Ashton International College Ballito joins rhino rescuers

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

“In 2013, Project Rhino KwaZulu-Natal partnered with the Kingsley Holgate Foundation in the Izintaba Zobombo expedition.

“We travelled through a rectangle encompassing the Lubombo range of mountains, including the Kruger National Park and its nearby private reserves, across its fence line to the ‘rhino war zone’ along the border with Mozambique in the east to include Parque Nacional do Limpopo and the private reserves down to Komatipoort,” says famed explorer and philanthropist Kingsley Holgate.

“We then turned south through the nature reserves of Swaziland and into northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). This is home to the largest concentration of wild rhino in the world, and the Izintaba Zobombo expedition was able to undertake the most comprehensive children’s education survey ever undertaken linked to rhino conservation, art and soccer. Never before have so many thousands of schoolchildren been given the opportunity to have a voice as to how they feel about the ‘rhino situation’. Based on the success and the experience gained, we then launched Phase II of the Children’s Rhino Art Project.”

Ashton on board

The objective of Phase II was to gather Africa’s largest-ever united ‘children’s art voice for rhino’, with the target of reaching 200 000 children before World Rhino Day on 22 September 2013. The art was intended to add to the groundswell of public support for rhino protection and to influence politicians and conservation bodies to take stronger action to save this endangered species. Ashton International College Ballito agreed to assist Holgate to spread the word.

“We challenged all the independent schools in KZN to participate,” says the school’s marketing manager, Jeannie Habig. The picture of a rhino was copied by the school onto A3 sheets of paper and distributed to Ashton’s students, who coloured them in, added their own slogans and attached a R10 note to the artwork. The master copy was sent electronically by Ashton to other schools on request, which added their own logos and increased participation.

“Our Grade 5 students also spent a morning at R.A. Padayachee Primary School, our social responsibility partner, distributing pictures for them to colour,” says Flick Holmes, head of the Junior College at Ashton. “We were very privileged when Kingsley Holgate visited Ashton and shared his experiences and knowledge about the importance of conserving the rhino for future generations,” adds Ashton executive head, Joe Erasmus.

Holgate was impressed by Ashton’s efforts. “Each R10 note with the head of the rhino thereon and each R10 collected helped to take the project to even more rural Zululand school communities, who live alongside areas where most of the rhino poaching takes place and where rhino education is sorely needed.”

He visited the school to collect its artworks together with the generous number of R10 notes. “Over the past four years, Ashton participated in the Eco- Schools Programme and was awarded Gold Flag status at the end of 2012.1We continue to ensure that environmental education is part of our daily routine,” says Holmes.

That routine included a very successful ‘Moonlight Market’, organised and run by the Ashton Grade 7 year group. Adds Holmes: “Ten per cent of their profits were also handed to the Kingsley Holgate Foundation to continue their endeavours to reach rural areas where children are the ‘ears on the ground’, and join hands against poachers.”

Holgate here, there and everywhere

Holgate has visited countless education institutions to draw attention to the plight of the rhino. Speaking at Rhodes University on 9 September 2013, he echoed the words of his personal hero, Dr David Livingstone. Just as Livingstone fought to stop slavery, which he felt was the “urban sore of the world”,2 so Holgate has taken up the plight of the large yet loveable beasts whose horns find their way to countries like Vietnam.3 Holgate told the Rhodes community that he had learned much from the children in the countries he had visited in Africa, adding that he saw kraals4 of poachers kitted out with pool tables and gold jewellery.

Rhino poaching often also includes human death, said Holgate, citing a distressing message he received from a young girl from Mozambique (the origin of many poachers) who wrote, “God stop the killing of rhino. It’s a bad thing, already I have lost two brothers.” “It’s a human tragedy,” said Holgate. “The people of Africa are being subverted and we are losing an ancient creature.”

Holgate told the audience that his foundation had reached over 150 000 children in rural and urban African schools with a simple message: “Save the rhino.” He added that he had in his possession at that time about 15 000 pieces of art submitted by African children. Rhodes students and academics alike were moved by Holgate’s account of his emotional return to home base in Umhlanga, KZN, after the Izintaba Zobombo expedition. He related how the community scribbled messages onto his Land Rover, which has already been branded with hundreds of messages and signatures of solidarity in support of rhino protection.

The collected artworks were displayed at the Boardwalk shopping centre in Durban on World Rhino Day 2013 (22 September). Holgate plans to showcase them in as many locations as possible, including in a coffee table book, on his foundation’s website and at as many airports as possible. He also plans to use the art to generate new research about the issue, and to bring Vietnamese children to Africa so that they could see the prehistoric-looking beasts in the flesh. 

1. The Eco-Schools Programme is an international programme of the
Foundation of Environmental Education (FEE) and is active in 51
countries around the world. (Source:
2. Hunting, illegal trade and rhino horn consumption led to extinction of the
Javan rhino in Vietnam in 2010, and now Vietnam is one of the main
markets contributing to the killing of rhinos elsewhere, especially in South
Africa. (Source:
3. See, for example:
4. See, for example:
5. See, for example:
6. See, for example:

Eastern Cape rhino need support

ISASA schools in the Grahamstown area continue to lend their support to pregnant rhino Thandi, who gained world-wide fame when she was attacked by poachers at the Kariega Game Reserve in March 2012.5 Thandi lost her horn – and her companion Themba – to the poachers and in the last week of January 2014 her reinfected wound was treated by renowned wildlife veterinarian Dr William Fowlds and colleagues. The occasion also saw local activists lend support to the injured animal.

Says Fowlds: “The prospects of a successful pregnancy and birth represent the hope of survival. In a crisis which threatens us with despair, that hope, as insignificant as it may seem for some, is what we cling to for dear life.” Fowlds, a passionate and wellknown activist for the preservation of rhino, lent his voice to the crisis by participating in a video about Thandi screened at a recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Vietnam.6



Category: Autumn 2014, Featured Articles

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