There was once a time that seeing a full moon on a clear night was such an impressive site. We would wonder at this light in the night sky and would allow our minds to wonder about what it would be like to 'walk on the moon'. No doubt there are still many people in the world who feel the same way today.
But for those of us whose lives have been touched by the devastating increase in rhino poaching, since 2008 a full moon signals nothing but fear and heightened awareness. For it has now been renamed 'A Poacher's Moon'. The natural light a full moon brings to the grassy plains and thick bushveld that rhinos call home makes it so much easier for a poacher to move freely in search of their victim.
For anti-poaching units, leave is cancelled and it is a case of all hands to the pumps; searching for signs of insurgents, a break on the fence, tracks on the ground, sounds of movement through the bush.
It is a dangerous place to be! The poachers these days come as a team. There is often one member with a hunting rifle, ready to shoot their prey, while another carries a weapon like an AK47, ready to shoot the animal defender. And as if that is not enough, they must walk the land where rhino, elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo call home. These animals do not understand the Ranger is there to protect them, and one wrong turn, one move that startles such a powerful animal could end in tragedy.
This Christmas Day will see the first full moon on this special day for 38 years. The media is full of 'this special occasion'. But please spare a thought for the many Rangers protecting rhino and all wildlife this Christmas. There will be no family meal for them, no watching the carol service on TV and no afternoon nap to sleep off the excess turkey and wine.
These heroes will be out in the field, risking their lives to protect our wildlife. They do not ask for sympathy or for us to not celebrate with our families on Christmas Day, but as you enjoy that beer and look up to the full moon, please spare a thought for our wildlife protectors and pray that they stay safe.
We wish you all a very merry and safe Christmas.
Written by Simon Jones
Founder and Chairman of Helping Rhinos