Saturday, January 21, 2017

What does a Namibian rhino and a Canadian muskox have in common...?

When we started to plan our trip to Canada, we realised that, with the boys a little bigger now, we should start to introduce a different perspective to our travels, have our trips be more  just about us having different experiences and more about adding value to what we believe and stand for.

With this in mind, we thought about how we could introduce a 'cause' or a 'mission' to our eminent trip to Canada over Christmas 2016, through which we could add value to our trip, our own personal lives and also make a difference. Immediately the benefactor of our Brandberg Rhino Run and Cycle Tour sprang to mind: The Namibian non-profit organisation Save The Rhino Trust. The work that this organisation do in Namibia and globally in both raising awareness of the plight of the senseless poaching of the critically endangered black rhino, as well as physically protecting said animals in the field from the onslaught of the poachers is phenomenal. Field teams work tirelessly, day and night, staying in rudimentary field camps for weeks on end, tracking the rhinos, very often putting their own lives on the line when confronting poachers. Considering the temperature extremes of the arid Kunene region, with daily maximums of 40 °C plus, and night time temperatures sometimes below zero, one can only behold these rhino warriors with the utmost respect for what they do.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, in the far north of Canada close to the arctic circle, a group of passionate scientists and volunteers are dedicated to take care of orphaned and injured animals at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. Animals protected on the 280+ ha piece of land includes 13 species of northern Canadian mammals, including the rocky mountain elk, Alaska/Yukon moose, muskox, wood bison, Canada lynx and the arctic fox.


Alaska/Yukon Moose

Although these animals are very comfortable staying at the Wildlife Preserve within their large enclosures and within their natural habitats, the little town of Whitehorse in The Yukon experiences winter temperatures of sometimes below -40°C, with only five or six hours of day light (11 am to 4.30 pm), which is arguably not the most comfortable conditions for humans to be outside feeding hungry animals or checking on a recovering patient. The scientists, care givers and volunteers work the same hours, summer and winter, to receive and care for injured animals, present visitors with various daily tours and also perform ongoing daily chores of feeding residents and cleaning animal enclosures.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve is a non-profit organisation, similar to Save The Rhino Trust, Namibia, and although is is partially government funded by a fixed annual amount, the deficit is made up by visitors, youth camps and other educational programs.

We visited the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in 2012, and were very impressed by the efficiency and dedication of the caregivers and researchers at the Preserve. It was clear that the Preserve is well-managed by a group of passionate people, and spending time at the facility (albeit in freezing cold temperatures) was an incredible experience for us. Visiting The Yukon for the first time, it was the perfect opportunity for us to view some of the native mammal species in their natural habitat, all within an hour or two's hike from the very informative reception office.

In this light it was thus very apt and easy for us to choose the Yukon Wildlife Preserve as the northern hemisphere partner organisation for our effort to introduce two worthy causes, worlds apart but similar in the kind of environmental extremes in which they have to work and in the dedication and passion both extrude.

Before leaving Namibia we received a care package from Save The Rhino Trust Namibia, dedicated to the Yukon Wild Life Preserve in Whitehorse, Canada, comprising of a handwritten note of kinship from SRT's CEO Mr Simson Uri-Khob, a portrait on canvas of a Namibian rhino as well as other Namibian and rhino mementos.

On 6 January 2017 we were received by Mr Greg Meredith, Executive Director of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve. We presented him with the care package and special note of kinship, all the way from Namibia, and he was clearly moved by the gesture, especially after learning about the plight of our rhinos and the exceptional work done by SRT. On his turn he presented us also with a limited print of a muskox, signed by Mr Peter Karsten, founding president of Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, which we humbly received on SRT's behalf.

Nico presenting Mr Greg Meredith with the canvas portrait from SRT Namibia.

Nico receiving the signed poster of the Canadian muskox on behalf of SRT from Greg.

Greg receives his beautiful pewter rhino pin, compliments of SRT.

Outside temperatures of -32͒℃

Greg took us for a very delightful and informative personal tour of the Preserve. We were thankful to be viewing most of the animals from the comfort of his car, only briefly stepping outside for photos, as the outside air temperature was well below -30°C. Out two boys were now old enough to appreciate more of seeing the animals in their natural environment. Greg, with his practised eye, would point out some of the animals to us, and it was a whole lot of fun the try to locate some of the very well-camouflaged animals within their snowy habitats. The Canada lynx was possibly the hardest to spot, while the two arctic foxes were an all time favourite, presenting themselves kindly for the perfect photo opportunity.

Beautiful little arctic fox.

We were taken through the hospital of the Preserve, where weak orphans and injured animals such as raptors and owls are treated. The Preserve employs a veterinarian that operates on injured animals, and autopsies are performed on all carcasses. It was incredibly enlightening to learn how this dedicated group of people perform work we have grown accustomed to seeing in Namibia, with our great number of wildlife rescue operations here locally, but under equally harsh but totally opposite environmental conditions.

We remain grateful for the time and effort Mr Meredith took to receive and show us around, and humbly in awe at what the staff of the Preserve achieves year in and out.

Upon our return to Namibia we conveyed the gift from The Yukon Wildlife Preserve to the board of trustees of Save The Rhino Trust Namibia. An excerpt from the note by Greg to SRT follows:

"When reviewing the SRT web site I am very impressed with the efforts with which your SRT team is tackling this most important conservation initiative. I commend SRT’s Management and Field Teams as well as Board of Trustees for the outstanding work you all do to protect rhinos and educate the public on how we might all be better conservation leaders."

The gift and overall message of mutual respect, appreciation and attempt to create awareness of the cause was received very well.

Nico presenting the CEO of SRT, Mr Simson Uri-Khob, with the gift from Yukon Wildlife Preserve.

Hannelie presenting Simson with the Yukon Wildlife Preserve pin.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog!!

    If you like, come back and visit mine:

    I would really like to receive a visit from your country!

    Pablo from Argentina