Thomas Aiken explained that symbol of the rhino on his cap as something more important than a golf tournament – he is trying to end rhino poaching in South Africa.
Speaking in his post-round interview on Thursday, Aiken, who is tied second at the Volvo Golf Champions at the Links at Fancourt, has started his own charity in his fight to save the rhinos from extinction.
“But you know, I've been waiting for something worthwhile to put on my cap and what is more worthwhile than trying to help all our rhinos that have been struggling so much the last two years.”
Aiken, who is in the field courtesy of his maiden win on the European tour in Spain last year, has started his own charity – the Thomas Aiken Rhino Fund.
“I got in touch with Trevor Jordan from Jordan Properties up in the Hoedspruit area and they are doing a fantastic job with Rhino Revolution. He really has taken the bull by the horns, or this case the rhino by the horns. We have got a war going on with the East and the prize is the rhino, and whether it will stay or whether it will become extinct.
“It's being valued at one million dollars a horn and so we have a serious financial problem with the fact that they have a lot of money and we don't.
“How do you fight a war when someone has more ammunition than you do, and you need to fight ,clearly.”
Aiken said for now the focus remains on the Hoedspruit area. His charity has tractors and roadblocks on three roads. The charity is also doing something which has caused controversy, which is dehorning rhinos.
“At the current rate that they are being poached, we have got about six years left until they are extinct.
“A rhino horn is like a fingernail. It's hair-based and it grows back, and they have no nerve endings. You might as well chew on your nail; that's how much nutrients are in it. What we are doing is we have top vets coming and dehorning and leaving a stump.
“So far we have de-horned 50 rhinos and not one fatality in the dehorning process, which says a lot about the vets, because it's not as easy as it looks.”
The rhinos are then “chipped” with a tracking device so they can be tracked. All the rhinos that have undergone this procedure are still alive.
The horns take five years to grow back and Aiken hopes by then there will be no more poaching.
“What we are trying to do is legalise trading rhino horns so that we can flood the market with all of the horn that we have got.
“We have spoken to all the top rhino breeders in South Africa, and if we can flood the market and bring the price down, then they won't really have any resources to poach.” – Sapa