My friend and neighbor, Jonellen Thompson, recently returned from a fabulous trip to South Africa where she volunteered at the Balule Wildlife Conservation Project for two weeks. Jonellen is an ardent animal advocate and when she learned of an opportunity to save four rhinos from poachers, she immediately grabbed the chance to help. She tells her story below and gives directions so that anyone who may be inclined to help may do so.
The funds need to be collected by June 5, 2013. All assistance, whether monetary or passing along of information, is gratefully accepted!
Here’s Jonellen’s story:
I recently returned from South Africa where I volunteered for a few weeks at the Balule Wildlife Conservation Project in the Balule Nature Reserve/Olifants West Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger National Park. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The program is run by the nature reserve’s game warden, Craig Spenser, and a small staff who have devoted their lives to wildlife conservation. As a volunteer I participated in all aspects of their day-to-day operations ranging from helping out in the bush camp, to monitoring the park for poachers and assisting in ongoing research, to actually rescuing animals – we rescued 2 lions that had gotten out of the park (once out of the park they can be targeted for hunting) – one was injured and had to be sedated so a vet could examine him before re-releasing him back into the park – I actually got to hold a wild lion’s paw in my hand, examine his teeth and run my hands through his mane – and this was just the first day!
One of the biggest challenges facing greater Kruger Park is poaching for the illegal trade of rhino horn in China and Viet Nam for “medicinal” purposes. While all the wildlife is at risk, the poaching of rhinos for their horns is particularly alarming – not only to the species, which is quickly approaching extinction (many sub-species in Africa and Asia are already extinct due to rampant poaching) but also the suffering of each individual rhino that is brutally hacked for its horn.
Below is a link to a video capturing the death of a known rhino – Geza – shortly after poachers had gotten to him. Warning: it is very disturbing but I urge you to watch it (or as much as you can) and pass it on. While the plight of the rhino is widely known, I think most people would be shocked to learn the manner in which the poachers obtain the horns.
(Scroll down for video of Geza but check out entire website for more info on rhinos)
While I was in South Africa the conservation project was offered a rare opportunity – another rhino rescue organization offered to fund the major portion of a new satellite collaring procedure for 4 rhinos within Balule Nature Reserve if the project could come up with the money for the actual collars and the tracking costs. This new collaring is special for 2 reasons:
1. Satellite collaring will provide precise monitoring of each rhino (unlike previously used VHF transmitters) – they will know where the rhino is any given time and will be immediately alerted to any changes in movement and behavior
2. The rhinos’ horns will be injected with a poison that will not harm the animal but will render the horn unsuitable for human consumption. It is the latest approach in the anti-poaching battle. See links for more info on the poison horn procedure:
The project will take place on June 6th and June 7th (hopefully more will take place in the future – that is the goal). Three of the four collars have been accounted for – the funding for the fourth collar is still needed. Each collar (with tracking costs) costs approximately 22,000 Rand which calculates to about $2,000 – $2,300 depending on the varying exchange rate. All donations – 100% (minus Pay Pal fees – 4%) – will go directly to the funding of the 4th collar. It will not go into a general fund or towards administrative costs. You will literally be saving a rhino’s life. I promise that. This is a very special request – if they do not come up with the funds for the 4th collar an incredibly rare opportunity will be missed.
I am funding an entire collar myself (one of the other 3 that are accounted for) – I am not rich but that is how important I believe this is. I am doing so in honor of my friend Robin Cutson who passed away last year. She was an animal rights activist and devoted her life to animal rescue.
For those contributors that are interested, I am going to try to set up a way to track your rhino from home so you can keep up his or her progress. And if you ever decide to venture to South Africa some day you may be able to even see him/her!
Rhino Mercy, based in Washington, has been kind enough to act as the conduit for all donations for the satellite collaring project. Below is the link to their financial and donation page. Please be sure to earmark your donation “Balule Satellite Collar Project” – even mention my name (although not necessary as long as earmarked) to be sure they know that your donation is to go to the this specific project. I by no means am discouraging you from donating to their organization – they are a wonderful organization and perhaps you will consider donating to them as well. Right now I am focusing on this collaring project as it is fast approaching and it would be such a shame – perhaps cost a rhino’s life – if they do not come up with the funds.