St Andrew’s Preparatory School marks Rhino Awareness Day

The poaching of rhino horns and killing of this endangered animal has reached untenable levels.

On Monday 26 March 2012, along the verges of Cradock Road, opposite St Andrew’s Preparatory School in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, over 250 pupils at the school respectfully placed 893 crosses to mark the estimated number of rhino poached in South Africa since 2010.

William Fowlds addresses school on Rhino Awareness Day It was Rhino Awareness Day at this ISASA school, and all pupils and staff dressed in either black or white (symbolising the two types of rhino in South Africa) and made donations towards saving rhinos in Africa.

Headmaster Gareth Allman explained to the students that each cross they planted would represent a rhino killed for its horn. “The rows of crosses represent the ‘killing fields’ in our country where the rhino should be able to take refuge, but even there, they are no longer safe,” said Allman in his address.

Eastern Cape Private Nature Reserve Association (Indalo) Chairperson, Dr William Fowlds, was the special invited guest on this important occasion. Fowlds, who is also an highly respected wildlife veterinarian and a St Andrew’s Prep ‘old boy’, shared his passion for the great, grey living dinosaurs that he fights to protect.

Three rhino in game reserve savagely attacked in March Fowlds described the tragic, painful death of the second of the Eastern Cape’s Kariega Game Reserve’s three rhino that were brutally hacked for their horns in early March this year. Video clips, statistics and gruesome photographs of the dehorned beasts created a sombre tone as the St Andrew’s Prep boys listened in silence to the account.

Themba, a young bull just four years old, collapsed and died at a watering hole on 26 March. He suffered extensive injuries during the savage attack on 2 March when he fell on his side, with his left back leg folded under him, after he was hit by the poacher’s anaesthetising dart. Blood flow to the leg was cut off. “The wound to his nose was a concern, but we were more concerned about this leg, because the tissue was seriously infected,” Fowlds said. The surviving rhino, female Thandiswa, appears to be despondent after his death, Fowlds told the St Andrew’s boys and their teachers. Her complete recovery is still not certain because of the risk of infection.

During his awareness talk, Fowlds expressed relief that Themba and Thandiswa had at least not been further maimed. In many poaching incidents, rhino killers sever the animals’ spinal cords or tendons to prevent them from getting up while their horns are being hacked off with pangas. “Although poachers stalk the rhino on foot and sometimes use dart guns to silently immobilise them, the cruel irony is that they die from loss of blood and not because of the drugs,” said an emotional Fowlds. His impassioned pleas made via various media – radio, television and the internet – have helped raise awareness about Operation Save the African Rhino. Hundreds of Facebook posts have mourned Themba’s death.

Currently losing the battle to save the rhino Fowlds estimates that rhino horn is now worth more per gram than gold or heroin on the black market. Sophisticated crime syndicates operating across Africa smuggle the horn back to the Far East. Fowlds is doubtful that legalising the sale of rhino horn could mean the end of animal deaths, saying that legalisation could stimulate demand.

According to Fowlds, 80% of the world’s population of rhino live within the borders of South Africa, and incidents of poaching since January 2012 have escalated sharply to completely outstrip previous figures. “In spite of more arrests, more anti-poaching training and deployment, we are currently losing this battle,” said Fowlds. “We need to do more. We cannot be the generation that is responsible for the rhino’s extinction. It is simply not an option.”

The Eastern Cape government has announced the establishment of a special investigation unit to tackle rhino poaching with the latest best-practice training. The unit would adopt a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach.

Category: Winter 2012

About the Author ()

News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *