The senseless and brutal slaughter of Chippy and Isipho, two white rhino breeding bulls, and – just weeks later – the vicious poaching of a third rhino, Geza, tragically brought home the devastating reality of the full-blown poaching epidemic in South Africa for owners Brent and Chantelle Cook.
“Even though we had been involved in wildlife and rhino conservation since 2003, it was an absolute shock and a real wake-up call to lose two of our rhino on our reserve and one we had sold on to a neighbouring reserve, all very special to us, and to become part of the horrifying rhino poaching statistics in South Africa,” says Brent. “We could not sit on the side lines. We had to move forward from the tragedy to a new purpose, and we established the Chipembere Rhino Foundation (CRF) to protect and preserve the last few rhino in Southern Africa – Saving Rhino One at a Time – and ensuring no other rhino endured senseless suffering like Chippy, Isipho and Geza did.”
Every year on the 16 November, at the Rhino Remembrance Memorial at God’s Window on Amakhala Game Reserve, Chippy, Isipho and Geza is celebrated and remembered, along with the 7,000 other rhinos tragically lost to poachers across South Africa since 2010.
“We salute Chippy, Isipho and Geza – and all the other rhino lost. They are gone, but never forgotten. In their memory, we recommit to our mission: Saving Rhino One at a Time!” says Brent.
CHIPPY ‘Chippy’ – short for ‘Chipembere’, which means ‘rhinoceros’ in Shona, and also referred to the ‘chip’ in his horn – was a healthy breeding bull on the reserve. His legacy lives on through many Rhino but particularly through his one daughter Themba and his grandson ‘Schofe’ born in September 2017 – a second generation of rhinos born on the reserve and protected by a stringent anti-poaching team. Read the full story here.
‘Isipho’ means ‘gift’ in Xhosa, the local language. The birth of Isipho was a surprise: his mother was re-located to the reserve and, unbeknown to everyone, was pregnant! Five years of age when he was slaughtered, Isipho was a beautiful and proud rhino and would have taken over from Chippy as the future breeding bull for the Reserve’s rhino conservation project.
‘Geza’ means ‘naughty one’ in Xhosa and was the first rhino born on Amakhala. Geza later joined similar aged rhino at a neighbouring reserve to establish another breeding nucleus. An account of Geza’s horrific poaching incident is recorded by CRF trustee Dr William Fowlds in his publication “Poached” and this incident forever committed Dr Fowlds to the protection of rhino.
Saving Rhino One At A Time
Following the shocking loss of these rhino, Brent and Chantelle – along with their business partners, Paul and Debbie Naudé and Derek Cook – stepped up their conservation efforts and established Chipembere Rhino Foundation (CRF), a local registered non-profit and public benefit organisation aimed at conserving rhino and supporting the stringent anti-poaching efforts needed on the ground, where it counts. Their stellar efforts were later reinforced with renowned wildlife veterinarian, Dr. William Fowlds, joining as a trustee.
Today CRF advocates Saving Rhino One At A Time through education, awareness and funding a multi-pronged approach to support anti-poaching units (APU) on wildlife reserves in Southern Africa. CRF provides APUs with vital anti-poaching equipment, monitoring technology and ongoing and extensive training; funds the training of anti-poaching K9 units and specialised handlers; and facilitates the translocation of rhino across Southern Africa to safe havens.
“With the assistance of an amazing team of volunteers; technical and practical experience acquired by the trustees over the past 10 years; as well as our partnerships with rhino custodians and the support from donors, we have been able to make a significant contribution to the efforts to protect and preserve our rhinos,” says Brent. “Protecting rhino is costly for local and private reserves, so CRF plays a significant role in raising funds and forming crucial collaborations to assist reserves across southern Africa with multi-layered security and anti-poaching measures.”
Why Protect Our Rhino?
Our precious rhinos are worth so much more than the horn they are brutally poached for.
Rhino are web connectors. They are landscape managers of the bush. White rhino keep grass short and healthy, while black rhino cut back thick bush to create habitat and shelter for other animals. A truly iconic species, rhinos are part of Africa’s ‘Big Five’, attracting tourists and boosting local economies.
Rhinos are truly more valuable to us as South Africans than to any poacher! And with 75% of the few remaining rhinos living in South Africa, we are the custodians of these iconic species. We must do everything we can to protect them.