Les Carlisle: Group Conservation Manager
Two full vehicles of heroes for the recent rhino capture
When you plan a conservation initiative that involves an international translocation you need many things to fall into place and many attributes to be successful.
&Beyond’s gaur translocation in India last year was six years in the making and this project to move six white rhino from South Africa to Botswana has taken four years to put together. Patience and persistence are required from all the role players. Once all the permissions are in place, the task of raising the money for the project gets under way! This is where the real heroes come in – the donors who fund these projects, giving them life. In our case, the heroes come from totally divergent industries but all have a common goal – to make a difference to the society that they are supported by.
They all want to give back and I find it really amazing that this type of commitment is still out there.
&Beyond was approached by Chris and Joanne from Rhino Force, who were looking for ideas on what they could fund and how they could make a difference. I mentioned our translocation project to them and they immediately accepted and even adopted it as something that they would start to focus on. As you know, Rhino Force is the responsible for the beaded bracelets that you can buy all over, at CNA, Exclusive books, etc. As part of their marketing, they were doing a deal with Motorite, who wanted to buy bracelets, and they asked Motorite’s MD, Justen Cooper, if he was interested in supporting our rhino translocation to Botswana. Justen also jumped at the opportunity and we had our lead sponsor and first hero on board. In our second meeting, facilitated by Rhino Force with a group of Netcare suppliers, we got our second hero on board, so it only took two presentations to get the whole project funded.
This was, quite frankly, incredible! I was overwhelmed and remain deeply indebted to our sponsors, as well as our very own Africa Foundation, for this project.
As the project rolled along and more people in the industry heard what we were doing, Brent Cook from Chipembere Rhino Foundation offered to sponsor the security, radio telemetry equipment and even two satellite telemetry sets. This meant that we were able to get even one of the items that had been on our wish list. We are currently on budget to be able to place a satellite transmitter on each rhino to be released.
As the plan reached its execution, the teams assembled at &Beyond Phinda Forest Lodge. On the first evening, everyone was treated to a full briefing on how the next few days might pan out. Safety issues were highlighted and the potential problems discussed so that everyone in the group understood what would be required of them. This was all done in the beautiful dining room, against the backdrop of the Rhinos Without Borders banner. The basic plan was to catch the rhino in the field and send them to the approved quarantine station before they could be shipped to Botswana. The plan was to dart two rhino the morning, then wait during the heat of the day and do two more in the evening. The last two would be captured on the last day! As usual, these carefully laid plans were dependant on the weather and if we could find suitable animals in areas where we could work with them. The helicopter and Dr Dave Cooper, the vet, were ready to fly in and the crane trucks with their recovery crates were on site.
The plans were laid and our heroes (the donors) were on site to witness what they had funded. Now we just needed to do it, as Nike would say!
We had a really hearty dinner and more than a few drinks to fortify our spirits for the really early start, with a 04h15 wake up, tea and coffee at 04h45 and departure for the rendezvous point and a final briefing by the vets at 05h00. The show was finally on the road!
More to follow soon.