Garth Owen-Smith (1944–2020) – A great tree has fallen

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Daily Maverick | April 14, 2020

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Garth Owen-Smith, who died of cancer on Saturday 11 April 2020, was one of the wisest people I have known. My chats with him long into the night sitting around fires in the great stillness of the Namib Desert guided me along the sometimes treacherous paths of African conservation.

The first time I met Garth Owen-Smith was in 1983. I was a young newspaper correspondent based in Windhoek covering the bush war in Namibia for the SAAN Morning Group of newspapers, including the Cape Times and Rand Daily Mail. It was over morning coffee at Café Schneider. A tall, skinny, softly spoken, bearded man wearing faded jeans, a khaki shirt and Swakopmund kudu-skin veldskoen with no socks walked up.

“People tell me you’re not scared of the apartheid government,” he said. “Do you want to come to the Kaokoveld?”


Original image as posted by The Daily Maverick: Conservationist Garth Owen-Smith. (Photo: John Ledger)

That was the start of a friendship, and (I like to think, anyway) a mentorship that continued for nearly 40 years, until his death from cancer early on Saturday, 11 April 2020. His long-time partner and collaborator, Dr Margaret Jacobsohn, emailed me on February 20 to tell me he wasn’t well, that the cancer had spread. I emailed back: “I’m not sure if he knows this, but the conversations he and I had around fires in the Kaokoveld back in 1983/4 and later were what shaped my own conservation and environmental philosophy, and have done so ever since, particularly on community-based conservation. In conversations, I always cite him as the most influential person on my thinking.”

Garth’s uniform of faded jeans or khaki longs, khaki shirts and kudu skin vellies seldom changed, except when he had to reluctantly uproot himself from the bush to attend conferences, meetings with government officials, or to fly off to international award ceremonies.

In December 2015, Garth pulled off what must be a world first – he wore a pair of Swakopmund kudu-skin vellies to Kensington Palace to meet the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William. He and Margie were in London at the Tusk Awards to receive the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa.

In 1993, he and Margie flew to San Francisco to receive conservation’s equivalent of the Nobel, the Goldman Prize. In the video of his acceptance speech, he is clearly wearing kudu-skin boots. The Goldman organisation’s video tribute to him and Margie is memorable.

The Goldman citation reads in part: “Garth Owen-Smith and Margaret Jacobsohn pioneered a natural resource management program that links Namibian wildlife conservation to sustainable rural development, which has since become a model for wildlife conservation throughout Africa… Together, Owen-Smith and Jacobsohn have brought reason for hope and optimism in rural Namibia: most wildlife species have increased in the northwest Kunene region and in Caprivi, in the northeast of Namibia, poaching is being brought under control with major input from community-appointed game guards.”

Garth was rightly regarded as being the father of on-the-ground community-based conservation in Africa. After that first coffee at Windhoek’s Café Schneider, we travelled together to Namibia’s remote north-western Kaokoveld on an anti-poaching patrol, starting from his isolated base in Damaraland, Wêreldsend. It was the beginning of my real environmental education. Garth was the finest naturalist I have known, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of his landscape and its inhabitants.

Despite never getting a formal degree (he abandoned both attempts, one in agriculture, one in zoology), he was widely recognised both in academia and in conservation circles as a world expert in his field and a posthumous honorary doctorate would not be misplaced.

On that first journey, we spent hours around the fire at night, Garth talking of his vision, me scribbling notes by the firelight, often with hyenas whooping in the background, or the distant roar of a – at that time – rare desert-adapted lion.

We were headed through the Marienfluss to Otjinungwa on the banks of the Kunene River, where Garth stood crocodile watch with a loaded shotgun as I fished for supper. By then we had eaten the two live goats we had traded for bundles of rough Purros tobacco along the way, and which travelled for miles with us, bleating on the back of Garth’s Land Rover.

We saw only one other vehicle in nearly a month’s travel, the faded drab green Land Rover Series IIA shortie driven by the late Blythe Loutit, who founded the Save The Rhino Trust.

The Kaokoveld is a place of endless vistas across lichen-covered gravel plains, of rich grasslands that stand shoulder high after good rains, of soaring mountains in an astonishing number of shades of red, black and dark brown. It is a harsh land where conservation victories have been won in small increments, a place so empty the emptiness starts to move.

We scored two small victories on that journey. There were almost no tracks in the wilderness back then, and when we came across fresh vehicle spoor, we followed it. We picked up fresh tracks (they last forever on the lichen plains) just south of the Marienfluss and followed them to a recent bush camp on the banks of a dry river. “I know those tyres,” Garth said, “they belong to (a butcher from a small town not far from Etosha). He’s really stupid, but a nasty piece of work, in with the local cops and military.”

We began searching the campsite for clues, kicking over the fire, with Garth’s assistant and interpreter, Elias Tjondu, an expert tracker, casting about for any tell-tale spoor. Behind a dead log that had been dragged up to the fire to serve as a bench, a flash of familiar red and yellow half-hidden, a roll of exposed Kodak film.

Garth had the film developed, there were photographs of the butcher with his prizes – gemsbok, zebra, and a black rhino. Armed with the evidence, Garth laid charges. But this was war-time Namibia, the butcher was an influential white man in a frontline town, he was friends with the police, the magistrate, the nature conservation officials, a reservist in the local commando. He got away with a slap on the wrist – but it was a good warning to the band of white hunters who had until then regarded the Kaokoveld as their happy hunting ground.

The second small victory was gained after we had negotiated our way across what has now become a notorious challenge for 4×4 adventurers, Van Zyl’s Pass, but what was then just another part of the track, and down to the village of Etanga. There Garth was trying to woo the headman of the Orupembe district, Vetamuna Tjambiru, into joining the community game guard and conservation scheme he was patiently stitching together. Garth was a master negotiator, patient, respectful, informed.

Around the fire, Garth had taught me about Himba customs and taboos: whenever we arrived at a new village, our first ritual was to place a stone on the graves of the ancestors as a sign of respect. The second was to never cross between the chief’s hut and the sacred mopani fire which is kept burning in perpetuity.

The fire symbolises a living link between the present and the past, between those still alive and the spirits of the ancestors. Allowing it to die is an insult to the ancestors, and a severing of links to the spirit world. It was this link that was vital in the wooing of Chief Vetamuna Tjambiru.

I have an old Kodachrome slide of Garth and Chief Vetamuna Tjambiru sitting under the shade of a giant acacia albida, an ana tree. The chief is leaning forward, his chin on his walking stick as he talks. I wrote down his words as Elias translated: “When I see the wild animals, my heart is happy, they are like my children, my cattle. When there are no wild animals, my heart is sad. It is as though the graves of my ancestors have been destroyed, my sacred fire extinguished.”

It was a big breakthrough, a vital cog in establishing a network of community-based wildlife conservation projects that today underpins Namibia’s entire wildlife philosophy.

Back then, Garth was waging an almost single-handed low-intensity war against the apartheid-era Namibian authorities who treated wild areas and the wildlife as their own personal property, and had complete disdain for local, black communities.

Poaching was rampant. Some of it was survival hunting by local subsistence hunters, but there were also organised rhino horn syndicates at work, some operating out of the military and the police.

Garth was intensely disliked by the apartheid authorities, who saw him as a subversive and a sympathiser with the Swapo guerilla movement. At one stage, he was banned from entering the Kaokoveld because he was “a security risk”. And he was a subversive, but not in the way that they believed – he was simply a humanist with a strong liberal philosophy who passionately believed that local communities owned their wildlife, as opposed to the view of the white authorities, who saw them as a primitive obstacle.

He had no official funding and survived off occasional grants and remittances from organisations like the far-sighted Endangered Wildlife Trust. He was on the bones of his arse. He drove a battered Series III Land Rover with tyres that were through to the canvas. When we visited we would take along whatever we could manage to scrounge. His own binoculars were a battered pair of old Pentaxes with one eye cup missing. I felt embarrassed to own a new pair of Nikons.

By late 1984, I was also “stringing” – in media terms, someone on the ground with local knowledge who contributes information and reports, seldom bylined – for among others, Newsweek and The New York Times. The Times asked me to “help facilitate” a visit to Namibia by one of their correspondents, Jane Perlez, and her partner who was writing for The New Yorker, Raymond Bonner (both went on to win Pulitzers).

I had leave due, so offered to take them on a trip to Damaraland and the Kaokoveld, and to spend time in the field with Garth. There was one proviso – I didn’t want a fee, but had a shopping list of goods. Thus it was that Perlez and Bonner filed one of their more unusual expense accounts – two 750×16 Land Rover tyres; four steel jerry cans, filled with petrol; a Land Rover starter motor; a case of bully beef; two sleeping bags and a tent (donated to the game guards after their short use); and a pair of new binoculars.

Partly based on his experiences in the Kaokoveld and his many conversations with Garth, Bonner went on to write a controversial, and ground-breaking book on African conservation, “At the Hand of Man: Peril and Hope for Africa’s Wildlife”.

Much has, and much will be written about the life and times of Garth Owen-Smith, his is a many-layered story. I have so many memories: of Garth loping silently across the desert plains, “like an old elephant”, my wife Liz said; Garth carefully picking up scorpions and moving them to safety after unseasonal rains drove them towards our fire – and then, after 30 or more had invaded our space, and one had tried to climb up Liz’s leg, saying “bugger this” and beating them to death with a spade; a flight of Namaqua sandgrouse, kelkiewyn, flying overhead in late afternoon and Garth saying “if you’re ever stranded without water, follow the kelkiewyn, they fly straight to water three hours before sunset”; Garth always building a small fire, never a bonfire, feeding one stick at a time, point first into the fire in the Himba way – “deadfall wood is a crucial desert habitat for myriad creatures, big fires destroy habitat”; Garth carefully doing a 10-point turn in his Land Rover when surrounded by endless miles of seemingly dead desert, because “these ancient and fragile lichen plains are one of Earth’s oldest life forms, just one pass of a set of vehicle tracks will still be here in a hundred years.”

We drove together down the river bed of the Upper Hoanib, the Khowarib Schlugt – the southern border of the Kaokoveld – a place of legends. It is a magnificent gorge fringed on all sides by towering red cliffs. At odd intervals in the river, perennial springs pop up to the surface, running for a few hundred metres before disappearing underground again.

Halfway down the Schlugt is a towering ana tree. We stopped in its shade to brew some tea, we were sitting under “Oom John se Boom”, Uncle John’s Tree. Garth told the story: in the 1970s, when South Africa was tightening its military grip on Namibia and Angola, the South African Prime Minister Balthazar John “BJ” Vorster came here on hunting trips. There were more elephant and black rhino than could be counted. Lions moved through the long grass and the gemsbok were thick as cattle.

Vorster was no longer the strong young man he used to be. He was hoisted onto a broad platform in a fork of the ana tree where two mighty branches split skyward. Then the South African Air Force helicopters scoured the side gullies of the canyon for elephant, herding them down into the Schlugt. As they panicked and stampeded down through the fine powder dust of the gorge, John Vorster picked them off with his hunting rifle.

Vorster and his Cabinet colleagues had a hunting camp on the banks of the Kunene River, one of the last refuges of the endangered black-faced impala. Vorster and his Cabinet cronies hunted them down with semi-automatic rifles, they were gathered into nets slung below Air Force helicopters and flown to the camp where they were sliced into strips and hung in the sun to dry as biltong.

Much as he hated indiscriminate killing, Garth was never opposed to hunting as an important source of conservation funding: “Trophy hunting is an essential part of conservation, particularly in areas where photographic tourism isn’t possible. It is integral to our programme.”

In 2010, Garth published his life’s work: “An Arid Eden: A Personal Account of Conservation in the Kaokoveld” (Jonathan Ball). I reviewed it at the time and wrote:

Once in a decade, an African memoir or novel comes along that instantly goes onto my “classics” shelf. They are few and far between: Isak Dinesen’s (Karen Blixen) Out of Africa; Bernhard Grzimek’s Serengeti Shall Not Die; Jomo Kenyatta’s Facing Mount Kenya; Ernest Hemingway’s The Green Hills of Africa; Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man; George Adamson’s My Pride and Joy; Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth; John Hillaby’s Journey to the Jade Sea; Wilfred Thesiger’s The Life of My Choice; Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Petals of Blood; and Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika are among them.

“An Arid Eden” goes straight to the “African classics” shelf.

This is one of the most important books on African conservation in several decades. And while it deals with just one region of Africa, Namibia’s Kaokoveld, its lessons and conclusions are universal throughout the continent.

“An Arid Eden” is a monumental work, a detailed account of his almost 50 years in the field in Namibia, battling, often against almost insurmountable odds, to get conservative authorities to recognise that conservation could not be imposed on remote rural communities from afar. The answer, he tirelessly fought for, was to make the local communities the guardians of their land.

The end result is evident throughout Namibia today: a network of community-owned conservancies that make up the Namibian Community Based Tourism Association (Nacobta), and the groundbreaking, and internationally emulated Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) network…

Namibia’s Kaokoveld is one of the most beguiling and magnificent wild areas of Africa. Now, at last, the definitive book has been written on its modern history by the man who is not only central to that history but helped to shape the destiny of the region. “An Arid Eden” is essential reading for all lovers of Africa and its wild places.

On Easter Monday Margie e-mailed me: “Just 12 hours before Garth died, and as he was slipping into a coma, it rained at Wêreldsend for the first time in five years.”

The desert gods were weeping.

There is an old Ghanaian saying borrowed by Maya Angelou — when someone important dies, “A Great Tree Has Fallen.”

It is often a lie. This time it is true.

Safari njema, Mzee Garth, lala salama.


Freixenet Copestick to support Care For Wild rhino charity with new wine brand

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The Grocer | April 8, 2020

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I Heart Wines owner Freixenet Copestick has teamed up with South African rhino protection charity Care For Wild to launch a new standalone wine brand.

The brand, called Care For Wild, features the charity’s logo on its bottles, and will see 20% of its entire margin donated to Care For Wild, which works to combat rhino poaching in South Africa and looks after orphaned rhinos whose parents have been killed by poachers.

It will debut with a trio of South African wines – red, white and rosé (rsp: £7/70cl), which will be followed by a more premium duo (rsp: £12/70cl). The launch would “put some much-needed life into the South African wine category, which is in 6.4% decline in the UK”, said Freixenet Copestick [IRI 52 w/e 23 February 2020].

Original image as posted by The Grocer: Freixenet Copestick Roughly 20% of all margin from the brand will go to the charity

Former England cricketer and longstanding supporter of the charity Darren Gough will serve as a brand ambassador for the wines in the UK.

Freixenet Copestick MD Robin Copestick said he had been “immediately captivated” by the charity’s story after meeting Gough at a charity fundraiser in December 2019.

The winemaker was “working on a number of fundraising ideas that will not only encourage further donations but that will also generate awareness for the charity and the wines themselves”.

Artwork to feed orphaned and injured baby rhinos (South Africa)

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The Killarney Gazette | March 10, 2020

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Rosebank resident Ingrid Mech is auctioning her artworks depicting endangered South African species to raise awareness and funds for The Rhino Orphanage.

The orphanage is a non-profit organisation that cares for orphaned and injured baby rhinos with the aim of releasing them back into the wild.

Mech’s series of 20 pieces of mixed media on canvas is called Barely There. Each piece depicts a different endangered South African species. The artworks are contemporary, almost skeleton-like embossed pieces.

Mech explained that she wanted to create works that would have a story to tell, which she calls ‘creativity with a conscience’. They are designed to start conversations about the plight of a number of threatened species.

Original photo as published by The Killarney Gazette: Ingrid Mech shows off her white rhino and the Wolkberg Zulu butterfly. (Photo: Sarah Koning)

“I am not an artist by profession; my day job is actually running large-scale change and transformation interventions in corporate environments. I felt the need to try to bring about positive change in a sphere beyond my occupation. I wanted to apply one of the techniques I use in financial services daily in change management which involves doing something ‘different’ to bring about change and thereby start a conversation to create awareness for a worthy cause.”

She originally intended to create one or two pieces to auction, but research into the subject made her realise how many severely threatened fauna and flora there are, prompting a far larger project than expected.

The body of works includes depictions of relatively well-known threatened species such as white rhino and African elephant and lesser-known threatened species such as the Wolkberg Zulu butterfly and geometric tortoise among others. Mech also included some threatened local plant species like jasmine heath and cycad to name a few.

“It really is a very small exposé of a very long list of threatened species in South Africa. My hope is that we generate some awareness – it starts with one person, then one community, one city. We can all have an impact.”

All funds raised will be donated to feed orphaned and injured rhinos.

To view the artworks on social media, search Ingrid Mech on Facebook or alternatively email


Finance millionaire aims to track ‘extinct’ rhino in war-torn Africa (UK)

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Alex Scapens, Cheshire Live | March 10, 2020

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A millionaire is swapping a luxury lifestyle for war-torn Africa to track down a rhino species on the verge of extinction.

Paul Naden, 50, from Macclesfield, made his money in the financial industry and for the last decade has helped endangered species charity Saving the Survivors. This week he will embark on an ambitious expedition – travelling to South Sudan to try and find the northern white rhino.

The species was declared ‘functionally extinct’ in 2018 but it is hoped the region harbours a previously unknown population. If this is the case it will need finding, monitoring and protecting.

Original photo as published by Cheshire Live: Paul Nadin will travel through the wilds of South Sudan to look for endangered rhinos.

Paul explained: “In 2018 the last male northern was declared functionally extinct. The world was left with only two old females, unable to reproduce but there is possibly a second chance to save this species. “Rumours and whisperings from South Sudan of sightings of the animal in the wild and reports of rhino tracks have re-ignited the hope for the future of the northern white rhino.

“There has been no survey or study of South Sudan’s wildlife in over a decade and no comprehensive search has ever taken place until now.

“This is one final and comprehensive search for any remaining northern white rhino in the wild. I am incredibly excited to be involved and if we succeed, it gives us fresh hope of saving it.”

Paul, who joined Macclesfield-based HFS Loans in 1989 and was managing director 10 years later, is part-funding the expedition. He will be followed by BBC camera crews who are making a one-hour documentary entitled The Last Unicorn. His team will also include a vet and security expert as the region has seen conflict and civil war for the past 20 years.

Doug Hope, a BBC executive producer, said: “It is a long shot, there is no denying that, but there are rumours of them out there, and in a place that is so remote, so unexplored.

“Yet, from what our sources are telling us, it remains prime rhino habitat, so surely there is still a chance.

“Until this search is carried out we can’t close the book on the northern white rhino.”

Previously Paul has been on a trek across the Serengeti to raise money for an anti-poaching campaign.


Pietersen kicks off shooting documentary on Kaziranga rhinos (State of Assam, India)

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The Shillong Times | March 4, 2020

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GUWAHATI: Cricketer-turned-conservationist, Kevin Pietersen kicked off his save-rhino campaign at the Kaziranga National Park, with the first day’s shoot of a short documentary on Tuesday.

The tall, former England captain, who has scored 8181 runs from 104 Tests, is happy with the campaign so far, going by what he has posted on social media.

“First day filming and it’s been exactly what we expected – spectacular. To experience the raw beauty of India in places I’ve never been is so special,” he tweeted on Wednesday.

Original photo as published by The Shillong Times.

The visit to Kazirnga is part of Pietersen initiative, SORAI (Save our Rhinos in Africa and India).

“We need to do everything possible to save the rhino from extinction. We are focused and committed to rescuing the abandoned, injured or orphaned rhinos who are usually in that situation because of the rampant poaching situation,” the English cricker of South-African origin, says during a promotion campaign of SORAI.

Pietersen who arrived in Guwahati on Tuesday with a team of video shooters from Australia, also met state forests and environment minister Parimal Suklabaidya and expressed his willingness to take part in the opening ceremony of the Kaziranga Utsav to be held at Kohora on March 11.

Interacting with the former cricketer, Suklabaidya expressed his gratitude for his noble thought and endeavour which he has initiated for conservation of rhinos worldwide.

The minister also thanked Pieterson for raising awareness about the one-horned rhinos of Kaziranga National Park and suggested some key spots such as Manas National Park and the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to the rhino conservationist.


Former Assam Cong MLA demands probe into rhino deaths (India)

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Smita Bhattacharyya, Northeast Now | December 3, 2019

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Former two-time MLA Rana Goswami of Assam’s Jorhat on Friday demanded a CBI probe into over 500 deaths of rhinos in the State in the past four years.

Addressing media at the Jorhat district unit Congress office, Goswami, also AICC secretary said as per data given to wildlife activist Ranjan Kumar Medhi about 564 rhinos have died in the past four years.

Medhi had been given this information by the Forest Department, after he had applied under the Right to Information Act.

Goswami, quoting Medhi , said as such a large number of one-horned rhinos, an endangered animal, had died, mostly in  Kaziranga National Park and a few in the Pobitara Wildlife Sanctuary and the Manas National Park, the Sarbananda Sonowal-led Government should recommend a CBI probe to find out the causes of the deaths of the rhinos.

Stating that if there was nothing to hide then the Government should maintain transparency and recommend a CBI inquiry to find out the exact causes of death, be it due to natural or unnatural causes.

He also demanded that the State Government should publish a White Paper on the matter stating the cause of deaths of the rhinos as people should know the facts.

He sought that the Forest Department make public the total number of rhinos in the wild habitats of Assam at the earliest.

Goswami said both a CBI probe and publishing of a White Paper would make the matter clear. Goswami alleged that the Government was keeping the figure of rhino deaths under wraps.

The AICC secretary pointed out that the BJP before coming to power, had made rhino deaths, mainly due to poaching during the previous Congress government’s rule a big poll issue.

“It is now their turn to come clean on the matter,” he said.

Criticizing the Sarbananda Sonowal-led Government’s decision to contribute Rs 30 crore towards hosting the 65th Filmfare Awards in Guwahati in February next year, Goswami said the amount to be spent on the awards function could have been used to re-open the paper mills in Cachar and Jagiroad.

“Employees and their families of the mills are spending days in penury as they were out of jobs and salaries pending for a long period of time,” he said.

“BJP which had promised to revive the mills seems to have forgotten the plight of the workers,” Goswami alleged.

Goswami also flayed the recent tour abroad by ATDC Chairman in the name of promoting Assam tourism at the cost of taxpayer’s money.

He observed that such kind of visits to foreign nations by officials incurring huge expenses of government money was not going to contribute in tourism promotion.

Making Priyanka Chopra as a brand ambassador of Assam Tourism by spending Rs 2.3 crores was also a ‘flop show’, he said.

The former legislator further took the State Government to task over the Government’s proposed move to privatize the power sector.

Original photo as published by





Pietersen out to re-conquer uBhejaneX

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Northglen News | December 3, 2019

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After a successful debut at the uBhejane Xtreme MTB Challenge last year, former Cell C Sharks rugby player and conservationist Joe Pietersen will return in 2019 with his brother Willem to take on the Baby Horn – 110km of riding on Saturday, 7 December.

Pietersen is in the twilight of his rugby career and represents the San Diego Legion in America’s Major League Rugby competition, but is currently in his pre-season phase so the opportunity to take part in the uBhejaneX came up and he didn’t hesitate.

“I had such a fantastic time last year even though I am not a cyclist at all.” Pietersen said. “The cause is incredible and this year I am going to be doing it with my brother so we are both looking forward to the challenge. The weather was very kind to us last year but this year I know what to expect and growing up in Zululand I know how hot it can get this time of the year. With that said I have been doing a bit of training. I have to be back in the States in the new year so I have been doing some running and riding so I am in fairly good shape, I think.”

Conservation has been close to the 35 year-old’s heart for a number of years and he believes that the uBhejaneX is an event that fits hand-in-glove with what he and his brother are trying to achieve with their business in Hoedspruit.

“We run a non-profit organisation where we promote safari tourism and use that money raised to assist in anti-poaching efforts and projects very similar to those of the uBhejaneX. We like to support the people on the ground making the difference and so this event excites me in the part that they play in the fight against rhino poaching.”

The uBhejaneX includes five different events that fall under it. They all fall along the same route with a three day ride, a 330km ride, 250km ride, 110km ride and then a 30km ride inside the Hluhluwe Mfolozi Park.

Original photo as published by




Rhino horn recovered from river bank (Nepal)

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Khabarhub | December 6, 2019

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CHITWAN: A rhino horn was found in a neglected state on the river bank at the southern part of Rajahar in Nawalparasi.

According to Chitwan National Park chief officiating officer Bed Bahadur Khadka said the Park has launched investigations into the matter after being informed of the finding of the rhino’s body part at 10:00 am today.

Original photo as published by




14 arrested for wildlife crimes (Namibia)

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Ellanie Smit, The Namibian Sun | December 6, 2019

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Fourteen suspects were arrested for wildlife crimes in the past two weeks and five new cases were registered. According to statistics provided by the intelligence and investigation unit in the environment ministry and the protected resource division in the safety ministry 14 wildlife products were seized.

These include two rhino horns, two elephant tusks and four pieces of tusk. Five impala carcasses were also confiscated, as well as one live pangolin, three firearms and a vehicle.

On 22 November at Werda in the Kunene Region three Namibian men were arrested for illegally hunting rhinos. Noa Tuhafeni Timoteus, Eliaser Revo Amadhila and Paulus Ashingola were allegedly found in possession of two rhino horns and two AK47s. Their vehicle was also confiscated.

They were charged for contravening the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act and the Nature Conservation Ordinance.

At Outapi in the Omusati Region two Namibians were arrested on 24 November for contravening the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act. Festus Katambo and Beteul Katjinda were allegedly fund in possession of a live pangolin.

In another incident on 25 November at Otjiwarongo in the Otjozondjupa Region a Namibian suspect, Chrissy Mukena Mukena, was arrested for allegedly conspiring to hunt rhinos. Mukena was also charged for contravening the Arms and Ammunition Act and for the illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm.

In a separate incident on 26 November at Omega in the Kavango East Region two Namibians were arrested for allegedly being in the possession of four pieces of elephant tusk. They are Uwanga Shikambo and Kapinga Timoteus Ndjamba.

The following day, also at Omega, two more Namibians, Matheus Shinkanda Kanyanga and Amos Muhepa, were arrested for allegedly being in the possession of two elephant tusks. All four suspects were charged with contravening the Controlled Wildlife Products and Trade Act.

At Ngoma in the Caprivi Region three Namibians and one Zambian were arrested on 30 November, allegedly with five impala carcasses and a hunting rifle, which was confiscated. They were charged with contravening the Nature Conservation Ordinance.



Cops are key in saving rhinos and tigers: Experts (State of Assam, India)

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The Deccan Herald | December 6, 2019

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Police personnel will have to play a pivotal role in fighting wildlife crimes and especially protect rhino and tiger species from being hunted, experts on wildlife crimes said on Thursday. They will also have to deter a grave threat to national security, they said during a workshop on wildlife crimes at the Police Training College (PTC) at Dergaon in Golaghat district.

More than 150 personnel of Assam Police attended the workshop that was organised by the Legal and Advocacy Division of Aranyak, a biodiversity conservation and research organization. “Protecting nature has to be a passion for the community. We have to revive our dying age-old practices and rituals that were basically aimed at ensuring protection of wildlife and their habitat,” PTC Principal Jitmol Doley said.

Aaranyak’s Secretary General Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar who has also been the Chair of Asian Rhino Specialist Group of the IUCN and Asia Coordinator of International Rhino Foundation, made a presentation on the overall wildlife conservation scenario in global and local perspectives, and its link to illegal arms trade and insurgency.

“Northeast India has different altitudinal gradients from flood plains to snow-capped mountains, which is considered a big advantage because different types of habitat exists at different altitudes, and due to its rich biodiversity, the region needs special attention in terms of resources documentation and conservation,” he said.

The region is home to nearly 10,000 plant species, 980 bird species, 300 mammals, one of rarest primates on the earth and 175 reptiles of which 40 are endemic, and lots of other species, including amphibians and freshwater species, Talukdar said.

He explained the reasons behind high incidence of rhino hunting in the region and mentioned that the routes of smuggling are identified, and report of the same is submitted to CITES to put pressure on those countries where wildlife trade wildlife is still legal.

Making a deliberation on illegal wildlife trade, International Rhino Foundation (IRF)’s consultant Rahul Datta raised an alarm about its international dimension. Close coordination of the stakeholders and enforcement agencies, and NGOs, International cooperation, capacity building of the frontline forest staff, advance equipment, regular follow up of the cases and increase of conviction rate is required to monitor illegal wildlife trade and route, Datta pointed out.

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