Educating Asia

Bongi's Quest - the bookSouth African freelance wildlife guide and author Chris Daniel has found a novel way to fight the rhino poaching war – with words. His children’s story, ‘Bongi’s Quest’ which conveys the plight of Africa’s rhinos for the next generation, has proved a huge success since its launch, but the biggest breakthrough, he believes, is that the book has recently been taken up in Hong Kong.

By chance a school teacher in Hong Kong, who was looking for an environmental cause for the children to get involved in, stumbled upon the OSCAP (Outraged SA Citizens against Poaching) site, which then put the teacher in contact with me. They’re now in the process of translating ‘Bongi’s Quest’ into Cantonese and Mandarin,’ explains Chris.

‘Once we have a fitting product, with changes to the story line and illustrations – a slightly different angle will be taken to align the story more with the Asian concerns – we will initiate a sponsorship and distribution network to push it through Hong Kong, followed by China and Vietnam.

All the current efforts to halt rhino poaching are targeting the symptom, yet the cause is the growing demand for rhino horn. By targeting the Asian market, with an educational drive like this, you are tackling the problem at the source,’ he says. ‘Imagine a Chinese child has read ‘Bongi’s Quest’ and Bongi has taken residence in their heart. Overhearing her father talking about buying rhino horn suddenly has a new meaning…’

White rhino calfThe idea for the children’s story came about when Chris, who has been a wildlife ranger for some 12 years, made the switch into freelance guiding. ‘The career change gave me the chance to do a bit of soul-searching. I’d always made up wildlife stories for my own kids with the animals acting and interacting as they would in nature, but the rhino book idea came about after I met up with a local newspaper editor in the hope of getting my adult bush stories into print. Late one evening I was typing away at a newspaper article when a little voice in my head had me open up a fresh document. At 2am that night ‘Bongi’ was born.’

 

The reaction to the book has been phenomenal, he says. ‘Everyone who reads it wants to take it on and distribute it. They can see the value of education in the long term, but also in creating awareness. I feel the public, although still concerned to act, are depressed by the endless struggle and are being pushed away by the gruesome images pouring in on a daily basis. This sort of thing provides a fresh and new approach to tackling the problem with long term benefits. It’s kind of become the fun side of saving a species’.

Was it difficult getting a concept like this taken up? ‘Not once it’s been explained that this is not a fund raiser, but an opportunity for the public to get involved in the solution. So many people want to do something, but short of donating money, with an uncertain destination, there really isn’t much the public can physically do. Here people can purchase a couple of books and hand them out to children, and in so doing, instantly become part of the solution’.

To date more than 2,000 books have been sold. A Kindle version is available from Amazon.

 

Author Chris Daniel

Author Chris Daniel

African translations of the book have been done by Spoon Phakati, director of the Green Kidz Initiative, a non-profit organisation based in South Africa which educates children about environmental issues. The book is endorsed by Rhino Revolution, a locally-led initiative, based in Hoedspruit on the frontline of the poaching war, and where Chris lives, which has been set up to tackle the rhino poaching problem.

If you’d like to find out more, or obtain copies of ‘Bongi’s Quest’, Chris’s website www.africaneducationalstories.co.za features background on ‘Bongi’s Quest’ and his other African wildlife stories. There’s an option to get involved and purchase books to distribute privately at (www.africaneducationalstories.co.za/page_6.html). Bongi’s Quest’ also has a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/groups/bongisquest) detailing the book’s progress.

Incidentally, the books are retailing for R10 per unit and if you haven’t made the link yet, simply have a look at a South African R10 note,’ adds Chris. (If you live outside South Africa the R10 note currently celebrates the rhino with a beautifully detailed etching of the iconic species on one side.)

I cannot bear the thought of having to show my grandkids a picture of a rhino and try to explain what it was and did. I wouldn’t be able to live with the regret of having watched a species hunted into extinction without having done all that I could do to prevent it,’ he concludes.

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