Dear Rhino Owners and Members of the Waterberg Nature Conservancy,
I work at Ant's Nest for Ant and Tessa Baber. We were hit by rhino poachers in December 2011 and they killed one of our white rhino cows together with her eleven month old baby. Despite beefing up security, we were hit again at the end of July this year, when another of our cows was shot.
Pelham Jones has told us that history dictates that once one rhino has been poached, the poachers will return again and again until they have wiped out the entire population. For obvious reasons we are extremely keen that any plans to do this are thwarted as quickly as possible.
We decided to find a vehicle to raise funds to dedicate to protecting our rhinos from poaching. Our plight was recently publicised by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, who posted a message on his website. Following this we had offers of support from all over the world.
However, we do not just want to help ourselves; we want to help other rhino owners and landowners in the Waterberg area. We understand from personal experience that the necessary enhanced security comes at a massive cost to private rhino owners. We feel that there is a need for an area-wide initiative.
Rather than setting up our own charity, we decided to link up with OSCAP (www.oscap.co.za ) and want to our initiative to benefit rhino owners all over the Waterberg area. We have called this initiative"Save the Waterberg Rhinos".
OSCAP has set up a separate bank account for us to accept donations into, and we plan to make this completely transparent to donors in order that they know exactly where their money is going. Any funds raised through this initiative will be put towards securing rhinos in the Waterberg and perhaps eventually even further afield. Any initiative which aids rhino security will also assist in the general security of the area.
We very much hope that you would like to become involved in this initiative. You may be a rhino owner who has not yet been hit by poaching but sadly it is probably only a matter of time. We have movement all over our farm on a daily basis and thought it couldn't happen to us, but it has "twice.
We are looking for people from the local community who would like to become involved in both overseeing the management of the initiative and rhino owners who we can assist. Additionally some lodges may be able to approach their client database for assistance in fundraising, specifically to help themselves.
We are researching, together with OSCAP, a number of high tech options for protecting rhinos, including CCTV cameras on fence lines and a camera system mounted in a balloon (originally developed by the Israeli military for use on their borders) which has both conventional and infra-red technology. We can see some of these applications working alongside the more traditional "˜feet on the ground.'
In addition to this OSCAP has donated a tracker dog to us. Please be aware that this dog is available to any landowners in the local area who notice that they have suffered an incursion on their land.
We would like to hold a meeting in November to get as many rhino owners in the area as possible together to agree on a way forward for this. Any local landowners and business owners who are interested in getting involved are also very welcome to attend. We would like to use this as a brainstorming session and feel the more people we can get together the better. This meeting will be held at Ant's Nest on Friday 16th November at 10am. We will be providing lunch for those who wish to stay on after the meeting.
We obviously realise that this undertaking needs to be kept confidential, particularly for those of you who do not publicise that you have rhinos on your property.