PHOTOS It takes rangers, soldiers, villagers and people like you to keep rhino safe in Africa.
In Botswana, not far from the South African border the country where rhino poaching continues unabated (over 1000 YTD), there is a safe haven for black rhino and white rhino, 30 other African wildlife species and more than 230 bird species.
A 4×4 is required to enter this sanctuary, as we quickly find out once we venture past the reception on the track towards our campsite. It’s a warm late afternoon as we pass a small herd of Springbok and are welcomed to site #4 by two Yellow Hornbills.
After dinner we read up about the sanctuary in preparation for our game drive and chat with the park rangers the next morning. It is peaceful place and as the sunsets, a full moon rises and bird song gives way to insect cadence.
Back in the early 1990’s folks in the village of Serowe wanted to return a former cattle area to its natural state as a place for wildlife to roam free. In 1993 the Khama Rhino Sanctuary was established as a reserve and eco-destination. This 8,585 hectares of Kalahari Sandveld was to be the self-sustaining community based operation of the three surrounding villages.
These are poor villages and the opportunities for employment and to sell their produce, meat products and crafts has been an important boost for the local people. Seeing a benefit from the reserve they of course have a vested interest in keeping the bad guys, namely poachers, out.
Our game drive takes us through dense bush. We spot several rhino wallows as we make our way to the big pan and waterhole. This large expansive area requires a good set of binoculars and could be a place to while away many hours as the wildlife comes and goes.
During our hour Zebra, Wildebeest, Springbok and Hartebeest came in to drink and three Giraffe are spotted feeding in the far trees. We watch Wildebeest wallow, Zebra take a nap, Warthog scurry with their tails in the air, a Hartebeest walk off with head bobbing, and a young Springbok bounce around its mother. Not to forget the Northern Black Korhaan who just didn’t seem to like our presence and made quite a fuss.
We drive further, see more indications of rhino, but sadly escape the privilege of seeing the iconic animal.
“Not one rhino has been poached!”
Gabriel (one of the lead) wildlife rangers reports proudly.
We come to find out that Botswana’s President himself (who the park is named after) has a particular interest in saving his country’s rhino. To assure their protection he has authorized a 24/7 military security detail to the sanctuary to keep rhino safe.
A unit of rangers also patrols, however, their duties are largely to monitor the movement of the rhino and track the wellbeing of all species within the bounds of the park. A vet is on call to assist them, primarily to keep the rhino population healthy. The main mission of the reserve remains that of protecting and preserving the rhino. This just became an increasingly challenging job as the park doubled in size when it was given more land.
As the sanctuary derives its funding largely from eco-tourism new roads and possible lodging are still needed in the expansion. Close to the tented restaurant where we meet with the rangers a new rock building is being erected, where a new larger, more upscale dining facility will be available.
At the far side of the reserve an Education Center provides space to bring children in from different schools for a variety of programs to fit the local curriculum. Sanctuary workers also receive instruction and enrichment at the center.
Rangers Sidney and Gabriel are most important to keep rhino safe. Of course there are always needs, for equipment and to expand services for guests in the newly acquired area.
More tourists, more visitors, to the park would help significantly to provide more revenue. This sanctuary for rhino and their fellow species is well worth experiencing.
We applaud the villagers, soldiers and rangers alike… as it appears they know how to keep rhino safe.
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