WOMEN EMBARK ON GRUELLING 5-DAY WILDERNESS TRAIL FOR RHINOS
Today, seven brave women are embarking on a gruelling 5-day Wilderness Trail in the iMfolozi Game Reserve to highlight the ongoing rhino poaching crisis and also in memory of the late Dr Ian Player, who founded the iMfolozi Wilderness Area that is now under threat from the Ibutho Coal mining application.
The group includes three women deeply involved in conservation and anti-poaching efforts, and three teenagers – one from Mozambique – who attended the World Youth Rhino Summit in September last year: Sheelagh Antrobus (head of Project Rhino KZN), Micah van Schalkwyk (World Youth Rhino Summit coordinator), Bronwyn Laing (Rhino Art ‘Let our Voices Be Heard’ campaign leader), Gwendolyn Isaacs from Ashton College in Ballito (who turns 18 whilst on the Wilderness Trail), Jacomé Pretorius (16) from Glenwood House in George, Western Cape, Kelly Dramos (16) from the American International School of Mozambique in Maputo, and Penny Parker, from outdoor equipment retail group, Cape Union Mart.
Lead by a single guide, the ‘Women in the Wilderness’ group will walk through Big 5 territory for 5 days, carrying all their supplies in backpacks, sleeping in the open and taking turns on night-watch to guard the single fire on which their nightly meal will be cooked. With no cell communications or contact with the outside world, they will pass through the hills and valleys where a handful of southern white rhino was rediscovered and saved from extinction by Ian Player and other iMfolozi game rangers in Operation Rhino’s relocation effort of the 1960’s, which reintroduced this rhino species to game reserves throughout southern Africa, including the Kruger National Park.
“Dr Ian Player’s support for women in conservation was the idea that sparked Women in the Wilderness,” said Sheelagh Antrobus. “This trail is in honour of his lifelong work and will also raise funds to support his last, final campaign ‘Save our Imfolozi Wilderness’, which is fighting to stop Ibutho Coal’s application for an open cast coal mine that threatens the wilderness area – especially its rhino population”
Rhino poaching shows no signs of abating at the start of 2015, with unofficial reports putting the national tally at 183. KwaZulu-Natal has lost 18 rhino this year and every game reserve in the province is on constant high alert for rhino poaching incursions.
KwaZulu-Natal possesses the rhino population with the farthest reaching genetic pool and the Imfolozi Wilderness Area forms part of the greater Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, which has one of the highest concentrations of rhino in the world and is a constant target for rhino poaching syndicates.
Dr Ian Player passed away in November last year, two months after his powerful address to delegates at the World Youth Rhino Summit, which took place in iMfolozi Game Reserve. His words continue to inspire the young women taking part in Women in the Wilderness: “We saved the rhino once, we can do it again. We, the older generation have done our bit. Now, we pass the baton to you – the youth,” he said. “You need to make your voices heard as a call to action against rhino poaching. You have duties. And your duty – each one of you – you’ve got to be leaders in the world. You’ve got to make your mark, got to make your stamp. You’ve got to make your voices heard!”
To show your support for these brave and contribute to the Save the Imfolozi Wilderness campaign, please visit: www.indiegogo.com/projects/women-in-the-wilderness/