It’s World Rhino Day!
Having grown up in South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal to be exact, it is an occasion that is of particular interest to me.
The province has played an important role in the preservation of the white and black rhino species, helping save the giants of the African veld from the brink of extinction.
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As a journalist working in KwaZulu-Natal, I always enjoyed covering wildlife stories and jumped at every opportunity to go on field assignments involving the Big 5.
The stories that I never enjoyed writing were the ones about poaching.
One of my favourite animals was being slaughtered for its horns.
Shocking images of mutilated rhinos became the norm in South African news media as the country started to feel the real impact of poaching at its parks and game reserves.
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South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries said in February that 594 rhino were killed for their horn in 2019.
While the number is down significantly from previous years, it is still too high.
Far too high.
The number of rhino butchered in South Africa peaked in 2014 when, according to official statistics, 1,215 animals were lost to poaching.
A bloodbath of more than 10-years, starting in about 2008, saw shocking poaching statistics threatening to undo the tremendous work done by KwaZulu-Natal rangers and conservationists in the 1950s and 1960s.
Hunting and poaching had decimated rhino populations to the extent that had it not been for the work of Dr Ian Player and the dedicated conservationists and rangers under Operation Rhino, the southern white and black rhino could have been lost forever.
Their work was so successful that southern white rhino from the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park started being relocated to parks and zoos across the world to help save the species.
Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park is located about 280km from Durban.
It is important that these magnificent animals are protected. They form part of Africa’s heritage; they belong to Africa.
Successful conservation efforts like Operation Rhino also provide hope. While the shocking levels of poaching and hunting are man-made problems – saving the southern white rhino species to the point of being able to capture and relocate the animals to other reserves is proof that people can overcome adversity, reach for the good and make a difference
Hopefully we learn from history and do not allow the situation to get as critical as it was 70-years-ago.
If you holiday in Africa, visit the game reserves. Explore the parks and ride on the back of a game viewing truck.
But please, only shoot the animals with your camera.
Enjoy the gallery below of rhino I have been lucky enough to see and photograph on numerous trips to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Kruger National Park over the years.
All photos taken by Shaun Ryan
By Shaun Ryan
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