I remember well my first close up encounter with rhino. It was in Meru National Park in Kenya. I can't remember exactly what year it was - early 1980s. The park then was a rather wild place and we enjoyed visiting it. It was on our way up north to where we lived.
Meru had a bunch of white rhino that had been re-introduced and they were watched 24/7 by guards. At the time visitors were allowed to go out for a walk with the guards and the rhino. As big an event as it was, I can't actually remember the details. I'm not sure if we actually walked with them or just spent a little time with the? Whatever, I have a clear picture in my mind of that day, a bunch of guards with their rifles, and the white rhino.
We went back to school and carried on. But later on we heard that the rhino had been shot. The poachers had Ak-47s and RPG-7s. The guards with their bolt-action rifles didn't stand a chance. RPGs were so easy to come by from Somalia that guys were buying them in exchange for food when there were droughts in southern Somalia. Some Rhino were actually shot with RPGs - AK-47s just aren't hunting rifles.
Some of you may remember better than me, but I believe that at that time, that incident was the end of White Rhino in Kenya. I certainly didn't see any more of them.
That, at the age of about 10 was my introduction to the story of rhino, and for a little kid to have actually seen rhino that were shot in such a gruesome way, it was something that would stay with me.
Since then the conservation effort for Rhinos have come a long way and has had so much press that it has become a little boring. I honestly seldom read the "Save the Rhino" articles anymore - same old same old.
But, of course, to the rhinos the story isn't so boring. Rhino poaching hasn't gone away. It hasn't even changed that much. There is a very real battle still going on. Some may argue that Rhino are in a natural dying stage of their evolution cycle? I can't comment on that. But if we simply let Rhino die, what about whales, what about turtles. I know, you have heard this so often, but we really are at a point where we can do something concrete about these things.
Interested in doing your bit? Visit the WWF South Africa Rhino Campaign web page and learn a little more about what you can do towards saving Rhino. WWF is going to have a Save the Rhino day on the 22nd of September, and asking everyone to:
On 22 September, RHINO DAY, WWF calls on all concerned citizens of the world to dust off their vuvuzelas, toot their horns and to make as much noise as possible, at 1pm, as a symbolic act to send a powerful message to leaders that the time to take serious and effective action against rhino poaching is now.
You can also join the Help our Rhino (HORN) cause.
In May I was in Etosha and spent a night at Okaukuejo. At the waterhole we had one white rhino and we all lost count of the black rhino that came to drink. It was special, though that is still common at Okaukuejo.
I had the chance as a student at Addo Elephant National park to see a little of the effort first hand, where Black Rhino from zoos were being re-introduced to the wild. It all takes money and money that is all wasted if someone just goes and shoots them.