BY Wayne Bolton

Once again I feel the compelling need to do what I can to help halt the decimation of our world rhino species. South Africa is home to about 95% of the world’s white rhino (approximately 18 000 in South Africa) and 40% of the critically endangered black rhino (only approximately 2000 left).
Like many South African’s I have grown up with easy access to the bush and our magnificent wildlife species – one of the iconic examples being our rhino. I know what it is like to regain perspective in my busy life by being able to place my feet in the African sand. I have always felt that as South Africans we owe a debt of gratitude to those bastions and custodians of our natural heritage who make this all possible – SANParks and our regional reserves on the one hand, and our private game reserves on the other. Our private game reserves hold approximately 25% of our countries rhino population.

As much as my focus has been on saving our rhino population, it is clear that the problem is a lot broader than just our rhino. The world has lost three fifths of her vertebrate numbers since 1970 through habitat loss, over-consumption, pollution, invasive species and disease. Yet, our rhino represents the battle line. Not just for Africa, but for the world.  If we cannot resolve the rhino crisis, we simply will not be able to stop the slide as other iconic and lesser known species slide into oblivion because our generation let it happen.

The rampant poaching of our rhino in Kruger National Park and the tireless efforts of SANParks to halt it, is well documented.  As SANParks counter poaching initiatives have gained momentum, the poaching syndicates have felt the pressure and have looked for easier pickings. This has resulted in syndicates moving to the south of the country – the Eastern Cape has become a target as has Kwa-Zulu Natal.  The battle frontier has moved to an extent.

Almost weekly we read about the bloodbath in the Ezimvelo parks – Hluhluwe and iMfolozi game reserves in particular. It seems to be unabated. The sterling work done by Dr Ian Player and others is being undone.

Rhino’s poached in the Eastern Cape have increased from 5 in 2014 to 19 in 2016 and there are perpetual threats to their security. Professional game reserve teams and well managed anti-poaching units have stepped up to curb the slaughter as best they can – a credit to them and the organisations they represent.

In KZN the situation is dire:

  • 2015: 115 rhinos poached
  • 2016: 162 rhinos poached
  • 2017 to end May – already 99 rhinos poached

It is one thing to be horrified by the onslaught, but completely another thing to do something about it. We no longer have the luxury of merely caring, but leaving the job to the “Greenpeace” type organisations of the world. No, the time has come for the ordinary citizen to move from “caring”, to “doing”.

My family, friends and I are embarking on the OLLI Frontier Rhino Ride in July 2017 to demonstrate the need to act. We hope to draw attention to the need for urgent civilian intervention and at the same time raise funds to support the largest rhino orphanage in the world, Care for Wild Africa.
By riding from game reserve to game reserve between Port Elizabeth and the Mozambique border, we hope to showcase the critical work being done in the private sector to save our rhino and other species.

Along the way we will collaborate with these reserves as well as sponsors and institutions who care enough about our natural heritage to do that “extra” required right now - indeed, they are extraordinary.

Your support of our initiative will be an investment in our future. 

 June 01, 2017
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