For years the awe-inspiring beauty of South Africa’s rhinos has graced the pages of Wild magazine. As we celebrate World Rhino Day on 22 September, we chat to the Wild editor about these critically endangered mammals. By Arnold Ras
For Romi Boom, editor of Wild magazine, coverage on the topic of rhino conservation should always aim to inspire and educate. We sat down for a chat to discuss all things rhino for World Rhino Day, celebrated internationally on 22 September.
How does Wild magazine promote and support rhino conservation?
For quite some time, with annual figures of rhino killings increasing year on year, it did not look as though the fight against poachers could be won. Due to the sensitivity of the issue and not wanting to reveal any critical information, our editorial policy entailed a low-key approach. Then we heard such a poignant true account that we realised we had to be involved…
The Wild Card programme manager took his daughter, then aged nine, to the Kruger National Park. After they had checked in at the gate, she told her father that they would not be seeing any rhinos on this trip. Traumatised by a photo exhibit of rhino that had been mutilated, horns chopped from the carcasses, she declared, “They’ve all been killed.” That’s when we realised that Wild had to publish a story of hope about rhino, and moreover that the article had to be accessible to readers of all ages.
Read Ilse Bigalke article’s from Wild 25, Voices of Hope – click on the link and scroll to page 32.
We cannot pretend rhino do not exist, yet we are very careful about not revealing their location. To further enhance public awareness, we have been giving appropriate publicity to rhino conservation on all our online platforms, including social media.
Spotting a rhino in the wilderness is such a thrill. Can you remember your first time?
I cannot remember my first time in the wilderness, but I do remember my first ever rhino sighting. It was at the Kraaifontein Zoo, which was founded on the outskirts of Cape Town in 1966. I must have been five years old and it must have been winter in the Cape, because my lasting impression was that their enclosure was rather muddy and awful.
The one rhino experience you will never forget…
A game drive with Ted Reilly at Mkhaya Game Reserve in Swaziland. Ted is the founder of Big Game Parks and a legend in his own lifetime. He has a special bond with each rhino on the property, both white and black. Ted delivered a running commentary on the individual’s personality, and explained their tolerance level of human presence. To me it was a heart-stopping experience to have a black rhino sidle up to our open game viewer, but to Ted it was a blissful salutation. Talk of adrenalin!
Just about every black rhino on the planet can attribute both its genes and survival to the rhinos from Hhluhluwe-iMfolozi.
– Dale Morris, Wild 7
September is Heritage Month and our rhinos’ existence forms a critical part of our natural heritage. What can everyday nature lovers do to spread the word and do their bit for rhino conservation?
Awareness is key! Support the counter poaching efforts of the SANParks Honorary Rangers. This volunteer organisation ensures that every cent of a donation reaches the intended projects. Go to www.sanparks.org and click on ‘Special Interest Groups’.
If you are visiting a park or reserve and notice suspicious behaviour, report the activity to the Crime Line on 32211. Launched in 2013, this ground-breaking initiative allows the public to give anonymous SMS tip-offs at any time. Other anonymous tip-off lines are 0800 20 50 and 08600 10 111.
SANParks will award R100,000 to members of the public who provide information that leads to the successful arrest of a suspected poacher, and R1,000,000 for a successful conviction of a poaching syndicate mastermind.