- Author Sophie Neville in South Africa -
I have been passionate about promoting the conservation of the rhinoceros all my adult life. This year we gathered a group of twelve experienced riders to generate funds for Save The Waterberg Rhino and associated community projects in rural South Africa.
The idea was to raise sponsorship by riding 180kms across the Waterberg hills to the Palala River, a six-day trek through the big game country featured in my memoir 'Ride the Wings of Morning'. Each rider paid their own safari costs and raised £1,000 or more for The Waterberg Trust - a small but effective UK registered charity.
We set out on 20th January. It was high summer in southern Africa where the bush was blooming after recent rains. We came across zebra and wildebeest enjoying lush grazing after a year of dought.
To our joy we saw animals great and small from warthog to giraffe.
We came across Cape buffalo
along with a number of different species of antelope, including rare roan antelope recently been re-introduced to the area.
And then we encountered white rhino.
I was cautious about approaching these two young males but they are used to horses, who graze with them on the game reserve, and I was able to get pretty close.
-The author Sophie Neville riding with rhino-
The threat of poaching is so accute that their horns have been saturated in poison to negate their astonishing commercial value. They also have a 24 hour armed guard.
Details of the current crisis were revealed by Save The Waterberg Rhino. There are five different species of rhinoceros in the world. All are threatened, some to the edge of extinction. In South Africa along, poachers have been slaughtering about four white rhino a day. These are breeding animals. Females with small calves are shot, their horns hacked off and exported to the Far East.
There is a huge market for the horn. It is only keratin and can smell revolting but sadly it is fashionable to own what has become a symbol of wealth.
The good news is that The Waterberg Trust raised over £30,000 this year. 50% of funds will be used to install a vital security post with high-tech vehicle recognition systems.
-Sophie Neville with some TWT Riders outside a security post about to be installed-
The remainder will go to established community projects in the area that benefit local children. £2,000 has been sent to Lethabo Kids Club for the provision of school shoes and bags.
-TWT riders financing a 'Back to School' project-
We've been able to send more than 100 pupils from the township of Leseding on a residential course at Lapalala Wilderness School to learn about nature conservation. After gaining environmental awareness some chose to work with wildlife or in education and there is a marked committment to re-cycling.
-Sophie Neville speaking to the students of Metshesethela School-
If you would like to know more or get involved please contact us at The Waterberg Trust