To salute and support our brave conservation soldiers and show appreciation of their crucial role in the battle to save our rhino, the Chipembere Rhino Foundation in collaboration with RAGES (Rotarian Action Group for Endangered Species), undertook a mission to collect bonus rations for the men of the Eastern Cape Rhino Anti-Poaching Units (APU).
“Day and night these committed men and women remain the first line of defence for our Rhino. This sometimes thankless job that can go at times unnoticed requires an incredible amount of professionalism and passionate dedication from these Rhino Anti-Poaching Units (APU). Their actions ensure the safety of our wildlife in the large wilderness areas that they patrol, areas that are fraught with danger and often against a ruthless criminal element,” says Brent Cook, Founding Director of Chipembere Rhino Foundation.
“An army marches on its stomach” said Napoleon Boneparte. The extra rations collected would go directly to the men in the Anti-Poaching Units on the front line at 5 local reserves and a national park, where they patrol 24-7, protecting our wildlife, to show them support, boost their morale and keep them marching towards victory.
The campaign was launched on 8 April 2016, following a brutal assault on the Eastern Cape in the first four months of 2016, including the devastating Sibuya Game Reserve poaching in March that left Bingo and two rhino cows dead. This poaching incident was reminiscent of the Kariega Game Reserve poaching of Thandi, Themba and Bull no 84 in 2012. The community was, once again, rocked to its very core and the events had a demoralising effect on conservation efforts far beyond the boundaries of a particular reserve.
The drive was launched via FACEBOOK and a number of local Rotarians started driving the project through their youth clubs. Rotary began its Save the Rhino project in 2012, as a result of poaching at Kariega and further afield.
The Rotary Club of Kenton’s Early Act Club spearheaded an inter-grade competition at Kenton Primary School to collect rations and letters. The proceeds of this most successful project, generously supported by staff and parents, were handed over to the RAGES Rhino Project Manager, Jo Wilmot, at a presentation at the school, with Grade 7 winning the competition.
The District 9300’s E-Club and the Port Alfred Inter Act Club also joined the drive and this active Interact Club collected rations at Port Alfred’s Rosehill Mall. A local teacher, Nicky Nel, then based at Port Alfred High School, also set her Grade 4 learners the task of writing letters to the APU members.
Ration drops to three of the five reserves as well as the national park have already been completed. These were very well received.
“Thanks again to all the wonderful kiddies for the food and lovely letters,” comments Linda Visser, Security Co-ordinator at Shamwari Game Reserve. “The APU rangers were so happy and they were amazed by their letters!”
Other messages received from local reserves included “The APU rangers were very grateful for the rations, so a big thank you to you guys from all of us! The men really appreciate it and I could see on their faces when I was giving them their rations that it gives them hope knowing that the outside world is thinking of them and sees the fight that they are silently fighting to protect a species. A small gesture such as this goes a long way. So, once again, thank you very much! We really appreciate it.”
The last two reserves will receive their rations by the end of the month, as the Kenton Rotary Club’s SAVE OUR RHINO project continues under the umbrella of RAGES, along with its strategic partner, Chipembere Rhino Foundation.
With the help of five other Rotary Clubs, the Kenton Rotary Club’s SAVE OUR RHINO project has raised R160,000 for the Chipembere Rhino Foundation, which contributes significantly to equip and train APU rangers throughout South Africa by providing tangible equipment, intelligence, technology, education as well as relocation assistance to rhino custodians across Southern Africa.
This successful initiative provides the public an opportunity to help win the battle on the front-line and to keep spirits lifted all round.