A few years ago I had the absolute pleasure of taking photographs of some “chubby unicorns” in Namibia. Its stems back to a time when the only photograph I had of a Rhino was a backside disappearing into the bush! But, after a long association with the folks at AfriCat, they arranged for me to take a series of images of a group of Rhinos that were at the time being kept very quietly in a location. My dream came true!
Not allowed to mention to anyone that I was doing this, we travelled to a part of the Okonjima reserve where, under armed guard, a group of Rhinos were being looked after by Okonjima.
It was amazing to be so close to these quiet, powerful creatures. Keeping a respectful distance, I starting taking photographs using the long lens. I was just happy to snap away. It wasn’t so much a situation of trying to capture art images, it was more that I was enjoying being in their company. They seemed incredibly ambivalent to me and the guide. Happily nosing around the brush vegetation, eating and drinking. When I first saw these beautiful Rhino they were owned by a friend of the family in Okonjima, and they were being looked after in a world were there was very little threat because of the secrecy of their existence and the security placed around them 24 hours a day.
Roll forward to 2021. We’ve been in the throws of COVID. The restrictions have placed huge pressure on charities such as AfriCat and their home reserve of Okonjima, but they have still continued to manage these large scale herbivores. As with many things at Okonjima, there is a science to their work. The brother of the family, Wayne Hanssen, has always driven the reserve in a direction of restoring the land to a pre-farming state. Working hard to restore the local flora and fauna to respectfully becoming a statement of the land it used to be before farming changing it. Rhinos have become a critical part of that work in the way they graze and forage.
Within the last week or two, Okonjima has been put in a situation where they may lose the Rhino. Not through location change, but the owner having to sell them due to financial hardship. This wouldn’t normally be that much of an issue, but the best price for Rhino comes from selling the rights to hunt them as trophies.
The clock is ticking, no matter how much we may be feeling emotions of anger, we have to understand that someone else has been faced with an impossible situation that they have to find a solution to.
Okonjima and AfriCat have been given the chance to buy the Rhinos, but they have an unbelievably short time scale to achieve this in.
At the end of July if they haven’t raised the money to save them, they will be sold to become hunting trophies. The only solution is to buy them as the current owner has no other route to solve the problem.
This is an unbelievable consequence of COVID. The owner has for many years had the Rhinos’ best intentions at heart by placing them with the team at Okonjima. They have dug deep to find as much of the money as they can, but now they need our help, and the help is needed urgently.
This is a last call for all of us to do something to help these five Rhino have a future, helping shape an amazing project run by Okonjima to create a statement of what Namibia used to be before man’s intervention.
The link below will take you to the AfriCat UK fund-raising page for this project. I know, I really do, how strapped we all are for money right now, but when you think about saving these animals from, quite frankly, a bullet, there should be no argument.
Click on the link and donate, please…