ON A RHINO RESCUE MISSION

Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Illovo Sugar Ltd

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ILLOVO’S Eston sugar mill in the greater Eston area has Tala Private Game Reserve as a neighbour. Tala is owned by the Umkhumbuleni Trust and managed by the Three Cities Group. Through its wildlife, Tala not only generates wealth for the community, but also provides protection for wildlife – in particular the endangered White Rhino.

The reserve lost two rhinos in May 2014 when poachers hacked off their horns, but a third survived the attack. Tala’s wildlife manager Divan Vermaak then researched ways to curb poaching and found the Track-em electronic device which, attached to a brightly coloured collar, picks up the animal’s movement and sends information via satellite to the owner’s computer system and cellphone, informing them of the GPS position of the rhino and if it has moved out of an area where it is supposed to be.

Designed by Victor Hugo, it can also feed information about heart rate, activities, stress levels, and if the animal did not move or had slept for many hours. After the May incident, a foot collar was temporarily attached to the rhino that had survived. “This helped us know where the animal was all the time, so we could inject it with medicine while the horn was healing,” Hugo says. When Tala sourced funding, its neighbour Illovo Sugar Eston bought five foot collars for the remaining rhinos, including a new one for the animal that had been injured, as well as computer systems for the reserve.

Eston mill manager Gavin van Schoor says: “We were all devastated when the two rhinos were slaughtered. Tala and the rhinos are a big part of our Eston community, so it is very appropriate for us as Illovo to be involved in their protection. Big credit must go to Dave Howells, Illovo Sugar South Africa MD, who immediately gave me his support when I approached him for social responsibility funding. You will see the Illovo sign, that Darrell de Wet organised, proudly displayed at the Tala entrance.”

Darrell de Wet, Illovo’s marketing and communications manager, says: “Our hope is that tracking devices will provide some security for this community and their rhinos and generations to come will also benefit from these joint efforts to ensure the long-term survival of these rhino. When the name South Africa is mentioned, images of our rich wildlife heritage come to the fore. But sadly this heritage is under threat”.



THE collar has been fastened around the rhino’s back leg while the big animal was tranquillised and it will soon get up and walk away. At the scene are Illovo and Tala personnel (from left) Guy Shange, Lauren Cole, Caleb Mdakane, Divan Vermaak, Gavin van Schoor, Fredwin Broodryk and Charles Crebo, and Victor Hugo.



FITTING the collar.



SPORTING its new collar around its ankle, the rhino moves away.

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