Conservation


“P”  is for poaching  +  “A”  is for art  +  “R”  is for rhino  =  ART FOR ORPHANS

…..  AND A RETURN TO UMFOLOZI  AFTER 50 YEARS

By Grahame Thomson

The trip had been a long time in planning. My brother-in-law, Frank Carlisle and my sister Julie both have a deep attachment to and fond remembrance of Umfolozi, having been stationed at the Mbuzane outpost during the first years of their marriage in the early nineties. After serving almost a decade with the Natal Parks Board (Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife), Frank went on to start his own new ecotourism company, which operated a variety of 4×4 overland tours to the remoter corners of Southern Africa.

As the second rhino war started in earnest in 2013 and Kruger National Park and Umfolozi Game Reserve became the primary targets for the gangs of syndicated poachers, Frank, together with two ex-colleagues from his Umfolozi days, Malcolm Organ and Paul Cryer, established a non- profit company, Rex the Rhino Conservation Fund.  The objective of the non-profit company is to fund the under‑resourced section rangers, game scouts, anti-poaching and veterinary personnel who are fighting the ruthless war against rhino on all fronts of the reserve and in other areas.

Over the past five years, Rex the Rhino has raised considerable funding for resourcing many aspects of fighting the second rhino war.

Frank arranged a late afternoon game drive along the Sontuli loop and John and Ivanka were overawed and in raptures with the numerous encounters with white rhino out on the plains. We returned to the camp after dusk and enjoyed a traditional bushveld stew around a blazing fire, where the camaraderie and sense of purpose were beginning take hold.

With coffee in hand, Julie then took centre stage and suggested we have a brainstorming session on the future activities of Rex the Rhino and how we could incorporate John’s rhino artwork into the promotional and fundraising activities. John had obviously already given deep thought into the matter and launched forth with a variety of concepts he felt would be appropriate and generate substantial funding in a relatively short period. Frank kept the fire stoked and eventually a consensus was reached. John would create a portfolio of six limited edition prints entitled The Art for Orphans series with all proceeds directed specifically to this cause.

The following day we ventured out early, travelling in a convoy of two 4x4s and with the objective of showing John and Ivanka the amazing diversity of landscapes and wildlife that is the Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. And what a day it turned out to be. Apart from encountering white rhino around almost every corner, we stumbled on a breeding herd of elephant who were feeding along the palm-fringed banks of the Hluhluwe River. The herd, which must have numbered well over sixty or so, took an immediate dislike to Frank’s Toyota and several of the matriarch cows came storming out of the dense thickets with some very serious intentions in mind. Frank was forced to beat a very hasty retreat in reverse and with dust flying and trumpeting resounding.  It is a scene that will be etched deeply in the memory of John and Ivanka for some time to come. They call it ‘close encounters of an elephant kind’.

It had been a truly glorious few days, filled with so many great memories with so much nostalgia of the past. It had been made more extraordinary by sharing it with a group of very special people, all of whom have a deep and passionate affinity with the wilderness ethic, but all in very different ways. John Moore, wildlife artist of extraordinary talent and interpretation, but whose spiritual connection and compassion with nature was a joy to behold.