Recently we celebrated World Rhino Day. An annual event held on 22 September, the date brings people together from across the globe in a bid to save these loveable members of the Big Five. Sadly, the facts speak for themselves: over 1,000 of South Africa’s rhinos killed by poachers in 2013.
This year the story is much the same, and in one of the worst hit countries over 700 rhinos have already met their untimely death.
Unfortunately there are no signs of the crisis coming to an end, and in some Asian countries rhino horn is clearly in demand. Thought to have medicinal properties there is no evidence to substantiate these claims and so the war against poaching continues.
In order to deal with the situation rangers across Africa are employing new technologies, for example using drones for surveillance and fitting the rhinos’ horns with radio transmitters. At Zambia’s Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park a small chip is inserted into the rhinos’ horn which can then be picked up using a handheld telemetry signal receiving device. The rhinos also remain under 24-hour armed guard.
Once home to Africa’s third largest black rhino population, Zambia suffered greatly throughout the 1970s-80s, the poaching epidemic resulting in their ‘national extinction’ in 1998. White rhinos didn’t fare any better and by 2010 only one was left alive in the entire country.
In the hope of turning the crisis around the African Wildlife Foundation partnered with the Zambia Wildlife Authority to settle four white rhinos from South Africa to Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Since the relocation, there have been four births in the park, bringing the total population count up to nine.
With rhinos giving birth every two to four years each new addition is significant and in 2015 a new arrival is expected, Inongwe, a female white rhino due to deliver her second calf in the first half of the year.
The face of a new anti-poaching campaign, the #SaveInongwe hashtag is currently being shared on Twitter and Facebook. The social networking initiative was set up by tour operator Acacia Africa to build awareness of the issues surrounding rhino poaching in Africa and also to highlight the good work being done by rangers.
In September, the adventure travel specialist renamed one of their 20-strong fleet after Inongwe and the truck is currently making its way across the continent, an optional rhino walking safari in Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park giving overlanders the chance to meet Inongwe.
With rhinos facing extinction in the wild by 2026 there is a real need to show our support:
- By giving back to organisations such as Save the Rhino International we can help pay for much needed equipment including fuel, food rations, and field equipment (transmitters, radios, raincoats, and boots) and put more rangers on the ground.
- Visits to Africa’s many parks and reserves will help to stem the threat of poaching, every safari-goer adding funds to the conservation coffers.
- We can all raise awareness by sharing in the online sphere, the #SaveInongwe campaign one of many initiatives hoping to change the situation for rhinos and save them from extinction.
- Due to launch on 17 October, you can also get involved in the Bad Hair Day Challenge. Upload your bad hair day selfie to Twitter or Facebook, add the #SaveInongwe hashtag and either nominate or donate to Save the Rhino International.