Emma and Cara from our marketing team reflect on their recent visit to South Africa. There they worked with wildlife vet, Dr William Fowlds, to find out why the profession must act now to help save the rhino.
The vibrations of the helicopter overhead ran through our bodies as we waited in silence on the safari vehicle. The crack of the tranquilizing dart gun echoed through the reserve. The radio crackled and Will’s voice announced, “It’s safe for Emma and Cara to come over now”.
As we approached the 18-month-old female white rhino, a smell that could only be described as ‘rancid’ left us feeling queasy. Nothing could prepare us for the sight we were about to see.
Open bloody abscesses that were infested with ticks and maggots covered the innocent female’s body. William Fowlds and his team attempted to treat the rhino but, tragically, she passed away two days later. What caused this to happen to such a beautiful creature? We can’t pretend to understand as scientific knowledge of “natural” causes of mortality in rhinos is lacking. But this was the moment that truly hit home that these animals are in desperate need of our help.
In March 2015, Medivet joined forces with Dr William Fowlds and the Wilderness Foundation to help to try to protect the rhino in South Africa from the horrific poaching crisis. Rhinos are being maimed and killed in the false belief that their horns contain medicinal properties that can treat cancer, fever or gout.
In the past year we’ve made it our mission to raise awareness of this awful wildlife crime and help save the rhino from becoming extinct. After all, no generation should ever live on this earth without knowing what a rhino is or understanding the significant role they play in the African ecosystem.
We swapped our day-to-day marketing duties in Watford for sunny game reserves in South Africa to see for ourselves how the £150,000 plus that has been raised through Medivet’s efforts is being used on the ground. Without the generous support of our clients and colleagues, this would not have been possible.
Rhino are the world’s most critically threatened and endangered mega-herbivores, which means they are both charismatic creatures as well as large, plant eating mammals. We need them to be alive if we ever stand a chance of caring for the world’s remaining natural landscapes. This is both from a physical perspective because of their natural role in managing the vegetation, but also because it would be so much harder to draw people into the wilderness areas without them. Visitors, after all, fund conservation.
If we lose the rhino, we lose one of the most important parts of the global conservation effort.
In South Africa, poaching has increased by 20% per annum for the last seven or eight years. But, for the first time in 2015, statistics revealed a 3% decrease in those awful figures. In 2014, there were a record 1,215 rhinos poached in the country but, in 2015, this figure dropped by 40 animals. These statistics have been claimed by Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Environmental Affairs Minister, as “the direct result of an increase in the arrests of poachers, the translocation of rhinos to more secure reserves and an increase in security”.
Although this is only a small reduction, conservationists in South Africa are hoping to reach a point where they can breed more rhino than they lose through natural deaths and poaching.
There is so much more that needs to be done and the work on the ground is only one part of the fight. That’s why, through our Medivet Saving the Rhino campaign, we are supporting a number of ongoing initiatives which include rhino rescue and rehabilitation, dog training to detect poachers and protect rhinos, public education and awareness campaigns, and stricter laws and ethics.
The rhino poaching epidemic is far from solved, and if we do nothing to help fight this illegal trade, the rhinos could become extinct by 2020.
As veterinarians, it is our role as trusted members of society to not only maintain the health of animals but to also educate the community about what is needed to protect the welfare of all animals, both domestic and wild,and the efforts being made to prevent illegal wildlife crime.
Together, we have the power to protect these beautiful mammals and put an end to this awful wildlife crime once and for all.
To find out how you can join the fight, visit www.medivet.co.uk/news/medivet-rhino/
To find out more about the four initiatives Medivet are supporting through their Saving the Rhino campaign, visit www.medivet.co.uk/news/medivet-rhino/our-initiatives/
Posted March 25, 2016 in Press