In the middle of Africa
Illegal hunting, transporting and trading rhino horns is a global problem. To save this precious endangered species from the threat of extinction, extensive efforts have been made by wildlife conservation organizations. Travellive has cooperated with Education for Nature-Vietnam (or ENV) and CHANGE – two conservation organizations in Vietnam – to provide you with breaking news of this public concern.
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Days in the kingdom of Big Five
Upon stepping foot on African soil, this foreign land will enchant you with the exotic and majestic beauty of its vast wilderness, mesmerized by the images of giraffes craning their necks in the afternoon sun, leopards running swiftly in the savannah and lions roaring in the hot yellow sand of the desert. On our planet, only Africa has large enough wildlife reserves where the life-and-death struggles between species can take place in such magnitude.
However, there are few countries in Africa with these large and unadulterated national parks where you can immerse yourself in nature, sleep near swamps at the center of pristine highlands and rise amidst the curious eyes of antelope and wild boars. Of these parks, Kruger National Park in South Africa is the most famous with the largest number of wild animals. Kruger forest spans an area of 2 million hectares, approximately the size of Wales. Get in a jeep and go deeper into the forest, and you will be welcomed by the five classic African animals (the Big Five), namely the lion, elephant, wildebeest, rhino, and leopard. Moreover, you can also witness certain cultural treasures: a cave with prehistoric paintings by South African aboriginals and the remnants of the ancient kingdom of Thulamela which flourished centuries ago.
The sunset at Kruger National Park is magnificent, with shades of orange and red silhouetting the thousand-year-old baobab trees. Wild scenes often seen on the Discovery Channel happen right in front of your eyes! A friend of mine has claimed that it’s a magical feeling we can only experience for ourselves.
To end a day of sightseeing at Kruger National Park, treat your empty stomach with skews of aromatic grilled meat served with a fresh salad and enjoy your “wildlife” in the shadow of the large foliage. A bit beyond the crackling sounds of the campfire can be heard the cackling of hyenas calling to each other. During the next morning, it is impressive indeed to awaken with the inquisitive eyes of deer upon you. Not too far from your position, elephants are seeking drinking water at the river while crocodiles peak their heads above water to catch some air. Vibrant peacocks’ tails are somewhere to be seen in the foothills. Can you see the captivating and mysterious image of Africa being conjured before your eyes?
The musician Thanh Bui – the ambassador of the wildlife conservation organization, CHANGE Vietnam, had this to say of his experience: “South Africa reminds you of what the life is. We are equal in nature. Live in the wild animals’ environment, drink water that they drink, stay-in at night for safety and you will feel the meaning of fighting for survival. That is how we can interact and immerse ourselves in the natural world.”
Rhino: Don’t die in Kruger
The singer Hong Nhung – the ambassador of ENV has had a chance to encounter hundreds of beautiful wild animals, especially rhinos, which are living in their pristine world at South Africa’s largest national park. She said of her experiences at Kruger that “wild nature is so beautiful. We came across the forest in the harsh and bitter cold and sweltering heat. We watched herds of rhinos including parents playing with their young. Around them were lions, leopards, deer, and zebras.”
However, just a few kilometers away, as Ms. Hong Nhung continues, you can smell the foul odor of decaying carcasses carried downwind and hear the sounds of flocks of vultures and perceive the silhouettes of lions. They have already caught scent of a dead rhino! During the journey across Kruger National Park, you will also encounter park rangers and officials who are patrolling the premises to catch poachers and horn smugglers.
Following these police officers, ambassadors from the rhino conservation campaign of Vietnam witnessed the scene of a crime. Hunters are afraid of the noise their gunshots cause so they just fire a shot to injure the rhino enough to bring it down. After that, they saw off the rhino’s horn, pierce its eyes and cut off its genitals while it is still alive. The rhino, barely alive, cannot drink water because of the cuts made on its head. Water does not flow down its throat when it attempts to swallow but runs out its cheeks. Those who see this scene cannot but feel the bitterness in their own throats. Rhinos with their horns cut off die in pain, hungry and thirsty as they lie helplessly for hours in the savannah. What is more disturbing is that is that some poachers feel no twinge of guilt in cutting a baby rhino out of its mother’s womb to remove its little horn as well.
I've seen a veterinarian specializing in rhinos embracing the fractured ribs of an unborn calf whose mother had been killed. I can imagine how painful it is. There are some difficult cases when they find an injured rhino and must decide whether to attempt to rescue it or kill it so that it might suffer less from the agonizing pain”, expressed an African friend. Nowadays, teenagers from indigenous tribes no longer have a chance to connect with their spirit animals. Some of them are fortunate to touch rhinos, and smile happily, as they walk about the savannah with their family. However, these young people are petrified to find the next morning that these same rhinos had been killed ruthlessly. What’s happening???
“Do you know that 90% rhino horns will be transferred to Vietnam?” Thanh Bui asked. In this country, people are willing to spend USD300,000 for a piece of a rhino horn. They aren’t concerned about driving a species to the edge of extinction, and they blindly believe that consuming a rhino’s nails and genitals will be good for theirs. . Rhinos, the strong giants from prehistoric times with no enemy in the natural world, are now threatened just because of human’s greed! What should we do now? It is a tough problem but many volunteers and ambassadors have made it their mission to find solutions.
- This article is supported by Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) with ambassador Hong Nhung and The Center of Hands-On Action as well as Networking for Growth and Environment (CHANGE) with ambassador Thanh Bui.
- ENV was established in 2000 and focuses on natural conservation and environmental protection. ENV’s mission is to foster greater understanding amongst the Vietnamese public about the need to protect nature and wildlife and to influence public attitudes and mobilize Vietnamese citizens to live in balance with the natural world. ENV works closely with government partners to strengthen policy and legislation and directly support enforcement efforts for the protection of endangered species of national, regional and global significance.
- CHANGE is a Non-government organization under the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations and is the official sponsor for Vietnam 350.org, the "No buyer - No killer Vietnam” program, and PEEK – Photography Educating and Empowering Kids project. CHANGE acts to transform public behavior towards environmental problems as well as promote and host programs to raise awareness of Vietnamese youth. CHANGE is also considered the bridge between businesses, the public, and government in introducing appropriate policies and solutions for pressing environmental issues.
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