Rhino Challenge Week
Rhino Challenge Week
Day 1- Life’s Dirty in the Bush
We started the week with a day without showers. Currently, the rhinos have a limited water supply as there’s been a drought here for the last two years and a lot of the dams and waterholes have dried up completely. As an alternative, I decided to emulate some of the animals and engage in some dust bathing. Five minutes later, after rolling about in the dirt, I can’t say I was any cleaner but everyone else got a good laugh out of it. By the end of the day we were probably quite smelly and it wasn’t that fun climbing into to bed covered in dust and grit.
Day 2- No Food from Dawn till Dusk
Volunteers were up before sunrise to feed while they could before the fast even those who weren’t on morning drive. Those going on the Tuesday town trip had to endure the sights and smells of good food, buying snacks but unable to eat and sitting in cafes drinking coffee and only being able to watch the food pass them by. Hard sugar candies were an exception to our fast and couple that with copious amounts of coffee, by midday some of us were acting a bit strange in our sugar high, food deprived delirium. With the town trip returned and more importantly our weekly food shop, volunteers prepped several culinary showstoppers….. I mean sandwiches in sweet anticipation of the dark. On afternoon drive at the setting of the sun, approximately 5:22pm, we stopped the vehicle with a view over the bush and satiated our hungry bellies.
Day 3- Horny Humans
In our quest to become like the Rhino, we all donned our handmade horns for the day. Volunteers teaching in the community that day gave a lecture about rhino poaching and had the children make some horns of their own. However, in an unfortunate incident, it seems on returning to base all the volunteers had lost their horns. Hopefully the kids got the right message from the lecture! I was on base duty for the day and I can tell you that a large horn on the head gets in the way a lot when trying to clean and cook, plus is a potential fire risk when trying to light the gas oven. On drive, one horn was lost to a particularly thorny tree over hanging the road and we provided some light entertainment to some bemused tourists. All things considered, the rhinos should really be able to keep their horns, as they seem far more at ease with them than we ever could.
Day 4- All Tied Up
Rhino calves always stay close to mum and she is very protective so we spent the day tied together in pairs. Getting in and out of the vehicles was more difficult, but was generally ok. On base things were slightly more awkward, with basic tasks having to be thought about, from eating, passing each other in the corridor and just generally relaxing. At various points in the day people became entangled, some accidently and some deliberately. The day itself became a lesson in compromise and cooperation for both staff and volunteers.
Day 5- Cracking Eggs
Rhino population numbers are dangerously balanced between Near Threatened and Vulnerable, with anti-poaching efforts trying to keep numbers in the healthy side. We spent our drives trying to balance eggs on spoons to represent the delicate status of Rhino populations. A lot of the eggs fell almost immediately – luckily they were hard-boiled and so were promptly eaten. I managed to keep my egg aloft until about mid-morning, patenting a pendulum technique to navigate corners and the bumpy tracks. I was doomed only by persistent and violent swerving round corners from Leah, leading to another cracked egg. Special mention must go to Kutullo, who kept his egg intact throughout the journey to and from the crèche we are helping to build.
Though our Rhino Challenge Week was highly entertaining at times, it was designed to represent the struggles the rhino face during their lives and those of anti-poaching units trying to protect them and other at risk species. Last year in South Africa alone, 1175 rhino were poached for their horns, effectively just hardened keratin – the same as our finger nails are made of – for its unfounded medical properties. To put that in perspective, that’s approximately 6% of the total white rhino population; at that rate in 20 years there could be no more white rhino. In my time as an intern, I have been lucky enough to see rhino and they are a beautiful and impressive animal. So if any of you reading this are conservation minded or just like animals, spread the word and if you are feeling generous, please donate what you can at the link below to help the anti-poaching unit here at Karongwe.
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