22 September is World Rhino Day, while September is also Heritage Month. Rhinos are part of our natural heritage and it’s imperative that we conserve them for future generations.
The statistics are scary. Rhino poaching in South Africa increased by 9000% between 2007 and 2014. While rhino killings in the Kruger National Park – South Africa’s rhino stronghold – have marginally declined over the past two years, due to conservation efforts, poaching has unfortunately increased in other areas.
The MyPlanet Rhino Fund
Created in 2011, through a partnership between MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), the MyPlanet Rhino Fund has become one of the biggest citizen-driven fundraising initiatives for Rhino conservation.
More than R9.1 million has been raised over the past six years, and has been used to fund a variety of rhino conservation and education projects. In the past 12 months, over 54 000 MySchool cardholders have raised R2 601 786!
Kruger’s anti-poaching efforts get new wings
This year MyPlanet Rhino allocated R1,169 000 to the purchase of a Foxbat A-22LS aircraft for the Kruger National Park, enabling the anti-poaching unit to retire their ageing plane and benefit from latest technology. Aircraft are crucial to anti-poaching, enabling the unit to be more effective at monitoring rhino populations and movements over the vastness of the park; identifying high risk areas due to high densities of rhino; monitoring rhinos in remote areas of the park and increasing aerial patrols on the lookout for, or tracking poaching gangs.
K9 anti-poaching units
Dogs play an important role in rhino protection. In 2017, the Balule Nature Reserve in Hoedspruit has benefitted from a MyPlanet Rhino Fund donation to enable the establishment of a canine component of their successful Black Mamba All-Women Anti-Poaching Unit. The fund has also donated R250 000 to the SANParks Honorary Rangers Kwazulu Natal Region’s Climb for K9 campaign enabling them to buy much-needed GPS tracking harnesses and medical trauma kits for their anti-poaching Canine Unit.
Education and community upliftment are crucial to the efforts to protect our rhinos. This year, the fund is also providing support to two education programmes – the Lapalala Wilderness School and Rhino Revolution’s Green Kidz programme which aim to foster awareness and develop conservation leadership in the youth from vulnerable communities.
The MyPlanet Rhino Fund has also made donations to help the Special Species Protection Unit of Savé Valley Conservancy in thee Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, and to the Rhino Pride Foundation Trust which implements layered, early warning security measures at key rhino sanctuaries.
An interview with Braam Malherbe
I chatted to conservationist, adventurer and MyPlanet ambassador, Braam Malherbe, about his work with the MyPlanet Rhino fund.
MG: What is your message for World Rhino Day?
BM: It is really important that each year, our supporter base grows and our fundraising increases. While good work is being done to improve the protection of Rhinos, there are still far too many Rhinos lost every year. Unfortunately, Rhino poaching cartels are sophisticated and well-resourced, and our conservation bodies have to match this if they are going to be effective. We’re deeply grateful to our supporters, and hope many more South Africans who care about Rhinos and the environment will come on board as MyPlanet Rhino Fund cardholders in celebration of World Rhino Day this year.
MG: Rhino conservation has received a lot of media publicity over the past few years, but it seems like South Africans have got saturated with rhino conservation and anti-poaching stories. How do we keep rhino conservation top of mind?
BM: We keep rhino conservation top of mind by challenging people to be either an asset to conservation or a liability. By being apathetic and adopting an attitude of “but I’m only one person, how can I possibly make a difference, is a cop out. The old saying goes; “evil prevails when good men do nothing”. Simply by getting a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card and making the MyPlanet Rhino your beneficiary, you are being an asset in ensuring that these precious animals survive. Giving up is not an option.
MG: There are a lot of rhino conservation funds and projects out there. We’ve heard of eco-scamming. What makes MyPlanet Rhino Fund different? How are projects chosen and vetted?
BM: When I co-founded the MyPlanet Rhino Fund in March 2011, I did it because of the many scams pretenting to protect our rhino. The Fund is different because we have a panel of interested and effected parties who assess all applications and only award funds to ‘best-practices’ in rhino conservation. The panelists make a joint decision whereas most rhino conservation entities do not have a panel, but simply decide themselves. Our view is to make informed decisions based on a history of best practice.
MG: Despite a lot of media publicity and conservation funds going to rhino pretection, it doesn’t seem like we are winning the battle against poaching. How can we do better? What can ordinary South Africans do besides supporting funds like MyPlanet Rhino?
BM: The ordinary South African must look for, and support a conservation body that resonates with them. Simply sitting on the sideline and hoping someone else will fix the problems facing species extinction is just not acceptable. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution! The choices we make today decide our future. Tomorrow is too late.
MG: Rhinos are now classed as ‘keystone species’, playing a key role in supporting other animals and their environment. Why are rhinos so important to their eco-systems?
BM: Rhinos are a ‘keystone species’, which means that they contribute to the survival of many other species. When we remove them from the ecosystem, there is a cascade effect. For example, the seemingly insignificant dung beetle depends on rhino dung for their survival and the rhino depends on the dung beetle; as they distribute dung over the veld which fertilises the soil so that the grasses may grow, which feeds the rhino. Further; rhinos are one of the ‘Big 5’ and contribute greatly to tourism. What an indictment on not only every South African, but on humanity! Their demise is a symbol of the bigger problem – greed and ignorance.
4 Easy Steps to get involved
- Sign up for your free MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card online or call 0860 100 445.
- Select the MyPlanet Rhino Fund as your beneficiary fund.
- Swipe your card when you go shopping at any of the partner stores (Woolworths, Waltons, Engen Foodstops and more).
- The partner store will give back a percentage of what you have spent to the Rhino Fund on your behalf at NO COST TO YOU. Every swipe counts!