Rhino crusader wins the generation game

One of the most inspiring people we spent time with on our recent visit to South Africa for this project was Sboniso ‘Spoon’ Phakathi, a passionate and charismatic 24 year old who runs the ‘Green Kidz Initiative’ in Hoedspruit on the fringes of Kruger National Park.

Spoon started this community project last year in response to the rampant rhino poaching in his country. He’d just completed an impressive 1,700 kilometre, three month, ‘Rights for Rhinos’ walk from Messina in the north-east of the country to Cape Town in the south-west. During this trek he visited 25 schools and spoke to 16,000 children about African rhinos and their current plight.

Of course this energetic eco-warrior wasn’t just going to let his rhino crusade end there. On his return to Hoedspruit he set about establishing eco-clubs for local children from under-resourced schools to teach them about the importance and wonder of nature and hopefully enthuse them with his own passion for rhinos and the African bush.

The great thing about his ‘Green Kidz’ programme is that it mixes classroom education with hands-on experience in the bush – ensuring the kids get up close and personal with the area’s rhinos. If you get the chance as a child to touch the hide of a tranquillised rhino and feel it breathing under your hand you won’t quickly forget it.

The ‘Green Kidz’ have experienced the immediate impact of the poaching crisis. They’ve been able to witness local rhinos being dehorned because a number of the private reserve owners in the area see the intervention as a necessary evil, believing it to be the best way to deter potential poachers and protect their valuable animals.

The kids have come on dramatically in the year I’ve worked with them,’ Spoon says. ‘One of them has decided he wants to be a vet when he grows up as a result of being involved,’ he adds.

Certainly Spoon’s enthusiasm for the project is infectious, as we discovered when we joined some of the children one Saturday morning on Hoedspruit’s Blue Canyon Conservancy. We had huge fun learning about the animal tracks we found and then had a go splitting into two groups and tracking each other. Our host for the morning, Mike Lawrie, of Khaya Ndllovu Manor House on the reserve, proved a knowledgeable teaching assistant who kindly arranged much-welcomed cold drinks for everyone afterwards back at the lodge.

It certainly helped us see at first-hand how local people in the area with a stake in the future of South Africa’s rhinos are coming together in whatever ways they can to help.

You can find out more about Spoon and the Green Kidz Initiative via the project’s website at (www.greenkidzsouthafrica.wozaonline.co.za). The programme is supported by Protrack, a private anti-poaching operation in Hoedspruit, and forms part of ‘Rhino Revolution’, a community based local initiative under which local people involved in rhino conservation and education have joined together to help in the fight against poaching.

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2 Comments on “Rhino crusader wins the generation game”

  1. Carter and Olivia September 24, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Dear Project African Rhino,

    I wanted to reach out to you because of a new initiative our two young founders are working on in the event you may be able to help them out.

    Olivia (age 10) and her brother Carter (age 11.5) are working on a letter writing campaign where they are trying to get 1,000 kids (and adults) from all over the world to send us letters addressed to the President of South Africa asking him to get more involved with stopping poaching of Rhino’s for their horn.

    Unless the South African government quickly gets involved, the Rhino species is guaranteed to go extinct in our lifetime. This is an amazing opportunity to show kids (and adults) of all ages that they can make a difference and if successful, they can someday tell their kids that they were instrumental in saving this species from extinction.

    You can read more on our site at the link below. Our goal is to collect 1,000 letters and personally deliver them to President Zuma early next year. Carter and Olivia are already scheduling presentations at various schools now that they are back in session and we are also looking to reach out to churches and any other community group where we can address a large audience.

    If you know of any organization who might be interested in receiving a copy of the presentation, please let us know and we can easily sent it to them.

    Dear President Zuma, (http://onemoregeneration.org/2012/07/20/dear-president-zuma/)

    Please let us know if you think you can help in any way. We also encourage you to send us your own letter because as you know, every voice counts.

    Thanks again for all your continued support, we look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Best regards from the entire OMG Team 😉

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The town that’s saying no to rhino poaching | Project: African Rhino - December 20, 2012

    […] ‘Involving local communities has been the most important thing,’ concurs Vincent, who helped set up and sponsor the ‘Green Kidz Initiative’ eco-education clubs run by local rhino-warrior Spoon Phakathi (see previous blog entry). […]

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