On a lay day during the recent 2015 J-Bay Open, Stop No. 6 on the 2015 Samsung Galaxy World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour (CT), top surfers Kelly Slater, 11-time world champion from the US and Australian WSL Title Contender Owen Wright, joined renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr William Fowlds and the Chipembere Rhino Foundation (CRF) on a special operation to dart and fit a tracking collar to the leg of a threatened white rhino. Exposing these top athletes to the vital tracking components applied in protecting this iconic species allows them to share in some of the work that the Chipembere team and those under the rhino conservation are doing to better protect rhinos from poachers.
Approximately 4,800 black rhino are left and are classified as critically endangered, while the 20,000 remaining Southern white rhino are classified as near-threatened. Even so, poaching levels have reached crisis point. “We are losing three rhinos a day in South Africa, and thousands each year,” said Dr Fowlds. “It’s a catastrophe. We need to tell the world what the poachers are doing to these animals.”
“There is such a staggering rate of decline in rhino numbers,” commented Slater. “I just don’t understand how anyone could do such things to these amazing animals. It was a privilege to assist the CRF team members, who have dedicated their lives to protecting the rhinos they love so much.”
“It’s hard to understand why the poachers are actually doing this. It’s senseless,” said Owen. “To be part of the process of placing the bracelet around the rhino’s foot and the microchip in its nose was amazing. It can mean saving one more rhino’s life.”
The operation was followed by a K9 demonstration, an explanation on the benefits of tracking and apprehension dogs as well as the importance of tracking collars and APU equipment in combating poaching. Dr Fowlds then led a post rhino procedure discussion about ‘Hope’, South Africa’s surviving rhino that was brutally injured by poachers.
The CRF was established in 2010 to help protect and preserve the diminishing number of rhino in Southern Africa. Run by specialists and volunteers, CRF focuses on continuously sourcing, testing and funding technology for effective monitoring of rhino; funding tracking and apprehension rhino dogs; providing anti-poaching teams with vital equipment; collaborating with wildlife reserves and raising awareness.
“Everyone of us should take some responsibility to protect these iconic creatures from such appalling inhumanity – and possible extinction,” comments Brent Cook, founder of CRF. “Saving rhino one at a time, the donations and support from ordinary, caring South Africans, the global community and top sports personalities like WSL surfers Kelly and Owen, make a massive difference on the ground. With such support, we can ensure that our children and their children will be able to enjoy the magnificent sight of a rhino roaming wild, as we protect and preserve the precious natural heritage bestowed on us.”
To view the WSL video