A Reminder of the Majesty of the Rhino

rhino


People have often rebuked the phrase “fighting for peace”, pointing out its irony and making us reconsider the ways we go about achieving the ends we hope for. Perhaps it’s a term best suited for marketing slogans or for those of us without the powers of pacifists like Ghandi and Mother Theresa. But there is space for every kind of voice, each helping to play a part.

In the Vietnam War, protest was pivotal in its demise, but so were soft folksy acoustic rock ballads. In Apartheid, action was just as essential for its fall, but so was the unifying and educated leadership and inspiration of individuals like Nelson Mandela. A man who represented both sides – equanimity and volatility, peace and war.

CalfWildebeest

Images above: James Tyrrell | Londolozi

Similarly, there are two ways to handle what is being called the war against Africa’s rhinoceros – let’s say its name in full, it might be one of the last few times we still can while this great being is around. The war that is rhino poaching.

1. Fight. Action. Initiatives like Rhinos without Borders and the anti-poaching units at work in the reserves of our African lodges – Camp Jabulani and the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, the Great Plains Conservation with Zarafa Camp, Mara Plains and Ol Donyo, Londolozi and Morukuru with its Operation Pheonix.

2. Leadership and inspiration. Just look to the people behind these initiatives… people who have experienced rhino poaching and its effects on the ground in Africa, people like Lente and Adine Roode of Camp Jabulani and Dereck and Beverly Joubert of Great Plains Conservation, to name two.

There is space for every kind of voice…

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Above: Londolozi

As far as our voice is concerned, we hope to help by donating to the initiatives guided by these pioneers above and to share them with you, through the power of the digital universe. But we also hope to add some inspiration of our own… by way of reminding people why we are fighting for this creature to begin with. What is it about the rhinoceros that mesmerises us so?

A simple sighting of a rhino up close is really all the reminder you need. Londolozi is one such place where private anti-poaching patrols have been very effective in helping to protect the region’s rhinos. On safari at the reserve earlier this year, the wild presented us with a sighting that has stuck with me ever since. I wasn’t planning on seeing anything. Naively. So I took “the bad camera”. But since they say the best camera is the one you have with you, I thought I’d share the moment I captured with you here, to serve as…

A reminder of the majesty of the rhino


Fighters and Inspirers and all thing nice…

starting with New Lessons from Londolozi

“Seeing the rhinos together reminded me that the bush is always speaking to us… Despite my many years at Londolozi, I still learn something new every single day,” says Bennet Mantonsi, the Londolozi Tracker who caught this incredible footage of a male rhino courting and mating with a female.

Read more in Kate Collins’ “New Lessons and Mating Rhinos: How the Bush Surprises us Everyday“.


Rhinos Without Borders

If you haven’t been following the adventures of Rhinos Without Borders, read about it and the first stage of what is considered to be the world’s largest rhino airlift in “First Rhinos in Massive African Airlift Released in Botswana“.

Propelled by the Great Plains Conservation with the support of several partners, it is a mission to move 100 rhinos from South Africa to Botswana in order to save them from poaching and develop a new breeding nucleus. It is a project of hope for the rhinos of southern Africa. Find out more about in this Q&A with Dereck Joubert of the Great Plains Conservation or dowload a summary here.

First Rhinos in Massive African Airlift Released in Botswana

Rhinos await release in a park in northern Botswana after being transported from a crowded park in South Africa. Image: Beverly Joubert. Read more about Dereck Joubert in our blog, The Dignity of Dereck Joubert – 10 Questions.

A glimpse into the life of a rhino. And his lamb.

Founded by the Roode Family of Camp Jabulani, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre has partnered with Africam to launch a new initiative called ‘Eyes on Rhinos’. After two poached, now-rehabilitated rhinos (Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell) arrived on their doorstep, followed by two orphaned baby rhinos, Gertjie and Matimba, more recently, the team urgently had to establish a rhino sanctuary at the centre to care for them. Enter the new Rescued Rhinos @ HESC.

Meet Gertjie

also known as little “G”, below, as he explores the outside world after arriving at the centre:



Discover more about the new initiative and how to help online and experience the live view Africam enables. Being able to watch over these rhinos at night as they sleep has deprived us of our own slumber… let us know about your experience. Alternatively, meet them face to face for a true understanding of the sublimity of the rhino and discover more about Lente and Adine Roode (sublime in their own right) in our blog, The Passion of Compassion at Camp Jabulani.

 Whether you’re a fighter or an inspirer…

in the war against rhino poaching, the accounts of the harm done to Africa’s rhinoceros make it hard to simply do nothing… No different to the Vietnam War, no different to Apartheid, the tales and images no different to those that came out of both. As the muses, we’ll take the cue to leave you with some inspiration from Camp Jabulani, through the lens of Black Bean Productions:

‘Eyes on Rhino’ – A short film for Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre from Black Bean Productions on Vimeo.

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things

Floris Smith and Team


“Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
– The Shawshank Redemption

The Art of Giving.

Some believe it to be a matter of nature. Others, nurture; something that we can learn with age. Or not learn. Either way, one gentleman with a keen grip on the art is South African, Floris Smith. A man with several titles to his name – dancer, choreographer, Executive Chef and Deputy GM at Bushmans Kloof, and, although he’d probably turn the term down, humble philanthropist.

In the remote wilderness of the Cederberg, a land of cedar trees, winding rivers, Bushman rock art and more stars than the human eye can take in at one glance, lies Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat. Nearby is the small village of Wupperthal. A village that rarely makes the news but has, through the magic of life’s inexplicable anomalies, found its way to Hollywood.

Floris Smith

Floris in his role as Executive Chef at Bushmans Kloof

Perhaps it isn’t so inexplicable, but simply extraordinary. The incredible feat of one man, and his background in classical dance, and his stars, Die Bushmans Kloof Nuwe Graskoue Trappers, and their unique Riel dance.

Against the odds and with no formal training, these traditional dancers from Wupperthal won the South African Championships of Performing Arts for the second consecutive year. This entitles them to represent South Africa at the prestigious World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood in July 2015. The team is made up of 16 talented youngsters, age 13 to 19. Bushmans Kloof is their main sponsor.

Die NuweGraskoue Trappers

Floris is the creative force behind the group – their trainer and choreographer. He’s a busy man, difficult to track down, his colleagues in the city say. Living in the remote Cederberg makes contact difficult, a quality that is purposely sought out by visitors to the region. Mention his dancers in an email, however, and we had him by the veldskoens. Discover more in our interview below.


Meet Bushmans Kloof’s Floris Smith and find out more about Hollywood’s next stars in our Q&A:

Floris Smith


Tell us a bit more about the background of the Riel dance troupe and how it came about.

The members come from the rural community of Wupperthal and other small towns in the area, and include two teenagers who live on site at Bushmans Kloof where their parents are employed. Most of their parents are farm workers or are unemployed. Their equally talented Riel band, who will be accompanying them to America are from Clanwilliam, Graafwater and Wupperthal.

How do the dancers feel about their success and the opportunity to go to America?

Only one of the dancers out of the group of 16 has ever had the opportunity to travel internationally. There is great excitement, a first on a plane, a first to travel internationally. There is great pride in the community. No one would ever have thought that kids from the rural Wupperthal would represent South Africa at the World Championships. It has inspired others to follow. They have become idols in the community.

Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers at Bushmans Kloof

What lessons do you try to instill in the younger dancers before competitions?

That through hard work and dedication one would get to the top. Also that one should never forget your roots. Their roots are now taking them to the World Championships, after all.

What drives you in life and as the creative force behind the group?

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because one has contributed to a worthy cause. What better way through my passion for dance…

What is so unique about the group and their dance style?

The Riel is something they grew up with. It is part of their culture and part of their heritage. Their frantic footwork is not easy to copy as well as the original style of music. In all my years in theatre, this is most probably the most difficult form of dance I have came across. Their dedication and drive to be the best and to be successful sets them apart from other groups.

Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers 2 (photographer Werner le Roux)

What is the Riel Dance?

Born out of traditional Khoi and San ceremonial dances around the fire, the Riel Dance has been practiced by descendants of these indigenous cultures for many years. It is the oldest dance form in South Africa. Riel dancers are dressed typically in traditional farm workers outfits, the girls in dresses with aprons and old frontier bonnets, and the boys in waistcoats and hats with feathers, finished with the famous, hand-made red veldskoene from Wupperthal. The dance is a creative cultural expression, and includes courtship rituals, mimicking typical animal antics with lots of bravado, showmanship and foot stomping.

Is this something guests can experience at Bushmans Kloof?

Guests are more than welcome to join us in rehearsals while staying with us. We inform guests when this is happening and perform at the lodge from time to time.

Die Nuwe Graskoue Trappers 3 (photographer Zona Mourton)

How do you think the group will fair in Hollywood?

I have unwavering faith in the ability of this group of dancers and am proud to take them to the world stage to compete among the best of the best. Our sights are firmly set on bringing back the Gold from the world championships. Winning the Grand Champion Award for Best Group Performance two years in a row shows that they are a force to be reckoned with. We’ve been hard at work sourcing funding to get our young dancers there and back. The support from small and large businesses and the local community has been phenomenal. 

What can we do to help?

Apart from Bushmans Kloof and its owners, the Tollman Family, other major sponsors include Rooibos Limited, WESGRO and Reagola IT Management. We have enough to sponsor 12 members but still need to raise funds for five dancers to the tune of R65,000 a dancer. We are appealing to others to assist with funding, to enable the team to take part in the championships.

To donate you can go through YouCaring.com or visit Die NuweGraskoue Trappers Facebook page and click, ‘Give’.