Over the weekend the Thabazimbi Game Festival took place in the Limpopo Province. One of the stage managers (who worked for Hilltop Live at the event) was quite stunned – there was a chance that he had to allow Asha The Rhino (who weighs 200 kg) onto a stage – something he did not expect at all.
The stage manager (Kobus van Rooyen) has seen strange things and people on stages before, but he never expected that a white rhino would be one of them. After some debate the organizers decided that it would be better for Asha to interact with the audience at the Game Festival instead. This provided festival goers with an unique opportunity – it’s not every day that you have a hands-on experience with a rhino.
The story of Asha The Rhino is a sad one. Two lions attacked her after she was separated from her mother. She was severely injured and had to undergo several operations to her hind leg. To make things worse her mother also rejected her after she sustained her injuries.
Rhinos are one of most endangered species in Southern Africa. Rhino horn is an extremely valuable commodity (especially in the Far East), selling for $1 million per kg on the black market. More than 350 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa since the beginning of 2013. There has also been a huge public outcry against rhino poaching in recent years and poaching has slowed down to some extent and in some areas, but more awareness is needed.
A group of game rangers saw a unique opportunity and took advantage of Asha’s situation. Asha’s horn weighs only 0.5 kg but is worth $500,000 (almost R5 million). They decided that it would be great idea to raise her and make use of her to teach people across South Africa about the conservation of rhinos. So now Asha is travelling South Africa in a container. She is escorted by two care takers and by five specially trained game rangers, so think twice about trying to steal her horn. The game rangers don’t get paid to protect her, they’re simply doing this because they care.
During the game festival, a vetenary specialist on rhinos and their behaviour (Dr. Louis Greef) gave a lecture about rhinos and painted a nasty picture about the reality that these amazing animals face out in the wild today. As part of his presentation, he played a recording of the sound a baby rhino makes when it can’t find its mother to the audience – leaving all of them touched and some of them close to tears.
Combating rhino poaching is not cheap. Constant personnel, surveillance, guns, ammo, fuel and vehicles are need. If you would like to help make a difference you can visit the following Anti Rhino Poaching websites:
Get Involved! Helping won’t cost you an arm and a leg. It will cost you as little as R30 per month & you can be sure that that money is really helping protect rhinos (animals that are such a big part of what makes Africa a special place).
Watch this space for regular updates in the Junk Mail Cares category on the Junk Mail Blog.
PS: The photos of Asha the Rhino were taken by Marelize Minnaar (from Hilltop Live)