“Rhinos and Racehorses – A Conservation Success Story”

First of all … Happy New Year!! Everyone associated with Nyumbani wishes you, your families and loved ones the most prosperous of times in 2015. We hope that the year brings you many blessings and for those yet to visit us here in South Africa, we hope to get a chance to meet with you in our piece of African paradise during the year.

Here at Nyumbani, conservation is at the core of everything we do in terms of the estate development and as such we are delighted to be associated with Rhino Revolution who we have adopted as our conservation partner. They have proved a formidable force in the protection of rhino across the Province and especially in the Blue Canyon Conservancy where their efforts have been a huge factor in the continued protection of our rhino population. Our Estate Manager, Chris Martin, is the CEO of the non-profit organisation which is really leading the way in demonstrating how effective community involvement can be in combating rhino poaching.

Rhino Revolution Logo copy

Rhino Revolution was founded in 2011 by concerned community members alongside rhino owners at a time when the slaughter of rhino had taken a horrific rise in the Hoedspruit area, Rhino Revolution publicly sounded the call that rhino poaching will NOT be tolerated any further. With a regional population of only 400 rhino remaining the Rhino Revolution “movement” presented a strategic plan which underscored a long term vision to protect and grow the population of rhino to a sustainable number and in doing so provide a natural environment where their safety could be secured. The plan sought to address both the short term need to save the rhino alongside a much broader and deeper educational need to demonstrate to the broader community the value of wildlife to the economic development of their home province. It’s message is simple, demonstrate the sustainable income to community members from wildlife tourism which in turn increases the overall distribution of wealth in rural areas.

Tim Parker Leads the team into action.

Tim Parker Leads the team into action.

One of the innovative ways in which Rhino Revolution seeks to protect the rhino within the Blue Canyon Conservancy has been by introducing ex-racehorses from the racing stables of Lisa Harris Racing in Harare, Zimbabwe. These horses are being used in riding patrols to track poachers and to continually sweep the reserve for snares. It is here that Nyumbani has been able to make it’s greatest contribution by making land available within the Estate for the creation of a “Fly Camp” to house the horses and anti-poaching unit whilst on overnight forays around the Reserve. Head Ranger, Tim Parker, heads the anti-poaching unit on the Blue Canyon Reserve and on a daily basis his rangers head deep into the bush on a mission to deter even the most ardent of poachers. “The horses offer a lot more diversity than just walking. The height advantage for tracking plays a huge factor, you can cover a lot more terrain, you can get into broken ground where vehicles can’t get to. They’re silent when you’re walking, and the big factor is that you don’t get tired because the horses are doing the work for you.” Champion racehorse trainer Lisa Harris brought the horses to South Africa from Zimbabwe more than a year ago to help Rhino Revolution in its fight to protect rhinos in the area. Since the launch of Rhino Revolution’s mounted anti-poaching unit, not a single rhino has been lost on the reserve. In a discussion recently with Lisa Harris she highlighted that the poachers are very aware that they’re here … and they’re a little bit scared of these big horses. Racehorses have an undeserving reputation as these big fearful things and so poachers are quite nervous about encountering them.”

Initially there was concerns around how the horses themselves would adapt to their new surroundings, particularly given the presence of predators on the Reserve. “It was a new environment for them, so they were seeing animals that they’d never seen before. Walking in terrain that they’d never walked in before. But they settled in remarkably well,” Tim Parker commented to me recently

Here at Nyumbani we are just delighted that we have been able to help out the team in such a practical manner. Indeed in recent weeks we have just undertaken a rebuild of the stables themselves and the building, surrounded by it’s lion proof fence is now a highly secure base. In the bush camp area were the rangers overnight after a long day in the saddle, we have installed solar power to ensure they have access to basic electricity for communications, lighting and for cooking. One of your highlights during a stay at Nyumbani is inevitably a sighting of these majestic animals that pre-date mankind itself. Only by applying the strictest of conservation philosophies do we have the capability to ensure that we, as a species, now don’t outlive the the rhino itself.

IMG_3036In 2014, Chris and Tim combined forces to undertake the dehorning of all the rhino on the Blue Canyon Conservancy. Guests were treated to “day safaris” during which they were able to work alongside the ground crew in undertaking this exercise. The opportunity to touch and feel such a magnificent animal was, for many, a very emotional moment in their lives. Large and ferocious looking, nothing could be further from the truth as these white rhino are in fact very relaxed and docile animals which are very trusting of humankind. Sadly this has been a contributing factor in their demise.

If anyone would like any further details on the work of Rhino Revolution, please drop Chris Martin a line here at Nyumbani and he’d be delighted to answer any questions you might have. In the meantime, our team of “War Horses” continue to defend our reserve from anyone who would wish to disturb the tranquility that is Nyumbani and the Blue Canyon Conservancy.


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