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Getting Muddy for African Rhinos


Last August I had the most amazing opportunity to spend 2 weeks volunteering with African Impact in the Limpopo province of South Africa. My brother joined me and together we embarked on an adventure of community development and animal research.

African Impact offer responsible volunteer opportunities that work with local communities and conservation organisations with long term, sustainable impact. They provide safe, structured and meaningful projects which allow volunteers to engage in activities such as the development of community gardens, teaching in schools, animal research and land care as well as having the chance to explore the incredible sights of this beautiful continent.

During our stay we visited Pro Track- an anti poaching organisation dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and fighting the illegal and often brutal slaughter of beautiful creatures, particularly the Rhino.

There were once over 30 species of rhinoceros, but today only 5 species remain, and with an average of one rhino killed every 21hrs, these species are also in great danger of dying out. Rhino horn is used in Asian medicines and also seen as a status symbol, displaying someone's wealth and success, leading to the selfish and painful killing of these unique creatures.

Pro Track is a dedicated team of highly skilled rangers offering security, intelligence and armed response to illegal poaching on private game reserves. Deployed for anywhere from 4 to 16 days at a time, the teams provide 24hr service including foot patrols, snare sweeps, tracking, ambush and arrest of poachers. Rhino are sometimes shot dead and sometimes tranquilized in order to remove their horns, in which case they wake in terrible pain. Other times they may be caught in snares which are big wire rings that capture animals as they walk/ run through. Once the animal is caught, the wire tightens with every movement and struggle, slowly torturing and eventually killing them. The removal of snares from properties not only helps to save rhinos, but other species including warthog, giraffes, lions and leopards.

The Pro Track team go through an intense, military-type training program and during our visit, we had a chance to try part of their training course. Literally laughing all the way, I joined my fellow volunteers in leaping into algae-filled ponds, climbing up through tyres and over walls and commando crawling under wire, not thinking twice about my present lack of athletic prowess. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I managed to injure my back and barely complete the course. So, when I recently discovered a similar opportunity here in Melbourne, it made total sense that this should be my next Catalyst Kinect project.

As a great lover of animals, I have enormous gratitude and respect for the people working hard on the ground to save the amazing animals and environment of our planet. In honour of the work of African Impact and Pro Track, my husband and I participated this week in "Muddy Hell" - an obstacle course of over 7km of climbing, crawling and wading through mud. We even came up with our very unique 'save the rhino' hand sign as demonstrated in the picture above. Tired and sore we are both extremely happy to draw attention to such an important cause as saving an entire species and also promote the volunteer programs provided by African Impact. I hope that I will have an opportunity to return one day as it really was an experience that has seeped into my bones and left an imprint on my heart.

To find out more about these awesome organisations, please visit www.africanimpact.com and www.protrackapu.co.za and take a look on YouTube for some clips of the Pro Track training.

FOLLOW LU'S ADVENTURES...

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