World guests told of heroes

Yolande Stander

TRIBUTE has been paid to unsung heroes in the Eastern Cape who live up close and personal to rhinoceroses in the fight against the slaughter of the animals for their horns.

Sharing information at Shamwari Game Reserve with 45 guests from the US, England and Australia last week were the operation's wildlife director and veterinarian, Dr Johan Joubert, chief ecologist John O'Brien and security head and antipoaching coordinator Rodney Visser.

"One aspect was to tell how guys on the ground risk their lives to protect the animals," Visser said. "This really touched the guests."

Visser said the public were mostly unaware of the challenges these men and women face.

They work on a fiveday cycle and during this period live among the animals.

"They sleep in tents among dangerous animals like lions and hippos, but they do this to protect our diminishing rhino population."

Visser said one of the reasons the struggle to stop poaching was continuing was that law enforcement relating to wildlife crime had not received the necessary attention.

He said it was hoped the international guests would carry the message of dedication of the special anti-poaching squads and the need to stop the slaughter to all parts of the world.

  • Experts believe that before the end of the year more than 800 rhinos across South Africa will have been slaughtered, compared to 668 last year.

Only seven animals were killed in 2000.