With one rhino being killed every 15 hours in South Africa, this national campaign will distribute 100% of funds raised to improving anti-poaching measures across the country. Organised by KwaZulu-Natal-based conservation charity, the African Conservation Trust, celebrities and companies are joining forces with pensioners, pupils and hundreds of ‘extra-ordinary’ people in the second Skydive for Rhinos campaign. Already, over R1 million has been raised and a further R2.8 million pledged.
“Rhino poaching in this country is not declining, it is escalating,” said Sheelagh Antrobus, the campaign’s leader. “Every day that goes by, at least one rhino is killed, with poachers targeting the private game reserve owner as much as the larger, state-owned reserves. We’ve already lost 80 more rhinos this year compared to July 2011, despite recent interventions. If this is not motivation and reasons enough to make everyone sit up and take notice, then what is?
“At the current rate, by the time this campaign launches, 16 more rhinos will have died brutal deaths at the hands of poaching syndicates,” said Antrobus, who is also coordinator of the Project Rhino KwaZulu-Natal group. “There are still too many gaps in existing, on-the-ground anti-poaching measures that well-resourced rhino poaching syndicates are exploiting. This campaign aims to alleviate at least some of these, as well as give ordinary South Africans the means to play a role in stopping the decimation of rhinos in this country.”
At the end of July, the first of four national Skydive for Rhino events will take place in Rustenburg, North West province. The campaign moves to KwaZulu-Natal for the weekend of 17 to19 August and then travels to the Eastern Cape for the last weekend of August. It culminates on the weekend of World Rhino Day (22 September) in the Western Cape. Western Cape MEC for Tourism and the Environment, Alan Winde has accepted a challenge to join the Western Cape event.
The Skydive for Rhinos initiative started in KwaZulu-Natal last year, with 40 first-time skydivers raising R500 000 for rhino protection in the province. It helped to create Project Rhino KwaZulu-Natal, an association of 16 leading conservation organisations that has brought together private game reserves and rhino owners, well-known conservation NGOs, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, rhino experts and anti-poaching specialists who are working together to counteract rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal. World renowned rhino conservationist Dr Ian Player is one of the founding members.
This year, the African Conservation Trust has set its sights higher and aims to raise R10 million for rhino anti-poaching needs, nationally. The number of people agreeing to take their first tandem skydive in protest at the increasing poaching of rhinos in this country has also increased: organisers are accommodating 448 people willing to leap out of planes from 10 000ft – one for every rhino killed in South Africa during 2011.
100% of funds raised will be used to improve rhino protection and anti-poaching efforts in hard-hit regions throughout South Africa. Key anti-poaching needs that will benefit include training anti-poaching teams in a full complement of advanced skills, provision of specialised equipment for rhino security teams and extending aerial surveillance support to a wider range of rhino-bearing reserves. Interventions that include education, awareness and job creation in rural communities close to game reserves are also seen as a major imperative.
Already, over 300 people are signed up to jump from 10 000ft, raising a minimum of R5 000 to participate, which includes the cost of their skydive. Several ‘Rhino Skydivers’ have raised over R15 000 each, with ‘proud Mom of two’ Tanya Robinson having already raised R19 000 towards her personal goal of R50 000. The oldest participant is 77-year old Rhoda Butler and she is joined by celebrities that include actresses Michelle Bradshaw and Josette Eales, Wonderboom’s Cito, Cosmo
’s Man of the Year Tyrone Keogh, actor Keenan Arrison and Mr Pretoria 2012, Lysle Turner.
The sports skydiving community is also participating, as is international skydive celebrity Olav Zipser, who will join the KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape Skydive for Rhinos events. Immediately afterwards, he will travel to the USA to become the first human to skydive from the edge of space in the FreeFly Astronaut Project, a global research mission to amass a new collection of experimental data that will help to create human capability to descend safely from the edge of space.
Whilst the tandem skydives form the nucleus of the campaign, they are just the start; companies are giving from their CSI budgets and brand-partnerships are raising funds for rhinos. To participate, visit www.skydive4rhinos.org