In March 2012, the poaching of Thandi, Themba and another bull at Kariega Game Reserve in South Africa's Eastern Cape, a place I had spent 6 weeks at in 2010, was the final straw for me. I needed to act and Helping Rhinos was born.
In the five years since that horrific day in 2012, the level of poaching in South Africa and in Africa as a whole has reached record highs. But there have been some positives along the way. Progress has been made in some areas and Helping Rhinos has gone from strength to strength, working in partnership with our key field projects: Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, the Black Mambas all female anti poaching unit in South Africa and the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage in South Africa.
Almost 5 years to the day since the poaching of Thandi, a day as horrific and tragic presented itself. Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage (FTTRO), a place I had visited on a number of occasions and am proud to say that Helping Rhinos enjoys an ever strengthening working relationship with was targeted by a gang of poachers.
The gang penetrated the security patrols and fences. Once inside the grounds of the orphanage they attacked the staff and held them hostage before turning their intentions on the rhinos. The two oldest rhinos, Gugu and Impy were both left dead. I did not think I would feel such a dark, personal anguish again as when the news of Thandi broke, however I find myself once again shocked, angry and heartbroken. Heartbroken for the loss of two rhinos I first met as young calves when they arrived at FTTRO and who, during my visits over the years I had witnessed them grow into sub-adults almost ready for release back into the wild. Heartbroken at the physical and emotional pain and suffering being felt by the team of carers I have come to know well over the last three years.
This was more than another poaching incident. This was an attack on the civil liberties of law abiding, caring conservationists.
My feelings of despair and rage must be nothing compared to the feelings of those poor dedicated souls who have cared for these rhinos every day from when they arrived. My emotions must pale into insignificance for what the team are feeling as they wonder if their attackers will return. The strength and courage shown by the team, putting the welfare of the remaining orphan calves above their own feelings should act as an inspiration to all of us
My thoughts and the thoughts of the whole team around the world are with you my friends.
Of course this is not an isolated incident, but it is the first such brutal attack on an orphanage. An attack on any such facility would be tragic beyond words, but the fact it happened to our partners at FTTRO makes it somehow even harder to take.
As was the case with Thandi, I was driven to do more to help, and I know that the feelings I have now will drive me and our team to once again regroup and double our efforts to make a difference. I ask that you join us and use the hurt in a positive way to ensure this incident is not repeated.
Way back on that fateful day of 2nd March 2012, with Thandi laying in a pool of blood, her face hacked away, no-one could have imagined that just five years later she would have given birth to two new calves. It is the responsibility of all of us now to ensure that the darkest day for the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage leads to happier days.
We can make this happen by helping to upgrade security, increase intelligence work and furthering relations with the local communities. If you are able to, please click the button below to contribute the work that is needed.
If you are unable to make a donation, please show your support by sending a message to the team on social media using the hashtag #SupportThulaThula
No-one can do everything, but we can all do something!
Together, we will create better days!
Founder and CEO
Left - Gugu and Impy in late 2016 Right - Gugu in late 2016