Page 1

Ride for Rhinos 2018

INFO PACK 13-17 JUNE


The tour of a lifetime Hello and welcome to the RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos! We are so glad that you could join us on this amazing adventure into the Namibian wilderness! Together we will assist Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) in their colossal task to save Namibia’s black rhino population. By this time you surely know that the goal of the tour is not only to raise funds for SRT, but also to raise awareness about their efforts and difficulties. SRT operates in a remote, rugged area of more than a million hectares – with few fences, no national park status and no controls over who goes in or out. For the past thirty years, SRT has patrolled the area and the rhino population has rebounded from the point of near extinction to a level that all Namibians can be proud of. There is no time for complacency. Organised crime syndicates are here, targeting our rhinos. SRT is intensifying its efforts in the face of this threat. We have all become part of the fight to save the rhino!

Some Logistics... • The tour takes place from 13 to 17 June 2018, with the 13th being a 'travel to' day and the 17th a

'travel back' day, in the Palmwag Concession area north of the veterinary gate in the Kunene Region.

Riders will make their own way to Damaraland. The group will meet up at Wêreldsend, IRDNC's base camp. See directions and map attached.

If you are willing to give a fellow rider a lift north or need a lift for yourself and your bicycle, please let the tour organisers know so that everyone does not have to travel all the way by themselves. You can contact Elzanne directly at 081 367 3583 or elzanne@venture.com.na, or have a chat with your fellow riders. Cars will be securely parked at Wêreldsend for the duration of the trip.

See the packing lists in this information pack for detailed instructions.


Itinerary 13 JUNE: Arrive at Wêreldsend at a time of your choosing. We will spend the first night of the tour camping here, getting to know one another and prepping for the adventure to come. Vehicles can be left here.

14 JUNE: The cyclists depart from Wêreldsend on the first leg of their journey into the concession. The day's cycle will cover a distance of approximately 37 km, with a climb of 205 meters. The first day's cycle will take the group from Wêreldsend to Ride for Rhinos Basecamp following a series of Jeep and single track trails. Lunch will be served at a half-way mark in the bush. The afternoon is set aside for a game drive and rhino tracking.

15 JUNE: On the second leg of the tour, the cyclists will complete a loop trail covering a distance of 38.5 km with a climb of 400 m. The trail will pass by several springs ideal for spotting game. Some fast downhill game trails can be expected. Water (or beer) stops will be set up along the way. An optional cycle or game drive is set out for the afternoon. This is a social ride, accompanied by vehicles and regular 'beer stops'. Expected time: 2 - 3 hours. SRT rangers will accompany us or be in the vicinity for possible rhino sightings.

16 JUNE: The third day of the tour takes the cyclists on a 42 km trek with a climb of 470 m over the rugged terrain back to Wêreldsend. From here we will travel to Wilderness Safaris' Damaraland Camp. Cyclists can decide whether they want to make this journey by bicycle or with their vehicle. For those choosing to cycle, crew members will be available to transfer your vehicle to the lodge for you. Lunch will be served at Damaraland Camp. The afternoon is set out for game drives in the area. The evening will be spent at the lodge having a wonderful party to end off the tour on a high note!

17 JUNE: An early morning ride of 27 km is set out for those who are keen for one last stretch, otherwise you can enjoy a leisurely morning and breakfast at Damarland Camp. From here Ride for Rhino adventurers can make their way back home, hopefully with a smile on their face and a heart full of warm memories of a wonderful Namibian mountain-biking adventure, already excited for next year’s tour! *Please note that this tour is a cycling safari, not a race. We try as far as possible to stay in a group and stick to demarcated or allocated game trails as to leave as few tracks behind as possible.


Some Maps Days 1-3 MTB Routes. Basecamp is located where the green,yellow and red lines meet.


Day 1: Yellow Line Distance 37km Elevation gain 205 m Start from Werelds end and ride in a western direction. There is some sandy drifts and we pass a beautiful stand of Wild ebony trees after around 10km. Then we start climbing and will have a water point after about 16km. We turn off the Jeep tracks onto single track after about 20km and then ride single track till our lunch spot at the Albitrunca spring.(This is at 30km) We only have a short transit after lunch of around 7km.

Day 2: Red Line Total distance 38.5km - climbing 400m A steady climb from camp, all on single track with short section on a jeep track. We will have a vehicle not too far from us on this day and will do one ad hoc water point after around 10km. Very nice and fast descent along the line through flowing game trails, we visit 2 springs on this day. We will meet the vehicles and major water stop after 24,5km and then we have another 14km to make it to our camp. This section is a steady uphill and if its windy you will need some gas in the tank for this.


Day 3: Green Line Total distance 42.3 km Elevation gain 470 m This start off with a very steady climb from camp and in the middle we have about 12 km of quite technical single track. We will have 2 water points along the route. We will arrive back in werelds end to pick up our vehicles on this day.

Day 4: Damaraland camp Loop. Total distance 27.4km elevation gain 440m This is very scenic ride from Damaraland camp. The ride out has a wonderful descent towards the Huab river with great scenery along the way. On the way back we have a steady climb to get back to camp.


What to pack We will provide all food, drinks and camping gear you might need, but be sure to bring the following along: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Daywear and warmer clothes for the evenings (Please note that desert temperatures can get low at night) Riding shoes and hiking shoes - athletic shoes, lightweight hiking boots, or trail running shoes with a sturdy sole work well (in case we need to set off after the rhinos on foot). Socks - enough for each day’s ride Biking tights/equivalent Biking shorts Riding gloves Riding jerseys/T-shirts (we will supply you with one tour cycling shirt) Windbreaker/light jacket Hydration pack (Camelbak) Cycling gear (Please remember all helmets, shoes, gloves etc.) Personal medicines Camera Insect repellent Binoculars Sunglasses Hat and sunscreen Towel

MTB Technical Brief from CYMOT: CYMOT in conjunction with SCOTT are proud to offer you the technical service back-up for the RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos. In order for you to prepare adequately for the event, we strongly advise you to take along the following/ensure that your bike has: • • • • • • •

Tubeless tires with a recent slime top-up Recent lube service At least 2 quick links A set of plugs and tools CO2 cartridges (bombs) One slime tube (optional) Camelbak / water bottles

CYMOT furthermore offers a free of charge lube service to all participants' bikes prior to the event. Please schedule an appointment with Mario Katzur at (061) 295-7474. Should you not bring your bike for the lube service, please feel free to advise Mario what components are on your bike. We will take along the most common components, but obviously cannot cater for all circumstances. To be on the safe side, please drop Mario a mail at MKatzur@cymot.com. All spares fitted during the tour will be billed after the event.


Our goal We sincerely hope that you are as excited as we are for this amazing experience. Damaraland truly is a spectacular area of Namibia and this adventure is a remarkable chance to explore the environment in which SRT operates on a daily basis. The aim of the tour is to raise both funds and awareness for Save the Rhino Trust Namibia. Any contribution in the form of sponsorship from either yourself or your company will thus go towards attaining this goal. To contribute further to the RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos initiative in support of Save the Rhino Trust, you can contact Elzanne Erasmus at elzanne@travelnewsnamibia.com directly, or visit our website at www.rideforrhinos.com.na. Here you will find banking details for Save the Rhino Trust. Please be sure to use the reference Ride for Rhinos when making a donation.


How to get there Windhoek Get on Western Bypass from Bach street and Florence Nightingale (4 min - 1.8 km) Drive from B1 and C39 to Kunene Region (5h 21 min - 587 km) Slight right (4 min - 2.2 km)

Wereldsend


Some photos from our 2018 Recce

Get excited!!!


From the Summer 15/16 issue of

Travel News Namibia

ROUGHING IT PUSHING THE LIMITS FOR A SPECIES ON THE BRINK Text Elzanne Erasmus Main photographs Chris Botha


FOR RHINOS

What do you do when something as important as an entire species is standing at the edge of a cliff ready to tumble at any given second? Do you stand by and watch or do you rally, roar, riot, rush, run and ride to save them?


T

here are less than 5000 black rhinos left in the world. The Kunene Region of north-western Namibia is home to the largest free-roaming rhino population on earth. The harsh landscape and increase in poaching has placed their survival under imminent threat. With organized crime syndicates causing numbers to dwindle, the protection of these rare and majestic creatures is of crucial importance. They aren’t as tough as their skin makes them seem. They’re not bulletproof or immune to torture. This is their last true stronghold. Their bunker. And it’s under attack.

THE FACTS During the 1970s an increase in poaching and a period of severe drought lead to a steep decline in the desert-adapted species of the region, including the black rhino. As there were no anti-poaching systems in place at the time and conservation efforts in the region were negligible to nonexistent, the population of black rhinos reached a drastic and dangerous low. And so, in 1982, in an effort to save the species from the brink of extinction, Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) was created. The trust applied an unconventional but effective method of anti-poaching. They hired the poachers! By employing members of the community who were believed to be

at the forefront of the poaching activities and providing them with more secure livelihoods by working as wildlife guards, SRT enjoyed tremendous success. Today, after 30 years of interminable efforts, the black rhino population has rebounded, but the threat has never completely subsided and criminal organisations are once again on the move, back with a vengeance. At the forefront of this never-ending fight are the SRT rangers, teams of five individuals who track and monitor rhino behaviour and movement and whose presence acts as a poaching deterrent. Five such teams work in shifts of 21 days to cover an area of more than one million hectares, from the northern bank of the Ugab River, all the way to the Kunene River on the border with Angola in the north. An almost impossible task. Rangers are equipped with no more than they can physically carry. Though water and food supplies are replenished every 4-5 days, the rangers must survive the unforgiving climate of Damaraland, with temperatures often reaching way above 40°C, for three weeks on end. Though one of the members of each team is a member of NAMPOL and carries a weapon, the dangers of encountering ruthless armed poachers are all too real. A tough job done by tough men in order to save a vital slice of Namibia’s natural legacy. But why do they have to do it alone?


André de Jager

RIDE FOR RHINOS

A CALL TO ACTION The sun was still low on the horizon as they made their way over a rocky hill. Despite the early hour, temperatures were already reaching the mid-30s and a smouldering day was imminent in this wild corner of the world. They pedalled forth through the October heat, over rock-strewn foothills and thick river sand, back towards the campsite, where they would savour the shade and cold beverages and tend to the scrapes and bruises sustained along the day’s route. So there they were, 20 mountain-bikers in the harsh desert heat and inhospitable environment of the Palmwag Concession in Damaraland, calmly discussing self-healing bicycle tyres, upcoming races and what not. They were there for a number of reasons. They were on a cycling safari through the beautiful and enigmatic natural environs of Damaraland. They were there to test their mountain-biking prowess. They were there to meet new people and make friends. They were there to have fun. But most of all, they were there to make a contribution and play their part in the fight to save Namibia’s rhinos. On October 24th, 2015 the group of 20 mountain-biking and conservation enthusiasts set off on a 4-day cycle safari with a crew of 15.

The goal of the tour was to help raise awareness of the struggles faced by SRT in their efforts to protect the black rhino in the Kunene Region as well as to raise funds with which to purchase a new vehicle to use in their rhino protection endeavours. The riders came from all walks of life, different business backgrounds and most had never met before.

DID YOU KNOW? 95% of the desert subspecies of black rhino known as Diceros bicornis bicornis are found within Namibia’s borders.

BOUNCING BACK

Between 1970 and 1992, the black rhino population suffered a 96% decrease, with total numbers dipping as low as around 2,400. Today, thanks to on-going conservation efforts and the wildly successful Rhino Custodian Programme established by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the species has been saved from near extinction.


The RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos cycle tour was the culmination of months of planning and hard work and the collaboration of like-minded proudly Namibian companies, who each recognised the need for action from community members who are not normally involved in conservation activities. The idea for the ride was the brainchild of the team at Venture Publications and came from the realisation that, though we have been partnering with Save the Rhino Trust through our magazines for more than 20 years, we had never been able to assist in any tangible way except writing about them and creating awareness. Something needed to be done to rally the right group of people - people who had influence in Namibian society, people who had access to resources and were willing to help bring about change. We knew we weren’t going to be able to do it alone and contacted the leaders in each field. Logistical assistance was supplied by Wilderness Safaris, who manage the concession area. They supplied vehicles and guides, and set up a rugged bush camp in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. With a fantastic financial contribution that covered tour costs, RMB Namibia jumped on board as the tour’s name sponsor. CYMOT Namibia contributed

WHITE OR BLACK? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A WHITE AND BLACK RHINO: White rhinos are usually larger then black rhinos and have a more pronounced hump on the back of their necks. Their eating habits differ, as white rhinos are grazers whereas black rhinos are browsers and prefer to feed from bushes and trees. This distinction leads to a number of different physical traits: black rhinos have smaller heads and a hooked front lip which helps them feed off branches, white rhinos have a wide front lip which is perfect for grazing on grass.

DID YOU KNOW? There are only four northern white rhinos left in the world, only one of which is male. This male is unfortunately past its reproductive age. Is this the end of a species?

Do not speak of a rhino when there is no tree nearby – African Proverb

cycling products, T-shirts and technical MTB support. Dr Werner du Plessis joined to tend to bumps and bruises and last, but certainly not least, were Miguel and Samuel, our two extraordinary chefs from Namibia Exclusive, who forever changed our perceptions of what can and can’t be cooked on an open fire in the middle of the wilderness.

A FEAST OF A TIME Venison steak with red wine sauce, dark chocolate mousse, lamb on the spit, crème brulée, a whole lot of different potatoes and the cherry on top: Chef Miguel’s torta frita, or fried cake. As impossible as it may seem, two men in pristine chef’s whites, toque and all, made these dishes, and many more, on a braai in the middle of the bush. Paired with wines from Rust en Vrede, Guardian Peak, Neuras and Beyerskloof and some exceptionally good company around

the campfire meant each evening at the Ride for Rhinos camp was truly special. Days spent on the mountain-bike, over rough terrain and technically difficult tracks, yielded passionate discussion from the riders each evening. The landscape was stunningly beautiful, the nature pristine and their saddleback safari through the Damaraland wilderness was a life-changing experience. Elephant, zebra and gemsbok made for wonderful companions along the routes. Each water stop, or rather Windhoek Lager stop, turned into animated debates on who fell where and how hard or who spent more time pushing their bike than on the actual saddle. When they weren’t on their bikes, laughter was the only sound that interrupted the serene landscape, replaced by some loud snores from one or two tents late at night…


AndrĂŠ de Jager


Chefs Miguel and Samuel demonstrates that there is no limit to the extravagant possibilties on the menu, even in the bush...

RHINO HORN FACT FILE: • Black rhino have two horns, which grow continually from the skin at their base throughout their life (like human fingernails). • Rhinos from different areas can have horns of different shapes, and sizes also vary. • The shape of the horn also differs between sexes: males tend to have thicker horns, while females often have longer and thinner ones. • The horn consists of thousands of compressed hair-like strands of keratin which make it extremely hard and tough, but it can be broken or split during fighting. • The front (anterior) horn is longer than the rear (posterior) horn, averaging at around 50 cm long.

At night, when the dust, and sometimes blood, of the day’s adventures had been washed off, the group was joined by the most important members of the initiative, the SRT rangers. Around the soft glow of the campfire they told us of their adventures, and misadventures, and also of their reality. They told of 21 days spent in the harsh Namibian sun, following these prehistoric creatures and keeping track of where their spoor crossed with that of an intruder’s. These campfire talks unveiled the truth. They unveiled facts and figures and harsh realities of community involvement in the poaching syndicates and a fight that sometimes seems futile. When your terrain is inaccessible and your community unreliable, the task comes to seem impossible. The men and women sitting around the campfire listening intently had spent four days exerting themselves through this rough and rugged terrain. They now understood the difficulty first-hand, and it wasn’t long before the first promise of aid was made, with many more the follow. If the idea of the tour was to immerse ourselves completely, and to simulate what these rangers have to endure on a daily basis, I think we succeeded. After four days of pedalling through the searing heat, camping in the dust and altogether roughing it for rhinos, we understood the tremendous task at hand.


RIDE FOR RHINOS

DID YOU KNOW?

The description white rhino is the result of a linguistic error in which the original Afrikaans name for the subspecies was wyd-lip renoster aka wide-lipped rhino. The Afrikaans wyd sounding similar to the English word “white” caused this lost-in-translation animal to be named the white rhino. Accordingly, its counterpart was named the black rhino. Their names have nothing to do with their colour.

Save the Rhinos Trust's new ride: a Toyota Land Cruiser to aid in their rhino protection initiatives

THE SUN ALSO RISES “Never be daunted”, said Ernest Hemingway in his classic The Sun Also Rises. He must surely have been speaking of rhinos and not Spanish bulls, imploring the world not to give up hope. Because one thing is for sure, the task is certainly daunting. So where do you start? Do you educate the masses on the true medicinal quality of rhino horn, explaining that it is no different than chewing your own fingernails? Do you get the army and legal system involved and throw money towards arrests, rewards and prosecution? Do you back the school of thought rallying for the legalization of rhino horn? Or do you do your best to help the dedicated individuals working day and night in the field to deter the poaching epidemic? No matter what our approach, action needs to be taken. The sun will one day rise The RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos is set to be an annual event in aid of the Save the Rhino Trust on a society that works together to protect its natural resources and sees the worth in its pristine beauty. Until that day, each For more information on or to contribute to this amazing initiative individual willing and able must be prepared to rough it for the visit www.rideforrhinos.com.na cause… they won’t make it without you. TNN


From the Summer 16/17 issue of

Travel News Namibia

A passionate

adventure

SAVING THE WORLD ONE RHINO AT A TIME Text Elzanne Erasmus Photographs Chris Botha & Elzanne Erasmus


“What are we going to tell our children when it’s all gone?” The rustic strains of Elemotho’s* voice fills the air which I hoarsely draw into my lungs as I, for a horrifying second, contemplate a universe in which I exist and a species stronger, mightier, and just as important as my own does not. For an agonising moment I imagine myself sitting on the edge of a bed sometime in the distant future, reading a fairy tale to a child. The fairy tale tells of a gentle and majestic giant, ambling across an arid plain. The creature blends into the beauty of his surroundings. He is at peace with his environment. He belongs there. He is a part of the soil and the rocks and the scattered green protruding from dry earth. He is a part of the pulse of the land. From afar, watchful eyes observe his journey. The observers admire the creature as they admire the landscape around him, and they smile because they know that the beauty they see before them is a true reflection of the natural order of things. They smile because they are lucky enough to be enthralled by the magnitude of the moment. Back on the edge of this future bed, I close the fairy tale and look down at the child. “Wow,” he says. “What a magical creature that was and what a magical moment. I wish fairy tales and creatures like those were real.” And a tear streaks a shining path down my cheek as I reply: “They used to be…”

What are we going to tell our children when it’s all gone? How we sold it all, even the last rhino’s horn. – Elemotho, Save the Rhino


For the second time in as many years, cyclists joined a group of like-minded individuals, passionate about the plight of Namibia’s black rhino, on this exceptional quest. I saw him, that magical creature in the fairy tale. Except that he was no myth or legend. His name was Kangombe. No, delete that. His name is Kangombe, and he is alive and well. His horns are still where they should be. No one has ‘relieved’ him of his horns yet. The natural order is still intact. But I dread the day that I may have to report on Kangombe’s killing. I fear the day when his horn, a collection of hair follicles, costs him his life And I fear the day when man’s greed will cost us his species.

“IT TAKES A GREAT DEAL OF COURAGE TO SEE THE WORLD IN ALL ITS TAINTED GLORY AND STILL LOVE IT.” – OSCAR WILDE So here are the facts: This is not a fairy tale, or a dream we will wake up from. Since 2008, poaching has led to the death of almost 6 000 African rhinos. There is estimated to be only around 5 000 black rhinos left in Africa today. The price of rhino horn has risen to $60 000 per kilogram – twice the value of gold and platinum – and is now more valuable on the black market than diamonds and cocaine. According to news sources such as The Namibian, the rhino poaching statistics in Namibia read as follows: In the period from 2005-2014 the

Ministry of Environment and Tourism reported the poaching of eight white rhinos and 95 black rhinos. A total of 25 black rhinos were reported to have been killed in 2014 alone. And in 2015? Eighty rhinos were poached.

“YOU BEGIN SAVING THE WORLD BY SAVING ONE THING AT A TIME, ALL ELSE IS GRANDIOSE ROMANTICISM OR POLITICS.” – CHARLES BUKOWSKI So what are the solutions? One topic under contention is the legalisation of the controlled trade of rhino horn. Much like the hot topic of the ivory trade that was under debate at a recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference, where it was suggested that the controlled trade of sourced or ‘farmed’ rhino horn gathered through de-horning activities would curb the poaching epidemic. This would come about as the trade will be flooded with a legal product at lower prices, nullifying the need for the substance to be sold on the black market. Save the Rhino International has not yet reached a conclusion on whether or not they agree with this suggestion, but they are currently investigating the merits


RIDE FOR RHINOS

TOP FROM LEFT

Crew members Martin and Thomas await the riders at a water/beer stop | The tour's 3 Master Chefs: Frans, Jonno and Romans | Cyclists take on tricky game track trails through rocky terrain of the idea. The organisation is discussing whether or not a compromise should be reached. It has been established that there is no single approach that will work. But perhaps a combination of anti-poaching initiatives and legal trade is the solution. Namibia has always been a big supporter of sustainable use. If this credo of viable absorption of natural resources and components of biodiversity can be used to support conservation efforts, these efforts could be incomegenerating and self-sustaining. The main threat to rhinos is poaching fuelled by the illegal trade in rhino horn: for traditional Asian medicine, for high prestige gifts and for a cancer cure according to the latest rumours spread in Vietnam. Whichever avenue you choose to support, one thing remains certain. The final solution lies in eradicating these source markets. If communities in the source market could be educated and made aware that they might as well be chewing on their own fingernails, none of these drastic measures would even need to be discussed. This is a pipe dream, however. But those of us who are passionate about saving the species, are nothing if not dreamers.

“BE A DREAMER. A DOER. A THINKER. SEE POSSIBILITIES EVERYWHERE.” He was walking down a dry river when we found him. We had been cycling all day through the rough terrain of

Damaraland in northwestern Namibia and we enjoyed the reprieve of the game-viewer vehicles and the cold beers we had on hand. We had left camp only 10 minutes before to go in search of the animal we had travelled all this way for. We watched his progress for what seemed like hours, softly chatting amongst ourselves and savouring the moment. Later that evening, around a campfire, Save the Rhino Trust rangers told us they knew Kangombe well. He was an old friend. They had been watching over him for decades. My heart soared at their words and at the realisation of the sacrifices made by individuals for the greater good. Some dedicate their lives to it. Some give money. Some give time. Others give their hearts. The 2016 RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos combined all the adventure and thrill of a mountain-biking tour through the spectacular Namibian landscape with the passion driving an exciting new conservation effort. The tour, which first took place in October 2015, took 20 mountainbiking enthusiasts on a four-day journey through the Palmwag Concession Area adjacent to the Torra and Omatendeka conservancies of the Kunene Region. The area falls within Save the Rhino Trust Namibia’s one million hectare protection area. For the second time in as many years, cyclists joined a group of like-minded individuals, passionate about the plight of Namibia’s black rhino, on


Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light – Dylan Thomas


RIDE FOR RHINOS this exceptional quest. For four days they traversed the rocky landscapes, battled the heat and the wind, and loved every second of their saddleback safari. In their ’downtime’ they discussed vital issues. Whether they were taking a water break, sipping gin and tonic while watching the sunset, or in deep conversation around late-night campfires, the dialogue never ceased. Opinions were given, issues discussed and ideas thrown about. I was thrilled every time someone used the term: “What if we…” This was a group of individuals capable of doing extraordinary things if they banded together. Among them were CEOs and department heads of major corporations in Namibia. There were tourism professionals, creatives, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and bankers – influential people. People who could make a difference and be a part of the solution. And each of them wanted to find a solution. In any way they could.

“IF WE ALL STAND TOGETHER, WE WILL WIN,” SAID SIMSON URI-KHOB, THE CEO OF SRT WITH THE GREATEST CONFIDENCE. RMB Namibia, Wilderness Safaris, CYMOT and Venture Media, all crave to be a part of this solution. Upon starting the initiative, Venture Media realised that it would only be possible through the combined efforts of a wonderful group of people. With financial contributions, RMB helped get the initiative off the ground and allowed us to turn it into the enormous success it is today. Wilderness Safaris, heading up the logistics of the tour and host of the final night’s accommodation, is integral to every step of this breathtaking experience. CYMOT’s MTB expertise and support made sure that the adventure kept going, despite the rugged terrain. And Venture Media? Well, at the end of the day all we want to do is to tell stories. So we facilitate and organise and bring this brilliant group of people and companies together. We strive to inspire. And most of all we make the connections that will allow this all-important conversation to continue. To continue beyond the water stops and the sunset chats and fireside debates. Making the connection between those who want to help and those who need it. Compared to the challenges faced by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and organisations such as Save the Rhino Trust, our job seems menial and easy. It is they who face the real challenges, and also the criticism that comes with the task and its inevitable failures. They have a tough job. But who can help? Those of us who can exert ourselves physically, or have cash or time to spare. What can we do? We can keep talking. We can facilitate the conversation. We can keep shining light on the problem and the issues at hand as brightly and for as long as possible. One thing every participant of this endeavour, this adventure for conservation, will tell you, is that a passion to take up the fight for nature comes from deep inside. You have to feel it. Feel the dread. Feel the dire consequence. And then you have to feel the need to stand up and do something. Feel the passion. Rally, roar, riot, rush, run, rage, or ride on a bicycle to save them. TNN

CITES The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wild fauna and flora is an international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. See www.cites.org.

SUSTAINABLE USE Sustainable use means the use of components of biological diversity in a way and at a rate that does not lead to the long-term decline of biodiversity, thereby maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of present and future generations.

*Elemotho is a Namibian recording artist who recently released a song entitled Save the Rhino in conjunction with various other Namibian musicians as part of Save the Rhino Trust Namibia’s One Voice campaign. You can help support SRT’s efforts by purchasing the song at www.givetoday.com.na.


From the Spring 2017 issue of

Travel News Namibia

THE GREAT

DEBATE

A future of hope for rhino conservation Text Elzanne Erasmus Photographs Chris Botha


RIDE FOR RHINOS

The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders – Edward Abbey, American Author


I

t was the third year in a row that I found myself driving across the breathtaking Damaraland landscape. The sun was setting, the grass, which still swayed high after good rains, was ignited by the golden glow of last light. I was here for the same reasons as the years before. A few kilometres further on lay a temporary haven among the rocks and euphorbias our home for the next few nights in this arid Eden. We would share the striking vistas with mountain zebra, giraffe, springbok and gemsbok and also with the area’s most endangered inhabitants. It was them and us for a few days, with a mission in our hearts. We were a small group of explorers, cyclists and nature-lovers, all there for the same reasons: To make a difference, even in some miniscule way, to a species on the brink of extinction. We were all there… to ride for rhinos.

that one has to have all the facts, and above that, one needs to always keep an open mind to the views of others. Maybe there isn’t one right answer. Maybe there are multiple right answers. That is The Great Debate.

FIND YOUR FIRE

although we differ in the route we need to take getting there. We are all so passionate that we sometimes miss the collective whole. Because we believe so strongly in our own opinions we often miss or do not even listen to the theories of those with different ideas, but the same ultimate objective.

Last year, in the Summer issue of Travel News Namibia, I mentioned the need for a continued conversation about conservation, especially as it pertains to the country’s rhino population. The thing about debating such heated topics is

EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IS REAL PABLO PICASSO To get an idea of the general feeling of what the right course of conservation action should be, I have asked many questions about the future of the black rhino population to a wide range of people in Namibia. I have quizzed people involved in NGOs, consulted academic journals, spoken to salted conservationists and Namibians with no direct interest in conservation. One thing I have established, is that we all have the same end goal,


Gerhard Thirion

TOP FROM LEFT TO RIGHT

Base camp in the bush. Communing with nature. High-fives all around after another tough day braving the elements in the bike saddle. SRT Ranger, Javed, went peddle for peddle with the experienced mountain-bikers, unlike them though, he doesn't use his bike for sport, but rather as a way to better patrol the area. RIGHT AND BELOW

Gerhard Thirion

The mountain-bikers were stretched to their limits in this rough, rocky terrain and had to deal with very tough windy conditions on top of the very technical single-track game paths.


WE HAVEN’T COME THIS FAR TO ONLY COME THIS FAR. Despite great successes in recent years, Namibia’s rhino population is still under tremendous threat. Much is being done to curb the onslaught of poaching. It’s a tough job though, as poaching syndicates are well equipped and financially motivated. The truth is that we will never be able to truly stop the continuing slaughter of rhinos for their horn until the demand for the product is eradicated. It is the only way to save them. Simple economics. This may only happen through education in the respective end markets. Users of the products made from rhino horn need to realise that they might as well chew on their own fingernails. But this change will not come about quickly. So what do we do today?

NATURE NEVER DID BETRAY THE HEART THAT LOVED HER - WILLIAM WORDSWORTH Venture Media's initiative, The RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos, is an annual cycling tour which takes place in the Torra Conservancy in Damaraland. The tour, which recently completed its third year, is aimed at raising funds and awareness for the plight of Namibia’s black rhino population, the special desert-adapted subspecies Diceros bicornis bicornis. The tour brings together twenty avid mountain-bikers and conservation enthusiasts on a four-day trip through the rugged Damaraland wilderness. Along with fundraising, the tour also provides a platform for Namibians to discuss the rhino conservation issue, brainstorm ideas that will help curb the poaching epidemic and raise awareness of the difficulties faced by the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) rangers in their daily lives. To date it has raised almost a million Namibian dollars in both cash and equipment for Save the Rhino Trust Namibia. The tour is sponsored by RMB Namibia, local retailer CYMOT and Wilderness Safaris. Apart from financial and logistical support, the RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos event has created a platform for Namibians, corporates, individuals and concerned citizens to get together and share opinions. Sitting around a campfire each evening like our forefathers, completely immersed in nature, with “civilisation” far away, these cyclists discussed a series of

very important topics. Such as the legalisation of rhino horn, the legal ownership of black rhino, the involvement of local communities on both sides of the struggle and the influence that tourism has on rhino conservation.

THE EARTH HAS MUSIC FOR THOSE WHO LISTEN WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE These campfire talks have yielded many great results. The fact that the group of cyclists are joined by SRT rangers has produced amazing outcomes. On the first tour, SRT CEO Simson Uri-Khob was asked what his greatest current operational hardships were. He spoke of the difficulty of getting water supplies to rangers out on patrol in the harsh landscape. A few weeks later an off-road water trailer was presented to him by a corporate sponsor. The next year, SRT ranger Sebulon was asked why they were struggling to apprehend poachers. He replied that poachers were better equipped than they were and could spot them from far distances with high-tech binoculars. As a result, night-vision binoculars were donated to SRT and four poachers were caught at night a few weeks before the third Ride for Rhinos.

RAISE YOUR WORDS, NOT YOUR VOICE. IT IS RAIN THAT GROWS FLOWERS, NOT THUNDER - RUMI This year’s fireside talks took it a step further. Some tough questions were asked and ideas were tossed around. I got goose bumps listening to the passionate debate. I saw the rain that evening when informed opinions were traded back and forth. And though many did not agree with each other, they sat and listened. Some left with new ideas, some left swayed to either this or that side and some left with a thirst for more knowledge on the topic so that they could develop an altogether new line of thinking.

MAY YOUR CHOICES REFLECT YOUR HOPES, NOT YOUR FEARS - NELSON MANDELA There are some hard truths at play. From a community aspect, the human element is all too real. There have been many instances where members of the local community have been found to be directly involved in a poaching incident. They are motivated by monetary gain. How do you convince a

The fireside conversations kept going throughout the day, Ideas kept flickering like the flames.


RIDE FOR RHINOS mother who can’t feed her children that the life of a rhino is important? On the other hand, great strides have been made by organisations such as IRDNC to mediate and help educate local communities about the indirect value of a rhino population to their way of life. The fact that tourism plays such a big role in many Damaraland communities has also helped. Local communities now understand that tourists visit the area to see the rhinos, which leads to lodges being built and jobs created. According to Namibia’s CBNRM program, tourism concession fees also contribute financially to the community. Does that mean, however, that if a member of such a community is given the opportunity to gain financially from the death of a rhino that they won’t take it?

The 2017 Ride for Rhinos adventurers and some of the crew.

In interviews conducted with riders on the last evening of the tour many opinions came to light. Some maintained that a direct financial contribution to communities may not always be the most beneficial as there may not be any regulations of how this money is spent. Donations in the form of tangible, and visible infrastructure is then perhaps more beneficial, so that the community can see with absolute certainty the direct correlation between rhino conservation and benefits to them. The continued upliftment in the form of employment opportunities by both NGOs and tourism businesses in the area is another direct tangible advantage.

IF YOU HAVEN’T FOUND IT YET KEEP LOOKING STEVE JOBS So what is the answer then? The two most notable sides of the debate argued between an economic and preservationist solution. The “realists”, as they liked to call themselves, argue that the reality of the situation is at such a stalemate that the only plausible solution is an economic one, i.e. pushing for the legalisation of rhino horn and allowing private ownership of black rhinos as is the case with white rhinos. They argued that for an animal such as this to survive it must have a monetary value. Strictly controlled legal rhino horn trade and trophy hunting put a tangible value to the animal and thus motivation for the effort to preserve it. The other side, who may favour the title “preservationists” or “idealists”, argues that no monetary value can be attached to a life. Only through education, tourism and other community incentives will the species be protected. Which side is to be chosen as the correct path to saving the species? Have one of them found the absolute answer? Have you? TNN

Conservationist Garth Owen-Smith, kept everyone enthralled with stories from the field and his own experiences with rhino conservation.

a Travel News Namibia Initiative Over the past three years, the RMB Namibia Ride for Rhinos has raised over a million Namibian dollars in funds, products and equipment for Save the Rhino Trust Namibia. Over 50 participants have braved the wilds of Damaraland on this epic quest. The riders stem from multiple economic sectors in the country and over 30 different professions, the conversation about rhino conservation thus having reached multiple platforms, influencers and sympathetic ears. Through its hands-on approach, the riders, who become a close-knit group after each tour, have been engaged on a personal level and form part of a community of supporters with a similar objective. Entries for each year’s tour are sought after as only 20 participants are invited to preserved the viability of such an exclusive tour and minimise the environmental impact. The tour will continue in its efforts to inspire Namibian and foreign mountain-bike and conservation enthusiasts to join the fight for the future of Namibia’s rhino populations.


For any further information please feel free to contact Elzanne Erasmus at either 081 367 3583 or elzanne@venture.com.na.

RMB Ride for Rhinos Information Pack 2018  
RMB Ride for Rhinos Information Pack 2018