The evening was a huge success. It began with a drinks reception where guests could meet fellow conservation enthusiasts. Once in the auditorium, there was an enthusiastic introduction of the speakers by Helping Rhinos patron, Phil Liggett. Phil’s first hand account of a poaching incident he’d recently witnessed while spending time at his house in South Africa highlighted immediately the importance of the work that needs to be done to protect rhinos and other wildlife.
Helping Rhinos CEO Simon Jones began his address with the wonderful news of a new calf for poaching survivor Thandi at the Kariega Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Thandi survived a poaching incident seven years ago where she was left for dead. Her recovery from such a vicious attack was nothing short of a miracle and she went onto have two calves, Thembi and Colin with a third calf, name Mthetho born just two days before this event.
Simon introduced HORNi coffee, and new brand of coffee that is both ethical and environmentally friendly and gives its profits to support critical conservation work of Africa’s endangered wildlife.
Ol Pejeta Managing Director Richard Vigne updated the audience on the plans for security monitoring in the conservancy and the continued success of the black rhino breeding progamme. He spoke of how they’re currently awaiting confirmation from government officials to increase their capacity to the north of the conservancy border to allow them to continue to grow the black rhino population withinsustainable habitats.
Alongside this need for increased habitat, Ol Pejeta is also working towards creating new models for conservation that cater for the needs of humans while still providing space for wildlife. Richard showed how new technology will enable rangers and security officers to protect wildlife at the same time as enabling farmers to protect their stock from predators. Ol Pejeta continues to manage livestock and wildlife simultaneously and this can lead to a fine balancing act.
The first keynote speaker of the evening was TV Wildlife presenter, Patrick Ayree. Patrick gave an enthusiastic and rousing talk on his experiences as a presenter. He showed some fabulous photos and videos of his up close and personal encounters with large animals, driving home the point to the audience of the important role mega herbivores and large animals make in sustaining habitats for all wildlife. Patrick’s tales of how large animals such as a sperm whales or grizzly bears or rhinos enable habitats to thrive were both informative and entertaining.
Our final speaker of the evening was rhino caretaker, James Mwenda. James spoke to an enthralled audience about his time with Sudan and what it is like to look after Fatu and Naijin, the last two northern white rhinos in the world. You could hear a pin drop as James recounted the first time he realised his responsibility to Sudan. He spoke of the day he sat with Sudan and saw for the first time the sadness and resignation in Sudan’s eyes as a tear fell from his eye. At that point there was barely a dry eye in the house!
That moment with Sudan was pivotal for James in realising the urgency in ensuring we learn from the plight of the northern white rhino and ensure that all other rhino species are saved. James ended his talk by asking everyone in the audience to link hands and thank Sudan. It was an uplifting moment for everyone.
And after such passionate and thought provoking presentations, Jonty Hearden led the auction with a swashbuckling delivery.
The lots included a fantastic trip to Kenya to stay on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the chance to name a black rhino calf at Ol Pejeta and the stunning original watercolour ‘Remembering Sudan’ by Karen Laurence-Rowe, which sold for £7,500. Other wonderful items included a stunning bronze of a black rhino mum and calf by Andrew Sinclair which was fiercely fought over by live and telephone bidders, eventually selling for £12,000.
Don't worry if you couldn't be with us on the day. We will soon be posting a video of all the speeches in full, and there is a clip below showing jus some of the highlights.
A selection pictures from the event. Thanks to Rupert Rivett Photography for donating his time and services on the night