Given the past four days of last-minute deals and frenzied shopping chaos around the world, it is easy to lose sight of what the season is actually about: giving thanks and gratitude; caring for loved ones, and leaving your own mark on the charitable season and end-of-year gift-giving.
This year, our guests, travel partners, families, friends and like-minded wildlife lovers alike have joined forces and embraced the true spirit of giving by making a much-needed donation to Rhinos Without Borders, our joint initiative with Great Plains Conservation. This project of hope aims to move 100 rhino away from the dire poaching crisis in South Africa to relative safety in neighbouring Botswana.
We are thrilled to officially announce the successful translocation and safe release of an additional 40 rhino from South Africa to Botswana. This latest (not to mention largest we have undertaken to-date) translocation means that Rhinos Without Borders has now moved a total of 77 endangered rhino and we are within close reach of our target.
Sadly, rhino horn remains one of the most sought-after animal products in the illegal wildlife trade. Its value is (astonishingly) greater than gold, making our beloved rhinos high-value targets for desperate poachers. Rhinos Without Borders is addressing this ever-present threat by translocating rhinos that are vulnerable to poaching incidents and releasing them into the wilderness of Botswana where they remain under close protection from the country’s government, as well as the Rhinos Without Borders monitoring and surveillance teams.
Launched in 2014, Rhinos Without Borders combines the knowledge, experience and proficiency of the conservation experts from both &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation. During the course of the project the team has finely tuned their specialist knowledge, becoming proficient in both the mechanics and the policy involved in moving these massive animals across national borders. As the project’s reputation has grown, so has sourcing the rhino to be moved become easier, with landowners increasingly contacting the team directly to take charge of vulnerable animals.
Our CEO, Joss Kent, highlights that, “It took us three years to move the first 37 rhino and now we have translocated 40 in just three weeks.”
Preparations for the most recent move began months ago, when Rhinos Without Borders was contacted by a South African landowner who expressed concern for the safety of the rhino at their reserve. Rather than take the risk of having the precious animals poached, the wildlife farmer preferred to see them moved to safety in Botswana. The team quickly mobilised to move the vulnerable animals out of harm’s way and secure them in preparation for a translocation. Working around the clock, teams in South Africa safeguarded the animals, while the Botswana teams prepared for their arrival.
In a week-long operation in September, the rhino were moved by road and air, using a combination of commercial and military aircraft, as well as heavy trucks. On arrival, the rhino were safely released and given two months to settle comfortably in their new home.
Although Rhinos Without Borders is spearheaded by two companies that are technically rivals, the fact remains that both &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation depend on wildlife conservation for our success. Rhinos Without Borders is an excellent example of private sector companies working hand-in-hand with government to make a positive and lasting impact on conservation issues.
“Collaboration is the new watchword for us in conservation,” says Dereck Joubert, CEO of Great Plains Conservation. “I am sure this latest move breaks some kind of record for animal translocations, but the team was so focused on getting the job done that nobody paid attention to the fact that they were making history.”
“Considering the sheer logistical and technical challenge of moving that many rhino in such a short space of time, the huge success of the move represents the incredibly tight cohesion and teamwork that has developed between the &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation teams,” adds Joss Kent.
As the target of 100 rhino moved draws nearer, the Rhinos Without Borders team is putting ever more focus on monitoring the released animals in Botswana.
“Our Rhino Monitors are incredibly dedicated to the rhino in their care. Things don’t always go according to plan in nature and we have experienced natural losses in the new population. What moves me most about this is watching the heartfelt reactions of our Rhino Monitors, who are emotionally invested in the success of this new population of rhino, a symbol of hope for the future of the species,” concludes Joubert.
Why not pay it forward to rhino conservation and help save a species in decline this Giving Tuesday? For more information on how to join the cause and contribute towards future rhino translocations, please visit www.rhinoswithoutborders.com.
Images © Matt Copham, Beverly Joubert, Wayne Raymond, Riaan Venter and David Murray.