Servicing the fight against poaching

Poaching of wildlife, particularly rhino slaughter, is a despicable activity at any time made even more horrifying by the fact many of the species being destroyed are in grave danger of becoming extinct.

Fortunately, a number of corporates in South Africa take efforts at curbing poaching seriously and are major contributors to these efforts – most recently, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) continued its support in the fight against rhino poaching by refurbishing six vehicles belonging to South African National Parks (SANParks) and extending their service plans.


In October, TSAM donated a brand new Toyota Hilux Double Cab 4×4 – also to be used by SANParks in the fight against rhino poaching and other wildlife crime.

Rhino poaching is reaching unprecedented levels in South Africa and TSAM believes it is the collective responsibility of both the public and private sectors to extend their resources to the anti-poaching units working in the national parks and reserves across the country.

With this approach in preventing and apprehending the culprits behind the deaths of rhinos, TSAM has committed itself through a new initiative that will see it service and maintain the vehicles of the anti-poaching unit that is active within the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province.

The initiative to assist in vehicle repair and in turn, sponsor six extended service plans for the Toyota Land Cruiser that operate in the park, was driven by TSAM’s own John Thomson (Vice President of Service, Customer Service and Future Toyota).


Thomson’s commitment to the natural environment, and his subsequent rally for support of the anti-poaching unit, was sparked a few months prior during a visit to the Pilanesberg National Park where he met staff and witnessed first-hand the vehicle issues they were experiencing.

While maintaining and servicing any vehicle is a relatively straightforward task, explains Thomson, the unit simply did not have the funds to get it done:

“After speaking to the anti-poaching unit operating in Pilanesberg National Park, I immediately knew how we at Toyota could make a difference.

“First off, we sent the six Toyota Land Cruisers in their possession to our workshop in Northam for a thorough service, repairing the damage any vehicle would inevitably garner working in wild terrain, but we wanted to see how we could do more,” he says.

The extended service plans sponsored to the unit were handed over and gave TSAM and dealer staff the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a parks ranger. Being taken along on a morning of rhino notching, a means to identify each rhino in the park, was a momentous opportunity for everybody involved.


After identifying a white rhino mother and calf, each was darted by a specialised veterinarian who works with the unit. Once the rhinos were subdued, the team set about notching the baby rhino, scraping DNA samples, inserting microchips into the horn, and injecting antibiotics and vitamins.

After the groundwork had been completed, the Toyota team had the chance to take photos with the rhinos and experience their presence up close.

“We know this is only a small contribution in the fight against rhino poaching, but we recognise that this was a practical way in which we could help this anti-poaching unit in their relentless task of protecting these national treasures,” says Thomson.

Toyota South Africa Motors is committed to the conservation and the preservation of South Africa’s natural spaces. In addition to initiatives such as the above, Toyota has partnered with and supported three significant environmental NGOs through its Today for Tomorrow Programme: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Conservation SA and Birdlife SA.


You can help save them

South Africa’s rhino are in grave danger – but they can be saved providing South Africans from all walks of life become involved.


Having bred 1 632 rhino in captivity during his lifetime and invested more than US$100-million of his own money into the project, John Hume of Buffalo Dream Ranch has reached his financial limit and, unless there is public participation the dream could fade away.

Buffalo Dream Ranch (BDR) is the world’s largest Captive Rhino Breeding Project and is hidden away in the flat, dry savanna of the North West Province of South Africa.

BDR was founded and funded entirely by John, now 76, and the project recently celebrated the birth of its first ‘F2’, or second generation, rhino calf on the project which is an outstanding achievement for any breeding operation.

More than 300 of their dams (females) are pregnant right now, and due to give birth over the next 18 months, many more of which will be ‘F2’s’. This equates to close to 10% of the world’s remaining White Rhinos.

BDR’s mission is simple. It is ‘To Breed Better and Protect Better’ in their attempt to move this iconic species away from extinction. They hope this financial year to eventually meet their breeding target of 200 calves per annum.

However, John has now finally reached the end of his financial wherewithal to continue protecting these rhinos. This cash flow crisis they find themselves in has caused BDR to give notice of termination to the private army of foot soldiers who protect their rhino, as they can no longer afford their services.


In fact, as soon as August this year, there will be no money left to even fund the day-to-day operation of the project, leaving the future of nearly 2 000 rhino in severe jeopardy.

John has always maintained that key to the success of BDR and, in fact, to saving the rhino from extinction, is legalised trade in rhino horn. BDR routinely trim horns primarily to render their rhino less attractive to poachers.

They currently hold a stockpile of 6,5 tons of horn in vaults around South Africa, which if valued at the reported wholesale price of US$20 000 a kg, amounts to US$130-million.

Imagine how much ‘good’ all this money could do for the conservation of African rhino, if only it was released into the pockets of legitimate rhino owners, instead of lining the pockets of criminals! Sadly though, the CITES ban on international trade persists and the South African Government continue to hamper the sale of horn in our domestic market, so the BDR project finds itself in this very difficult financial situation. It should also be noted that BDR has, to date, not received a single cent of support from any Government, NGO or Charity throughout their journey.

There are a number of alternative initiatives currently underway which, with the help of an impassioned public, might just be able to steer BDR through their cashflow crisis, and secure the future of nearly 2 000 rhinos. These include:

1) Search for one or more partners – Probably the most viable solution is for John to find one or more wealthy impact investors with a passion for conservation of rhino, and a recognition of the potential for returns through trade in horn.

He is ready to sell up to 50% of his BDR Captive Breeding Operation (CBO) to secure the future of his rhino. These partners would then work together with John to continue lobbying both the South African Government and CITES to ease up the horn trade environment and deliver BDR to sustainability through a legal and sustainable trade in horn.

A search for these illusive benefactors is currently underway, and BDR would be grateful if any party interested, and in a position to provide the required investment, would make urgent contact.

2) Rhino Coin – The second initiative is the recently launched, and still relatively unknown Rhino Coin. This is an innovative new proudly South African Crypto-Conservation initiative that issues 1 Rhino Coin for every 1g of ethically sourced blood-free horn secured in vaults in South Africa. See for more details of how you can get involved.

A Foundation has been established by Rhino Coin to ensure proceeds go directly back to real live rhinos on the ground. Rhino Coin is currently tradable against ZAR, Bitcoin and Ethereum, and can be traded on the CornuEx exchange.

3) Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign – The final initiative is a direct appeal to the hearts and minds of a very generous public for donations through and Indiegogo Campaign which can be found here

Funds from this campaign will go directly towards the implementation of a state-of-the-art early warning electronic security system which will significantly cut BDR’s monthly running costs and allow them to continue the good work they are doing breeding rhino.

As Robert Swan, the first man to walk to both Poles, once said: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it”.


Rhino wrangler

The job of saving South Africa’s rhino population from the insiduous – and growing – poaching threat is a thankless and often dangerous task.

Being able to respond quickly and efficiently is vital and Goodyear has now extended its sponsorship of Wrangler tyres for the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative, the seveth year this has been renewed.


“The rangers made a specific request to have Goodyear Wranglers fitted to the vehicles,” says Wilderness Foundation’s chief operations officer, Matthew Norval. “This is the seventh year that VW has sponsored Amarok vehicles for our Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative. Our rangers were delighted that Goodyear Wranglers were again fitted to their vehicles, as they have proven the tyres offer better traction and are much more robust than other tyres we have tried.”


Norval is positive about the impact that the initiative has had over the last few years.

“Wilderness Foundation Africa started the Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative in 2011, recognising the rhino poaching crisis was of national and international significance and affected all levels of society. Wildlife crime is the fourth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $213-billion annually.”

The Initiative has a four-pronged approach in response that includes:

  • Support anti-poaching actions on the ground in private and state protected areas
  • Curb demand for rhino horn in user countries
  • Increase security and law enforcement activities through the Wildlife Operations Group, a multi-agency partnership coordinated by Wilderness Foundation Africa
  • Increase public awareness

“We are working in partnership with various organisations to address the issue.  Goodyear South Africa has been on board since the start,” says Norval.

“Goodyear is proud to be a partner that assists proactive rhino protection and anti-poaching activities. As a leading 4×4 tyre brand in South Africa we are honoured Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tyres were the rangers’ tyre of choice and contributes to their safety and comfort on challenging terrain,” says Tracy Maclear, Goodyear South Africa Group Marketing & Brand Manager.

Geshen Govender, Goodyear Consumer Product Manager explains the benefits of having these tyres fitted to the conservation vehicles.

“Being an all-terrain tyre, the Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure is suited to both on- and off-road travelling. The Kevlar reinforced layer, coupled with Durawall technology, resists punctures and cuts in off-road driving conditions. The optimised tread design ensures even pressure distribution across the tyre footprint for improved mileage.  The tyre is a well-suited fit to their requirements.”

In a separate, but related gesture, Goodyear also named Wilderness Foundation Africa as its beneficiary during the recent Speed Stars television show that aired on Ignition TV. Goodyear South Africa made a cash donation of R10 000 towards the Foundation’s continued conservation efforts.

“Goodyear’s donation was very welcome.  We appreciate their ongoing commitment to our cause and the loyalty they exhibit to the preservation of the wilderness”, says Cheryl Reynolds, Relationship & Communications Manager at Wilderness Foundation Africa.


Trauma specialists

The massive problem of rhino poaching in Southern Africa kills hundreds of these endangered animals each year and leaves more traumatised, bloody and barely alive after the horn has been savagely hacked off.

Established in 2012 by veterinarian Dr Johan Marais, Saving the Survivors’ main focus is caring for rhinos that have fallen victim to poaching and other traumatic incidents. Fulfilling its promise of ‘creating hope from hurt’, the project has directly saved more than 250 rhinos and indirectly it has saved hundreds more, via the training of other vets through its workshops.

After around 50-million years on the planet, the entire rhino species is on the brink of extinction. The latest estimate of the global rhino population is 15 000 White, 4 500 Black, 3 500 Indian, 67 Javan and less than 50 Sumatran. South Africa is home to 80% of the world’s remaining rhino population.

“We have lost more than 1 000 rhinos a year for five consecutive years, and 7 166 in total since 2005,” says veterinarian Dr Zöe Glyphis, who works alongside Dr Marais. “It is important to remember these stats do not include rhinos that are injured and only die at a later stage with their horns intact. It also does not include the unborn calves of pregnant cows.”

She goes on to explain rhinos in captivity live far longer than rhinos in the wild. The oldest known southern White rhinos on record were a bull named Charly and a cow named Macite, which both lived to the age of 53, in a German zoo and a New Orleans nature institute respectively.

“If poaching continues at the current rate, wild rhinos in South Africa will be extinct by 2030,” says Glyphis.

“A recent publication states we will lose one-third of all land mammals to extinction by 2050. Rhinos in captivity and private reserves, however, will probably survive just fine. Which is why secure sanctuaries and intensive protection zones for these animals are so vital.”

Saving the Survivors remains neutral on the pro/anti-trade argument.

“For the simple reason that there is no easy or quick solution to curb rhino poaching,” says Glyphis. “It is a multi-factorial problem that requires a multi-factorial solution. Our focus is on saving the rhino. To educate the public on the importance of taking ownership of our heritage, and understanding why we need survivors to be part of our future.”

Whilst the treatment of rhino poaching victims dominates most of their time, Saving the Survivors has also seen a spike in elephant poaching, so Glyphis says they anticipate treating more elephant patients in the near future.

“We have seen an increase in snaring cases as well,” she continues. “This is mainly lions, wild dogs, and leopards.” With the ever-present threat of viral diseases like rabies and distemper affecting wild carnivores, Saving the Survivors dedicates time to vaccinate these animals. Other routine work includes collaring and translocations of cheetahs and wild dogs.

“Unfortunately we see the results of some of the most ruthless attacks on our precious wildlife,” says Glyphis. “But as trained professionals, we are taught to put our emotions aside and get the job done; to do what’s best for the animal.”

She says they draw strength and encouragement from the team of incredible people who make up their support structure, and it is the success stories that ultimately make the most impact on all of them.

An important part of tending so closely to these survivors is the intense research that can be done. For instance, up until recently, very little was known about how to treat a rhino with such horrific injuries. It is now apparent that these animals have a very high pain threshold, and will carry on breeding as normal, whilst recovering from their injuries.

For almost 30 years, Ford has been actively involved in conservation efforts in Southern Africa. The Ford Wildlife Foundation (FWF), which was established in 2014, is privileged to be able to assist Saving the Survivors through the sponsorship of two Ford Rangers.

The team spends a lot of time on the road, attending to injured animals in their natural habitat. It is very stressful for wild animals to be captured and moved, and the success rates of the treatment procedures decrease dramatically if they are removed from their environment.

Watch Saving the Survivors at work here: