Supporting the Rhino Revolution!
I recently attended an event to help raise awareness and funds for the Rhino Revolution. Now, you may ask whether this cause is particularly relevant to the people of Dubai, but as the majority of expats would probably consider themselves global citizens, who travel all over the world, I would argue that it should definitely be of interest, after all there’s nothing worse than an ignorant tourist, who in the worst case may actually unintentionally contribute to the problem, or in the very least just be unaware of the issues.
Whilst this particular organisation is based in South Africa and currently supports the local rhino populations, its aim is to raise awareness on a global scale, which will support rhinos all over the world. I found the presentation from the team to be informative, and in places very moving, and I therefore wanted to try to support their aims by sharing a little of what I learned about their good work.
In the Hoedspruit area where the organisation is based, there are only 400 rhino left, and the team face a daily battle against poachers. Seeing the torture and suffering these poor majestic animals experience (often fatally) on a daily basis has prompted the team to develop a seven point plan in the local area:
1. A de-horning / horn treatment initiative
This is a controversial new approach which the team have adopted in order to buy time to deal with the problem (unfortunately poaching cannot be wiped out overnight, but at this rate, the rhinos might be). The team proactively go out and humanely remove horns from local rhino in order to prevent them from becoming a target in future. A short-term and far-from-ideal solution, but effective in order to move on with the other parts of the plan.
2. Media and communication initiatives
Working with local and international press, distributing newsletters and having monthly community meetings, as well as having an active presence on Facebook and Twitter and an informative website help to spread the group’s messages. This point is focussed on raising awareness in the local community to try to get more people involved and aware on the ground but also to spread word among the networks of organised criminals who control the poachers that the area is dangerous and not worth the risk.
The organisation is well aware of the need for a long-term sustainable solution and as such is actively involved in educating the community at a grassroots level, implementing a number of education programmes and field trips, including modules at five primary schools in the area, which focus on conservation issues, with an obvious emphasis on the rhino.
4. Information / intelligence
This is essential to try to catch the criminals before they can cause further destruction. The team work hand-in-hand with local security companies and the South Africa Police, and have set up a 24 hour hotline.
5. Technology and tracking
The team work with top electronics and wildlife experts to develop technology for effective real-time tracking and monitoring of rhino. The same technology can be used for an immediate reaction to poaching, and apprehension of poachers.
6. Reaction and apprehension
A key part of the Rhino Revolution strategy is to ensure the apprehension and prosecution of poachers. The team work with police on improvements to the legal system, prosecution process and reaction response. They work with local anti-poaching organisations Protrack and Farm Watch, who have guards on foot monitoring vulnerable areas. In the future, they aim to have properly equipped, armed guards who are dedicated to guarding rhino, this will also help create employment in the local area.
This plan does not come cheap and in order to move forward the company has produced a range of merchandise for sale locally and internationally in order to help raise the funds required. They are hoping to increase awareness and sales of these products in future, as well as relying on events such as the one I attended at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, in order to keep the Revolution alive.
I was certainly very moved and inspired to hear about the work from the guys on the ground. If you are interested to hear more, or would like to support this very worthwhile cause, you can get more information (and maybe even some merchandise!) from the website. Having seen these impressive animals in the wild in Nepal, I hope that global support can help keep them on the planet long enough for plenty of others to see.