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VW's wolf protects the rhino

When one hears names like Celiwe, Harry, Moya and Rita, you would not think these are names for rhinos, but at a reserve in the Eastern Cape these prehistoric species are part of the family.
VW's wolf protects the rhino
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Another crucial member of this family is Cathy Dreyer, whose 18 years in nature conservation is assisting in protecting the endangered rhino.

"About 50% of my work centres around rhino management, which includes rhino monitoring, tracking and keeping up to date with antipoaching initiatives," says Dreyer.

"I fell in love with rhinos when working at the Addo National Park, where part of my job included capturing rhinos for tracking and moving purposes," she says.

"We would place them in bomas (wooden holding pens) prior to relocation and get them tame enough so that they could drink from a bottle and you could feed them by hand to avoid them being traumatised while being transported over long distances or treated for injuries.

"When you boma-train rhinos you have to spend as much time as you can with them initially, as you are taking a completely wild animal which has never been in a confined space and putting it in a little box. I often sit and read books out loud to them so they can get used to my voice and smell.

"Sometimes I sleep outside the boma so they can smell that I am there with them - this has earned me the nickname 'Rhino Whisperer'," she says.

The fight to protect SA's rhinos has seen Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency staff such as Dreyer and her team focusing on areas such as law enforcement and ensuring the infrastructure keeps poachers at bay. Dreyer is also a qualified dog handler who uses her dog to track poachers.

Thomas Schaefer, chairman and MD of Volkswagen Group SA, says rhinos are crucial for the ecosystem and the tourism sector as they form part of the big five, a major tourist attraction.

"At Volkswagen, we are proud that our vehicles are being used to safeguard our most vulnerable wildlife species," Schaefer says.

Six Volkswagen Amaroks (Amarok means Wolf) are used in anti-poaching initiatives such as rhino notching and monitoring, and also for the training of field rangers. "This R3m sponsorship forms part of Volkswagen's corporate social investment and commitment to supporting people such as Cathy safeguard SA's national treasures," says Schaefer.

The Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative was started by the Wilderness Foundation in 2011 as a response to the rhino poaching crisis and now, together with the Amaroks, they are on the frontline in the battle against rhino poaching.

Source: Business Day


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