For a long time, we had been making donations to various animal causes, but we were never really sure if what we were doing was making an impact. We then decided to investigate and seek out something to support but where we could be directly involved and eventually we found Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary. I have always been drawn to rhino whereas Ian’s first love is the elephant and as both are in dire trouble it makes sense that we focus on them.
Initially, we purchased an anti-poaching dog named DiDi and helped to fund the dog runs and handlers quarters; we also purchased a heap of equipment for keeping the bomas clean. We flew up to the sanctuary to watch DiDi and her handler in action together at a special training day, the bond they shared was amazing. Unfortunately, she was killed in a freak accident which was tragic for all of us but none more so than her handler. We also took on the responsibility of a beautiful orphan who we named Spirit, and we learned everything we possibly could about the plans for the sanctuary from Petronel and her partner Chris. It was after that that we decided that we could not walk away and this was the project for us and so, we became part of the Care for Wild family.
Then the moment that filled and broke my heart all at once happened.
A one-day-old baby was flown in by helicopter to the sanctuary. Petronel and I were talking about it on the phone and next thing I was on a plane to perform rhino Grandmother duties. At that point, I knew absolutely nothing about baby rhino, but I am a mother who has experience with premature babies so I figured it would not be all that different and it wasn’t. This tiny little girl orphaned, confused and unwell somehow knew I was a maternal figure. As I lay looking at her, both of us took comfort in our beating hearts, and I am sure our souls connected. Tears silently rolled down my cheeks as I became intensely aware of her sadness and confusion. If the pure force of will could have kept that baby alive, she would have lived to be one hundred. Petronel and her team did everything possible to help her, but it was not to be.
When you have held a baby rhino in your arms, felt her pain and endured her sadness. When you know that part of the reason she died was that she wanted her mum so badly that the will to live was not as it should be, something deep inside of you changes. When you have seen a ranger carry his dying dog for 2km while she was bleeding to death and refusing to leave her as the vets tended her, it is no longer a question of can we save the rhino from extinction but a sense of determination that we will save them. I do not doubt that together we will succeed, there simply isn’t another option.
At the 1961 Pan African Symposium on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Modern African States’ and on the evening before Tanganyika’s (Tanzania) independence it’s founding father Julius Nyerere said in his keynote statement the ‘Arusha Declaration on Conservation’. “The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa. The wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important as a source of wonder and inspiration but are an integral part of our natural resources, our future livelihood and well-being. In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife, we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance. The conservation of wildlife and wild places calls for specialist knowledge, trained workforce and money, and we look to other nations to co-operate with us in this important task - the success or failure of which not only affects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world as well.”
Almost 60 years later his words are more important and more urgent than ever.
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