My journey started back in October 2018 when my friend Doutzen Kroes, the co-founder of Knot on My Planet (an organization dedicated to elephant conservation), put me in touch with the formidable Ginger Mauney. She insisted that I meet Ginger because of the incredible things she was doing for the rhino population in my homeland, Namibia. When I look back on this past year, meeting Ginger was the turning point for me, the defining moment when I threw myself wholeheartedly into this cause, which is dedicated to conserving wildlife and Mother Earth. I can’t wait to share my experience with Save the Rhino Trust Namibia with you and why I have decided it is time to take action and make a concerted effort to implement change for all of us.
Shot by: Travis Schneider
We started planning the trip back to Namibia eight months ago. I brought three close friends with me to document the experience—Hugh Lippe, Sam Schamberg, and Travis Schneider. I had not been back to Namibia for seven years, and it was very emotional. It is a long way to go with the babies, so my parents have been making the trip back here to see us since the kids are still so young.
Mount Etjo was the first place we visited with Annette Oelofse. Annette was an integral part of my journey. She raised Nossie, a black rhino who was rejected by her mother because her mother was under so much stress from being moved to a different area. Nossie herself just had her eighth calf. It’s important for me to tell you this before I get started, because I want you all to see how saving one rhino has had a profound impact on saving this magical species.
We made our way to both Desert Rhino Camp, the camp where the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) trackers are based, as well as Damaraland Camp (D Camp). Both are run by wildlife safaris who are helping in every way they can—and by the way, they took such incredible care of us. Save the Rhinos Namibia works round the clock to protect these last free-roaming creatures. At these camps we learned that because of the poaching, from 1960 to 1995, rhino numbers declined by 98%. That is a devastating number! They are being poached for their horns, which are made out of keratin, the same protein in our hair and nails. It is believed to be a status symbol in some Asian countries, and also to miraculously cure certain illnesses, everything from a headache to even cancer—not true. The rhino horns are severed, and these animals are cruelly left to bleed to death.
The SRT trackers and rhino rangers stay out for 21 days at a time, covering 28 miles a day on foot, to help ensure the safety of the rhinos. They come from local communities and have a deep understanding of the rhinos and their surroundings. They journey for days into the wild, with no fences and no control over who enters and exits, constantly monitoring the rhino population. They are passionately dedicated to this cause. These are the unsung heroes of this tragic battle. If we were at war, these would be the guys on the front line, so we need to recognize the importance of these trackers in aiding this cause. Without them, there would be no hope.
Rhinos have lived on earth for 50 million years and deserve to be here just as much as we do. We human beings are doing this to them, and we cannot turn a blind eye to this senseless massacre. We have the power to stop the poaching and prevent this ancient, noble species from going extinct. This is now a global issue. Africa never had a poaching problem until there was a demand from other parts of the world, so we need those areas to help us educate people about poaching. China and Vietnam are the biggest offenders. If the demand is curtailed in these countries, poaching will be greatly diminished. I would love to reach these places and try to help them understand this complex issue we are dealing with. If we do not take action—if we don’t stop this now—our planet will be irreparably damaged.
This journey may seem daunting, but if you take anything away from my story, I want you to know that it doesn’t take a trip around the world to create change. I want to begin a dialogue and motivate each of you to find something that you are passionate about. We need to come together and be LOUD. If it’s not rhinos or animals that you are passionate about, find something that you care about and strive to make your corner of the planet a better place. Let’s use our voices to raise awareness on whatever those issues may be and try to make a difference. We need to set examples for the next generation so that they can grow up with the same sense of wonder and appreciation of our rich and diverse planet. We may not see the realization of our final goals in our lifetime, but the hope is that our children will.
Here is how you can help:
• Vote—for someone who is environmentally conscious (www.aclu.com or dccc.org).
• Donate to Save the Rhino Trust Namibia to help the trackers (http://www.savetherhinotrust.org).
• Help spread awareness and educate yourself.