When the Full Moon hits, the rhinos are at the most risk. This beaming torch in the sky that lights up the wilderness at the beginning of each month helps poachers skulk around the park and do their dirty work. On darker nights the artificial light from their torches usually give them away, but when the Full Moon is in the sky, the poachers can track and shoot rhino without having to rely on torches to aid them.
The rhino are prehistoric behemoths that are incredibly tolerant and trusting, and while they can be aggressive when required, it’s our job to help save these very impressive animals.
There are now around 19,000 white rhino and 2,000 black rhino in South Africa. Over the past 20 years the number has been able to grow at around six per cent due to conservation, but the chances of increasing these numbers even further are constantly being wiped out as poaching is growing at an exponential rate too.
The multi-layered process needed to help save the rhino is as complicated and challenging as the landscape the animals call their home. Not only do you have to try and encourage the governments to change the laws; use national security and local networks to help give you an overall picture of what’s happening; but you also need to call upon the help of the local community to provide a security blanket that stops the poachers from being able to cross the reserve and get to the rhino. The next level of protection created to protect these animals is provided by our “boots on the ground’. These are well-equipped, trained staff who conduct patrols either by air, 4×4 vehicle, motorbike or on foot, in strategic areas and at observation posts.
But now all of these elements have been backed by yet another support network – science. With the help of state-of-the-art technology we have been able to help cause even more problems for the poachers – and even more extraordinarily the end receiver of the ivory.