Pupils get rhino message across

CANDICE BRADFIELD

AIDING the rhino conservation cause, Rotary’s EarlyAct managed to collect over R5 000 at Port Alfred High School (PAHS) last Friday to go towards getting Bongi’s Quest translated into Xhosa and distributed to schools.

They arranged for wildlife conservationist and veterinarian Dr William Fowlds to give a talk educating pupils about the realities of rhino poaching.

“There are lots of animals that need our help, particularly the rhino,” he said.

According to director of public relations for Rotary Port Alfred, Sandy Maclachlan, the EarlyAct club has undertaken to raise R10 000 to have 1 000 copies of the book printed and distributed to rural schools in the area. She said the poachers have been bribing these children for information on the whereabouts of rhino, often with only a coke or a packet of chips.

Dr Fowlds has been involved with anti-poaching initiatives and has helped rhinos who have had their horns hacked off by poaches, such as the three at Kariega Game Reserve. According to an NBC report, one rhino horn is currently worth $250 000 (R2 037 500).

Rhino horn is modified skin which contains keratin, the same as fingernails. While it has no proven benefits, it is used for traditional medicine in Asia, for dagger handles in Africa, and there is a rumour the Vietnamese believe it is a cure for cancer. There is also a large market for this commodity, which is now worth more than gold per kilogram, in South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and India.

SAVE THE RHINO: 43 Air School flew over Port Alfred High School to take this aerial photo of over 600 pupils, from pre-primary to Grade 12, standing in the shape of a rhino on their field. The event was held to raise awareness of rhino poaching Picture: DAVE STOTT

Dr Fowlds showed footage of the rhinos from Kariega which had their horns hacked off in March this year. Visibly pained by what had happened, he spoke about Themba, who only survived for three weeks after the incident. Speaking to the camera about what happened, he was visibly very pained by the mutilation of this creature and the loss of its life.

One of his main aims is to help create awareness as far as possible.

“Ask yourself, what are you doing today? You can make the difference,” he said.

Even if you do something small once a week or once a month you will be making a difference, he said. This included talking to people within your network including overseas visitors.

“Keep on nagging,” he said.

Other ways to stop the threat to this animal include changing legislation, creating awareness at public shows, signing petitions and writing.

“Don’t ever underestimate the power of writing something,” he said.

The only surviving rhino of the three involved in the Kariega poaching, is reportedly doing well.

“Thandi will survive, I’m very confident about that,” he said.

Pupils also got the chance to hear from Bongi’s Questauthor, Chris Daniel, who was put on speaker phone. He thanked them for there support and said he would make a plan to pay Port Alfred a visit.

Maclachlan said Tahoe Spur have been very supportive and presented EarlyAct president Reagan van Niekerk with R1 000 on Friday. The pupils each paid R5 towards the cause.

Afterwards all the PAHS pupils from Pre-primary to Grade 12 stood on the field in the shape of a rhino. A helicopter from 43 Air School and photographer Dave Stott flew over and took aerial photographs. EarlyAct members together with Dr Fowlds formed the horn of the rhino.

EarlyAct collected R5 176 on the day, over half of the goal amount.

“We have had tremendous input and support from two local ladies, namely Jo Wilmot, from Root 72 who is an ardent conservationist and Sandy Birch from Sunshine Coast Tourism,” said Maclachlan.

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