Thursday, 21 June 2012

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

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