Building community rhino ambassadors can be the single biggest living deterrent to rhino poaching.
So says Dr Bandile Mkhize, CEO of Ezemvelo KZN wildlife, speaking of the Kingsley Holgate Foundation. He goes on to say,
Communities are not some solid block of people who necessarily think the way our recently selected 400 rhino ambassadors around Hluhluwe- iMfolozi Park, Ndumo and Tembe do. There are hundreds of thousands of people who inhabit areas that lie between and around our protected areas.
The majority have no work and like all of us, aspire to a better life. Poverty, ignorance and, yes, greed is the breeding ground for much of society’s ills. ‘This is the fundamental thrust behind why I initiated the rhino ambassador programme in the first place. Our communities are the single biggest living deterrent to rhino poaching. They represent the greatest frontier of potential resistance and intelligence.
He is talking about the recently launched Community Rhino Ambassadors program in which young adults fresh out of school have been drafted into being Rhino Ambassadors.
We meet a group of these youngsters at Ndumu – they are full of pride and passion. They dance rhino songs around our campfire and next day in the town of Ndumu, they endorse the Rhino Landy with messages of solidarity.
Their organiser, Mr Mandla Tembe agrees that they should assist with taking the expedition’s Rhino Protection Art education programme to schools in the area. It’s all on the right track – we can’t stop this ‘Rhino War’ without involving communities. They are our eyes and ears.
And so, one Landy behind the other, we move on up into the Lubombo Heights in search of the Border Caves where a hundred thousand years ago, early man looked out onto the vast herds of wildlife on the plains below. With us are the latest young community rhino ambassadors.
Article Source: Kingsley Holgate Foundation