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An “ordinary” Durban couple, concerned about the shocking increase in rhino poaching in KwaZulu-Natal, bid on an auction by Christie’s in London to take part in a three-day trip to Zululand to assist with an anti-poaching effort by the Wildlands Conservation Trust.
The trip enabled Filippo Faralla, his partner, Jacqui Hadingham, and four friends to be present during the capture of rhino and several hands-on steps to protect them from poachers.
These included the fitting of tracking devices that allow rhino to be monitored in real time by rangers and anti-poaching units. The devices are helping to build a better understanding of the rhino’s movements and to ensure rangers can pick up any irregularities in their behaviour and ultimately respond more efficiently to any threats.
On this trip, rhino were fitted with tracking devices that use the latest GPS technology. The animals were ear-notched so they may be identified as individuals in the population.
DNA samples were taken from each of the animals captured, to be used for a database of the DNA signatures of rhino around the country.
Wildlands’ strategic manager, Kevin McCann, who oversaw this project, said the micro-chipping of the rhino horn had become a legal requirement and ensured that, in the event of a horn being confiscated, it could be matched to the DNA sample in the database. In other words, the horn could be matched to the rhino.
“This knowledge will enable authorities to be more successful in clamping down on poaching syndicates,” he said.
Faralla said afterwards: “It’s difficult to describe this experience in a way that truly encapsulates what it meant to me and my friends. It’s sad that we have to go to these lengths to ensure the safety of our rhino, but it was amazing to be that close to these incredible creatures in such a beautiful part of the world, and to be directly involved in the process that aims to conserve them.”
McCann thanked the couple for their contribution to rhino conservation.
“With the unfailing support of activists like Filippo and Jacqui we can really make a difference in curbing rhino poaching,” he said.
The Wildlands Conservation Trust started seven years ago through a merger of two regional trusts, the KZN Conservation Trust and the Wildlands Trust.
According to the trust’s website, its Project Rhino KZN was born out of the need for closer collaboration among the many organisations that are raising funds and implementing rhino conservation projects in KwaZulu-Natal, to achieve a more effective use of funds.