Rhodes joins campaign against rhino poaching

David Macgregor

THE fight to save Eastern Cape rhinos from poachers stepped up a gear at Rhodes University this week when students and staff rallied to highlight their plight.

Since Monday, hundreds have signed petitions and more than R1000 has been raised to try to save rhinos from extinction.

Galvanised by the horrific attack on three rhinos which were dehorned at the Kariega Game Reserve two months ago, the organisers of Rhino Week have roped in experts including wildlife vet Dr William Fowlds, conservationists, economists and even Rhodes University Chinese language expert Ma Yue to try to get a better understanding of the problem. Besides selling stickers urging authorities to “Dehorn poachers and their clients”, T- shirts, caps, art and black wrist bands to raise funds for the continued treatment of maimed rhinos, the organisers have planned a candlelight vigil and even a music concert to raise awareness and much-needed cash.

Student Representative Council environment councillor Ruth Krüger – who helped organise Rhino Week – said the barbaric nature of the Kariega attack had deeply affected Grahamstown residents.

“The funds raised in this initiative will go towards the medical care of Thandi, [the only survivor of the Kariega attack] who is recovering under the care of Dr Fowlds. This care is very expensive. Beyond Thandi’s needs, however, the money collected will go to the anti-rhino poaching cause generally, supplying what is needed through Dr Fowlds.”

Describing the plight of endangered black rhino as serious, Krüger said thought should perhaps be given to legalising the controlled harvest and sale of horns to try to prevent attacks.

But she warned “a very sophisticated system of control would have to exist for the legalisation of rhino horn trade to be effective”.

Fowlds said on Tuesday night that Thandi’s miraculous recovery had turned her into the global face of the war against poaching.

“Thandi will survive for the next 30 years,” he said. “She will be an icon, a living reminder of the brutality of poaching.”

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