Environment

FROM THE FRONT LINES

Bonné de Bod

Just before the last full moon of 2015, I was out in the early evening walking down a dry river bed in a densely populated rhino area with three field rangers and a dog.  Armed to the teeth, the K-9 unit walked quietly either side of me.  Sure I felt safe, but I was nervous.  This is one of the largest wilderness areas in the world where gangs of poachers are present every hour of the day, every day of the week, every week of the year.  I’ve been doing this for some time now… and there is no other way to look at this “rhino poaching crisis” than as a war.  

During the course of 2015 I’ve found myself in these same situations with men and women carrying rifles and pistols in conflict zones all over South Africa. I have watched vets do trauma surgery on many, many victims. I’ve patrolled farm fence lines with private citizens by moonlight… waiting for the inevitable breach to happen. Once these suspected poachers are arrested and in the system, I’ve also watched our state prosecutors duel well-funded defence attorneys in long-drawn out bail hearings and court postponements. Thousands of miles across the ocean I’ve even met with rhino horn users in their living rooms and gone underground in the back streets of Asia’s cities to see the end product that funds so much misery and terror. Sounds and very definitely feels like a war to me. 

When I think back to the Iraqi war a decade ago, it was a groundbreaking era in media gathering as news coverage took on a new form and was given the term ‘embedded journalism’. War reporters were given unprecedented access to the battle frontline because information gathering has changed. We now live in a world driven by desire for never ending information.  So the dispatches from World War II and filmed newsreels shown several weeks or even 24-hours later just aren’t relevant in an age of live television fuelled by social media run by “citizen journalists” - those with front row seats to the latest news events, armed with internet connected camera phones. 

In making stories for 50|50 as well as filming my upcoming documentary ‘STROOP’, I’m embedded in our rhino war, becoming witness not only to awful atrocities but also to those people who are fighting it.  Each of these war duties is important, but it is critical that they all come together. It always amazes me that these simple, gentle creatures are caught in such a web of complication. The world of rhino poaching is so multilayered, so complex and despite all my time in it, as a filmmaker it’s a struggle figuring out how to unravel all of this for the South African public.

2016 has to be the year complication stops and we work simply and more effectively for our rhinos.  This is a year of major landmark court cases which I hope will close with appropriate sentences.  This is also the year in which nations from all over the world will meet here in September to discuss our rhinos.  

Under the United Nations, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, more commonly known as CITES is meeting for the 17th time so it will be known as COP17. Typical of intergovernmental labels, most of us get caught up in only a few of the words… in this case “Endangered Species” and we don’t focus on the one in the middle, “Trade”.  This agreement is a trading agreement between nations of the world, determining which parts from wild animals and plants can or cannot be traded.  In 2008, just under a million trade deals were done…. so it’s a big revenue maker for governments around the world.  

Many who own rhinos or are custodians of our rhinos want to trade in rhino horn feeling that a sustainable commodity will save our rhinos. 

And many who own rhinos or are custodians of our rhinos feel that trade will increase poaching so much so, that it will cause their extinction in the wild.  So it’s a contentious issue and it is presumed that trade in rhino horn will be hotly debated in Johannesburg later this year.  

Our Department of Environmental Affairs has been preparing for the COP by compiling a 22-person team to look at the possibility of trade and they have been meeting behind closed doors for most of 2015.  Their report was expected months ago and rumour has it that they are still arguing about the best way forward.  Expect lots of debate when the report is finally released.  

While the court cases and CITES event are set in stone for this year, other issues are as predictable as ever.  Rhinos will continue to be poached.  Demand in Asia is growing, I’ve seen it. Orphanages will continue to have little ones coming in. State prosecutors won’t stop in their tireless representation of the law.  Private rhino owners will have to make the tough decision on whether to auction off their increasingly expensive commodities or pay more for security. Wildlife organisations will continue to struggle to raise funding due to rhino fatigue. Vets will still get the dawn calls to race out to survivors, and our rangers all across our land will lace up their boots and walk out again into the unknown, today, tomorrow and each day into 2016.

But we must not despair, the war is continuing yes, but now more than ever, we have the ability to change the course of events.  We really do.  The power of social media has shown us that.  Every time a South African retweets, shares or likes a post they add their voice to the war.  

I cannot emphasise enough how important the weight of normal ordinary citizens are to a media issue.  With constant engagement on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I feel the power of my responsibility on the front lines.  2015 was the year of #FeesMustFall and #Cecil.  

Those two social media issues changed laws and scared politicians into giving in to the demands of citizens.  So who knows what powerful events 2016 may hold for our rhinos.  

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Bonné de Bod is an award winning wildlife television presenter and filmmaker who is passionate about all things rhino.  She is currently filming a documentary with award winning filmmaker Susan Scott on the rhino poaching crisis called ‘STROOP’.  Due for release in 2016, the groundbreaking film is expected to unravel the complex intricacies of the rhino issue to audiences in South Africa and around the world.  

For more information, kindly contact: 

Jenny Griesel 

Greenhouse PR – SA’s First Green PR Company 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

083 406 3444

http://greenhousepr.co.za 

 

 

Adventures with Elephants awarded Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for the second time!

Adventures with Elephants is delighted to announce winning the Trip Advisor 'Certificate of Excellence’ for the second year in a row, based on a five star rating by guests and members of the public. We would like to say a massive thank you to our excellent and dedicated guides, our guests who are all amazing and most of all: the elephants who make all of this possible! 

Adventures with Elephants is open during the festive season. 

Offering way more than the usual 'Touch and Feed' elephant experience; Adventures With Elephants provide unique hands-on Elephant InteractionsElephant-back RidesSwims on the Elephants, as well as Tailor-made Activities such as weddings, teambuilding, corporate functions and filming.

Located on a beautiful wildlife reserve situated just an hour’s drive north from Pretoria, adjacent to Zebula Country Club, Adventures With Elephants is managed by the Hensman family who have been extremely privileged to live and work with elephant since 1988. They offer you the thrill of hands-on interactions with these magnificent pachyderms and invite you into the elephant’s world where you can learn more about elephant in this unique manner whilst witnessing the elephant’s intelligence, compassionate nature and sheer delight in interacting with their human companions. Their friendly, experienced and qualified elephant handlers will share their in-depth knowledge and passion for their charges with you our guest, in this unrivalled and extraordinary experience.

What to expect:

An honest mind-blowing experience, good company and great elephants!

For bookings contact: 

014 734 7730 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

http://www.adventureswithelephants.co.za/#

 

For more information, kindly contact: 

Jenny Griesel 

Greenhouse PR – SA’s First Green PR Company 

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

083 406 3444

http://greenhousepr.co.za 

 

 

He who plants a tree plants hope

These are the words of Lucy Larmon of the Arbour Day Foundation, and partly what inspired the team at Adventures with Elephants to join hands with the learners from Hoërskool Warmbad and plant indigenous trees at their facility last week.

Adventures with Elephants is home to Messina, Shan, Nuanedi, Chova and Chisuru, five incredible elephants, that contribute in educational interactions. These tusked creatures thoroughly enjoy a good snack… trees in particular!

In the five years that these elephants have enjoyed their life there, they have, as elephants do, left their mark on the tree life on the property. Thanks to the generous team at Malan Seuns, who donated the 30 Marula trees, Adventures with Elephants was able to start a process of planting new trees to compensate for those that have been, ummm, dinner!

When invited to participate in this Arbour Week Project, Hoërskool Warmbad jumped at the opportunity. They sent their Top 5 students from every grade to participate in the initiative where they not only planted trees, but also enjoyed an educational presentation from Melissa Schmitt from University of Kwa-Zulu Natal about elephant feeding patterns. She also gave the eager learners a demonstration of how elephants forage using their powerful scenting ability.

There is an African proverb that says "He who plants trees loves others beside himself" and we agree! The team at Adventures with Elephants would like to commend both Malan Seuns and the Hoërskool Warmbad learners for showing such love for elephants, knowing that these trees will make a positive impact on them and their environment for many years to come.

Adventures with Elephants is located on a beautiful wildlife reserve just an hour's drive north of Pretoria, adjacent to Zebula Country Club in the Waterberg. Adventures with Elephants offers wonderful hands-on elephant interactions, elephant back rides, swims and tailor made activities with five rescued elephants. Here people can learn about elephants in a unique way, in a natural setting. The friendly, experienced and qualified elephant handlers will share their in-depth knowledge and passion for wildlife with guests, in this unrivalled and extraordinary experience. It is also home to the Rory Hensman Elephant Research Unit that facilitates research in elephant bio-detecttion, communication, human elephant conflict, anatomy and elephant welfare.

www.adventureswithelephants.co.za

Eduplex School honours World Elephant Day 2015

Learners from Eduplex School in Pretoria honoured World Elephant Day by visiting Adventures with Elephants last week.

This group of Grade 7 children who are active in the school's Eco Committee enjoyed an educational interaction with the centre's five elephants, learning more about the tusked creatures before going on a bush walk with elephant researcher Melissa Schmitt from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, who shared her knowledge on elephant eating habits. Sean Hensman from Adventures with Elephants said "It's always lovely to have children who are conservation minded, to come learn more about the difficulties of elephant conservation in an ever-changing Africa."

World Elephant Day 12 August, seeks to raise as much appreciation for their lives as possible, encouraging people worldwide to see the many ways elephants are making the world a better place.