Umfolozi Game Reserve, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa
I have just returned from South Africa where I completed the well known Wilderness Trail together with 11 Vietnamese high school students. OAT recently agreed to support a rhino horn demand reduction programme, operated by the Wilderness Foundation which was set up in 1967 by Dr Ian Player, world renowned conservationist.
The objective of this particular project is to educate the youth of Vietnam and to enable them to become effective ambassadors for wild rhino in their home country who are the biggest buyers of rhino horn. Thousands of children are invited to enter an essay competition explaining their knowledge of the situation and why they would like to become a rhino hero. The top 11 senior students are selected and their journey begins with a visit to South Africa to view rhino and other wildlife in their natural habitat, as well as orphaned rhino whose families have been killed by poachers.
In addition to the 5 day trail, they also attend a workshop where they are assisted to come up with their own plans on how they can educate and influence people in their own countries on their return. They are given further support to deliver presentations and spread the word by personnel within The Wilderness Foundation’s office on the ground in Ho Chi Minn city.
Having witnessed first hand the children’s reaction to what they saw and experienced on the wilderness trail, I have no doubt they will become committed ambassadors and influencers in this and future generations which is exactly what is needed!
It was an amazing experience for everyone taking part. We followed the Black Imfolozi river carrying all our own food and equipment and every night we slept under the stars. We took it in turns to keep watch and keep the fire alight to discourage wildlife coming into camp – very exciting for children who had no previous experience of the African wilderness.
We were privileged to see lots of beautiful wildlife including two herds of four white rhino (up close), lion, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, kudu, hyena, hippo and many species of antelope as well as some spectacular bird life and also tracks of a black rhino.
In contrast – seeing two rescued baby rhino orphans on the last day of the trip, was very hard hitting and emotional, especially for the children, but this is the harsh reality that needed to be faced. It very quickly became clear to all that these are the real victims of the horrendous trade in rhino horn.
Here’s a short clip from the orphanage visit…
There is nothing like reconnecting with nature to put your life into perspective and this experience (including all my blisters) has been a fantastic one.
We are very proud to be supporting this project and if you would like to learn more about it first hand, take a look at their website http://www.wildrhino.org/
Hamba Kahle (Go well in Zulu)
For further Information on this and other projects supported by OAT please refer to our website https://www.olsenanimaltrust.org/