer an overdose of opioid anaesthetic. The method would have to be the same way the poachers did it, with a dart. A heavy calibre bullet to the brain would ensure finality - no return to hell.
As the dart penetrated his skin I wondered if this rhino had any mental association of being darted all those long hours before and the agony that ensued. Would he recognise that dart impact and the ordeal that followed shortly after? Would any feelings of helplessness suddenly be overcome by one final fit of rage as I would expect it to be? His response was to take only a few paces in our direction as the dart penetrated, before his injuries stopped his advance.
Within a few minutes the drugs were taking effect and even though his final conscious moments could have been extremely painful, I knew that the pain would be subsiding as he began to slip away. One final close up inspection of his wounds confirmed there was no going back and I injected more anaesthetic directly into his bloodstream. A sense of relief mingled with sadness, disgust and shame descended over that small piece of Africa, which for long hours had been gripped in tension and violation. The heavy bullet slammed though his skull, with the noise and shock wave blasting out across the landscape, heralding the end to a tortured and agonising struggle.
Geza, the Naughty One, who had touched my heart as a playful calf, died while I held my hand over his intact eye, his shaking body growing still and peaceful.Geza, who had his horns and part of his face hacked off while he was still alive by poachers feeding a chain of careless greed and ignorant demand. Will this rhino, whose suffering I prolonged, so that the world could get a visual glimpse of this tragedy, end up as just another statistic in a war that rages on? Or, will this rhino’s ordeal touch us in a way that compels us to do something about it? What I have witnessed ensures that I will never find peace until the killing stops.

As I write this, news reaches me of seven more rhino killed yesterday. Please help all of us on the frontline of this war against rhino poaching. If we can’t save the rhino, what hope do we have of saving the rest?Thank you for taking the time to read this.Dr William Fowlds.Help us spread the word on what is happening to the species by getting this message out to those who believe that the rhino horn is a valuable product that can enhance their well-being.Rhino horn has absolutely no medicinal value nor does it offer the most suitable material for ceremonial daggers.

You may feel there is little you can do to help… you probably can’t do what Dr. Fowlds does, or join an anti-poaching ranger unit, or wave a magic wand and make it all better, but you can help when you:

1. SHARE THIS EBOOK with a Friend, or two.

2. Visit the Wilderness Foundation

3. Visit Nikela Rhino Rescue

Thank you for helping Dr. Fowlds keep his promise to Geza… that he did not die in vain

With permission from Dr William Folds.

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Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Ard Matthews tracks, darts and tags a Black Rhino

2012 marks the start of the International Year of the Rhino

Increasing alarm for the fate of the two rarest rhinoceros species, and growing concern over the increased illegal hunting of rhinos and demand for rhino horn affecting all five species, has prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia to declare 5 June 2012 as the start of the International Year of the Rhino. President Yudhoyono took this step at the request of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other conservation organisations, because the future survival of both the Javan and Sumatran rhinos depends on effective conservation action in Indonesia.

The government of Indonesia has also made commitments to establish a high-level rhino task force of national and international experts; allocate sufficient resources to enforce protection of remaining rhino populations, and ensure that there is regular and intensive monitoring of all rhino populations in Indonesia.

In the last decade, two rhino subspecies, the western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam have gone extinct. Today, the populations of two more subspecies, the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the mainland population of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis lasiotus), both listed as critically endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, are perilously close to extinction because of an increase in illegal hunting and non-traditional use of rhino horn.

“One of the programs of the ministry of forestry is the protection of endangered animals, such as rhinos, tigers, elephants and orang-utans,” says Zulkifli Hasan, Minister of Forestry, Indonesia. “Among those, the rhinos are closest to extinction. For this reason they need special attention from all of us. In this context, we are inviting and encouraging all stakeholders and world organizations to join the effort to save the rhinos.”

During this International Year of the Rhino, it is hoped that all rhino range states in Africa and Asia will join Indonesia and give priority to securing their rhino populations. There are ambitions to bring illegal hunting and trade, especially the illegal trade of rhino horn, under control by ensuring that effective deterrents are in place and enforced. It is also hoped that measures that encourage a rapid growth in rhino numbers will be taken. In Indonesia, extra action will be taken to translocate isolated individuals to actively managed protected areas and improve rhino habitats by removing invasive plant species and providing additional sources of water.

"We warmly welcome the announcement of the International Year of the Rhino by the president of Indonesia and the related commitments that have been made,” says John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES. “Strong and clear political messages from the highest possible levels are required to combat the illegal killing and trade in rhino and the message coming from the president is loud and clear. We hope that this bold initiative by Indonesia will serve as a catalyst for further high-level political support and commitments to protect the rhino in the wild across all concerned States."

Effective conservation by governments in Africa and Asia, in some cases with the support of non-governmental conservation organisations, has been successful in bringing back the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) from the brink of extinction. It is clear that highly-focused management and improved conservation measures can lead to increases in the populations of rhinos, and it is now urgent that this is also implemented for the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, as the Indonesian president has stated.

“We congratulate President Yudhoyono of Indonesia for his commitment to rhino conservation,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “In announcing the International Year of the Rhino, Indonesia is encouraging the government engagement and public awareness that is essential for effective conservation. We urge all rhino range states, as well as the counties in which there is demand for rhino horn, to participate in this initiative.”

The urgent measures needed to ensure the effective conservation of the world’s five rhino species will be discussed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 6 to 15 September 2012.

"WWF offers its full support for the commitment made by Indonesia's president to secure a future for the country's critically endangered rhinos,” says Dr Efransjah, CEO of WWF-Indonesia. “There is an urgent need to decrease pressures on habitats and to establish a second Javan rhino population in a safer and suitable location. This will be a big endeavour that will require true leadership from government and critical partnerships among scientists, conservation organisations and local communities.”

Masters of the bush

Music video, Winterskind - Masters of the bush

Saturday, 9 June 2012

SA Rage Billboard to Save the Rhino

This huge billboard on the RMB building in Sandton South Africa depicts an Impala with a mascarade type rhino horn with the caption "Just Think"