Wegen ihres Horns, das teurer ist als Gold, Platin oder gar Heroin, werden Nashörner gejagt und sind vom Aussterben bedroht. LOIS HOYAL hat eine Farm in Südafrika besucht, auf der Nashörner dank eines besonderen Schutzprojekts sicher sind.
Can the rhino be saved?
An African sunset is something spectacular. If you’re going to toast the setting sun with a cocktail, or a “sundowner”, as it is known in these parts, it should be with someone special: a romantic partner, a family member, a loved one. Or a rhino, perhaps? I sip gratefully on an ice-cold drink after the heat of the day and look down at a family of rhinos waiting impatiently for their supper. There is just a wall and a drop of a few feet separating me from several of these enormous animals. In the background, the African sun splits into a myriad of colours as it slips from sight. A gin and tonic with these magnificent creatures is a first for me. For Tessa Baber, though, whose home I am visiting, it’s a nightly event. Tessa and her husband, Ant, are committed to saving and conserving rhinos in the Waterberg UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in South Africa’s Limpopo Province. The couple own a private reserve there and manage two luxury bush lodges, Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill — home for my family for the week.
At Ant and Tessa’s place, rhinos gather each evening for their nightly supplementary feed. Human guests are often invited, too, and over a sundowner and a canapé, they can get up close and personal with the rhinos and learn about their plight.
More valuable than gold
Rhino horn is composed of keratin, also found in hair and fingernails; it contains calcium and melanin, but its mythical properties as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for cancer and other diseases are what make it so valuable on the black market (see box on p. 18). Rhino horn is currently worth more per kilo than
gold, platinum or heroin. As a result, rhinos are being hunted to near extinction.
In November of 2012, Tessa and Ant
Baber set up Save the Waterberg Rhino
(STWR) together with former employee Victoria Crake. This followed a series of horrifying attacks: in late 2011, a white rhino cow was poached with her
11-month-old calf. Then, in July of 2012, another white rhino cow, Banana Horn, was poached. This time, her 18-month-old calf, Lucky Max, managed to escape and was rescued, dehydrated and calling for his mother. Fortunately, Max managed to survive and remains both the organization’s inspiration and its emblem.
STWR aims to stop the slaughter in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve via fundraising, increased security and greater awareness of the rhino poaching crisis. With some 1,250 white and black rhinos, the Waterberg is home to the third-largest rhino population in South Africa outside of the Kruger National Park. As the threat of poachers remains severe, preserving the Waterberg rhino population is fundamental to their species’s survival.
Following a visit to Ant’s, Mark Knopfler, former lead guitarist of the British rock band Dire Straits, was inspired to become patron of STWR. “I’ll never forget the day my father came home from work to tell us that one of his colleagues, a supposedly educated man, had said: ‘What do I care if the rhino becomes extinct?’ I was a young teenager then and today this is a very
“Due to man’s greed, we may well lose these amazing animals forever”
real danger. Due to man’s greed, we may well lose these amazing animals forever,” Knopfler said.
From another planet?
Meanwhile, back on the veranda, I start as one rhino gives a curiously high-pitched squeak. It’s almost like the noise a dolphin makes and not at all the sound I expect from such a huge animal.
Another rhino pushes a warthog out of his way and assumes prime position in front of the feeding trough. Dinner is on its way and there’s no way the rhinos are willing to share their meal.
After rhino feed is distributed among the troughs, the rhinos get down to the serious business of eating. With their upturned
horns, their armour, massive size and pigeon-toed feet, they look as if they have been zoomed here from another planet. I’ve never seen such alien-looking creatures in my life. It’s unbelievable to be almost eye-to-eye with them.
At first, it irks me slightly seeing these impressive creatures being fed like placid cows. These animals deserve to be wild and free. But after a moment’s reflection, I realize they are: at Ant’s, rhinos live wild in a 12,500-acre private reserve, free to roam, graze and generally go about their rhino business. At the same time, they receive supplementary feed at feeding stations and are protected around the clock by armed security guards keeping watch against poachers. It’s a safe haven and an important step forward in the war against rhino poaching.
I watch as my daughters, Eleri (11) and Aeronwy (9), kneel down and gently stroke the head of one rhino, Sophie, from the safety of the raised deck. It’s a peaceful moment; the rhino looks so gentle and tame.
“Nothing would happen if they fell down there, would it?” I ask one of the guides, fully expecting a reassuring response.
“Ah, no, that would be it — dead.” He makes a cutting motion across his throat. “Very quickly, too, if they got in the way of the food.”
I kneel down beside the children, placing a steadying hand on their shoulders, holding them back, just to be on the safe side. But I let them continue to touch the rhino. Who knows if they will get the chance again? At the rate things are going, before my children are grown up, these strangely beautiful creatures will be extinct.
Before my children are grown up, these strangely beautiful creatures may be extinct
Under protection: armed guard with rhinos in the Waterberg Reserve
is a former correspondent for Bloomberg News and has written for many magazines and newspapers, includingThe Guardian and The Times. She has also published two books. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org