Les Carlisle: Group Conservation Manager
Meeting our rhino translocation team
&Beyond’s ground-breaking rhino translocation project is really hotting up now with the arrival of Cecil Riggs, Max Tidimalo and Sekora Gunikhwe at &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. Cecil is in charge of the private anti-poaching unit operated by &Beyond in Botswana, which Sekora is also part of, and Max is the &Beyond guide in Botswana who will be responsible for rhino tracking. During their time at Phinda, Sekora will receive training in the use of radio telemetry and Max will complete an internal qualification known as Grade 2 Walking, which will qualify him to track and view certain high-profile game (including rhino) on foot. Once he has completed his training, Max will be our first Botswana guide ever to achieve this qualification.
What great guys all three of them are! Sekora has only been training for two days and yet, this morning, he managed to use his equipment to lead the team right up to two collared rhino without any help from his trainer. The radio telemetry equipment that we will be using in Botswana has graciously been donated by Brent Cook of Chipembere Rhino Foundation.
The rest of the planning is now getting to the really detailed stages – which border posts to use, which route to take, etc. Botswana and South Africa have already supplied the CITES permits so now we are just waiting for the veterinary permits.
It is so rewarding to see the dedication of three of our Botswana visitors, particularly our anti-poaching heroes Cecil and Sekora, and to hear them talking with complete ownership of the rhino that will soon be in their care.
Here’s a little bit more detail about these three outstanding members of our team.
Cecil Riggs was born and grew up in Botswana. As a child, he and his family used to spend as much time as possible in areas that are now protected Wildlife Management Areas and National Parks. As a result, Cecil knows these parts of the country intimates and every tree, river bend and water crossing hold memories of his childhood adventures. After completing his schooling in neighbouring South Africa, Cecil worked “trekking” cattle on horseback, transporting them from Maun to places such as Pandamatenga and Kasane for export to Zimbabwe. This often involved adventures such as swimming the cattle across rivers en route to the delivery point. Cecil’s next job was in the safari industry, as a professional hunter who worked in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. More recently, Cecil has moved into an active conservation role and operates a private anti-poaching unit in Botswana for &Beyond. He is also an Honorary Game Warden for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks in that country.
Sekora Gunikhwe was born in Maun, Botswana, and spent his childhood in the area. After leaving school, he was employed as a tracker in the hunting industry, which gave him extensive experience in the remote areas of Botswana. Leaving the hunting industry, Sekora has joined the anti-poaching team headed up Cecil. He regards the wildlife of Botswana as his cattle and takes great delight in protecting them and looking after their well-being.
Maxwell Gumede comes from north-eastern Botswana and grew up in the area surrounding Chobe National Park. He began his career in tourism as a barman in Kasane, after which he attended a guide training in Maun. Returning to Kasane, he worked as a guide for two years before joining &Beyond in May 2009. Guiding has always been one of Maxwell’s dreams and he views being part of the rhino translocation project as the culmination of that dream. Looking forward to his training, Maxwell has been excited at the prospect of seeing animals like rhino on foot.