Demonstrating both public recognition of the dire situation in which we once again find the rhino species, and the attractiveness of a family day out in a lovely venue, numbers at Rhino AWAREness Day last weekend surpassed every expectation.
Organised by the Animal and Wildlife Area Research and Rehabilitation Trust (Aware), over 500 tickets were pre-sold and attendance exceeded 800.
There were stands to visit, talks by experts on the currently more critical than ever plight of the rhino, art exhibition, food and drink, an orchestra, a string quartet, marimba band and dance group.
The use of this beautiful venue was donated by Raintree in Umwinsidale, and the day's success as both a fund-raiser and an excellent awareness raising event were pretty much guaranteed by an extraordinarily long list of sponsors, a passionate team of Aware Trust people, and many others who joined in to help.
Sponsors generously gave services, products, time and money, to assist Aware Trust's fearless fund raiser Tracey Hugill in her quest to hit a daunting financial target to enable Aware to carry out an urgently required rhino dehorning exercise. The target is now over two thirds achieved.
Classical and marimba music was provided by Hellenic Academy, with music director Cabby Stirling, plus an adult string quartet. Talented dance group from Chitungwiza, Extreme Vision, provided amazing entertainment with their acrobatic hip-hop dancing.
National Rugby 7s team, the Cheetahs attended, chatting to people, taking part in a fun tug-of-war, and posing for photos with the Aware vets. CBZ Bank donated a generous cash sum in advance of the event.
Inspiring, informative speakers were doctors Lisa Marabini and Keith Dutlow, the dedicated vets of Aware Trust, and Charlie Hewat, original Rhino Girl and conservation warrior.
In this cause close to my heart, my own contribution on the day was as mistress of ceremonies, which kept me busy and on my feet throughout. Hoarse and exhausted by day's end, I was well pleased to have been closely involved in such a worthy cause and successful event. Hellenic Academy students assisted in many duties and tasks and it was an excellent team effort all round.
TWO RHINOS KILLED DAILY IN SOUTH AFRICA
Since January this year, 394 rhino have been poached in South Africa, an appalling average loss of over two rhino a day.
It must not be forgotten, either, that these huge, beautiful animals are very cruelly killed, with a horrifying absence of compassion, dying slowly and in terrible pain.
I so wish that we as a species had long since moved beyond these appalling behaviours, but we have not, and should be ashamed. Should we not know better than this, in the 21st century?
KILL THE MYTH: RHINO HORN IS USELESS
The Yemen used to contribute significantly to demand for horns. Through a concerted education campaign, this demand fell away.
Today, most of Africa's rhino horn ends up in China and Vietnam, where so-called, useless "medicines" are still made with it. However, in Vietnam, similar education efforts have recently begun and there are already reports that the price has dropped as a result. Let's hope the Yemeni success can be repeated.
Kill the myth that rhino horn does anything of benefit for a human, and poaching ends. Join the global campaign to tell anyone and everyone, in every manner at your disposal, that rhino horn has no medicinal power whatsoever, and you become part of the solution.
Education and information the ultimate solution
It is belief-defying that we still live in a world where an entire species of animal stands on the brink of extinction, based on a totally false notion that part of its body has some sort of magical power.
It does not. A rhino's horn is made of nothing more "magical" or "medicinally useful", than your own finger nails and hair! Yet, in the relentless, greedy and ignorant pursuit of this completely useless substance from a medicinal standpoint, 95% of all the rhinos left in the world, less than 100 years ago, have been slaughtered by illegal poachers for their horns, paid and directed by a few greedy people without a conscience, who are motivated by the ridiculous price placed on this substance.
At the turn of the 20th century there were around 500 000 rhinos worldwide. By the 70s, that number had dropped to 70 000. Today, less than 30 000 rhinos remain.
The last known rhino in Mozambique was poached in April this year, and in the past 18 months, over 1 000 rhino have been poached across Africa.
It was poignant to listen to Hewat speaking of her epic bike ride with Julie Edwards from the UK through Europe and down the length of Africa, raising awareness and funds to prevent the imminent extinction of this precious species.
In spite of all her efforts and many others in the 1980s and the 90s, during which much headway was made to secure a future for the black and white rhino, these animals are now in even graver danger than they were then!
While numbers did increase up until 2008, bringing the species back from the brink, since then, driven by escalating demand, in turn pushing prices even higher, poaching has radically intensified. Once more, we fear for the survival of the last few rhino of Africa. These animals are being barbarically killed.
At the event, our attention was drawn to the horrifying losses of elephant to poaching over the past three decades. There is no room for complacency about this precious species either, which, they warned, we could easily lose in our own lifetimes, forever.
There are two areas where you can help.
First, support organisations like Aware who are actively working to save the species. Without funding, effective measures to protect these animals just can't happen. Secondly, education and information are the simple, and ultimate, solution. Every voice which joins this education campaign is a drop that can turn into a river to wash away these ignorant beliefs.
When there is no more demand for rhino horn from ignorant people, being fed by the greedy, preying on that ignorance, and on the poor in Africa who kill these animals for them, then this senseless carnage will end.
poaching, rhino, south africa