Defending South Africas Heritage
Defending South Africas Heritage

Defending South Africas Heritage

Posted by Michael Starbuck on 18th Oct 2013 3 mins

Deep in the heart of South Africa's bush-land, Askari Wilderness Conservation Project is fighting a crusade against the human – wildlife conflict that has plagued the country for several decades. This project is based in the 22,500 hectare expanse of Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in the Limpopo province, and is slavishly dedicated to redressing the balance between humanity and wildlife that is currently under serious strain in this area. The project's long term aim is to 'create a benchmark reserve, which is run according to strong wilderness and conservation ethics and principles'. The dedicated staff and volunteers strive to achieve this through on-going research, working closely with the animal populations.

The word 'Askari' is the name given to young, male elephants spending their time in the company of old bulls, learning from them and taking on their wisdom. This is the philosophy which underpins the Askari project, and indeed which makes it so special. Any volunteer's time spent here will involve at least a week of training and education about best practices and sustainable conservation. This intensive training will ensure that all who take part in the project actively and effectively contribute to the protection and welfare of the continent's most iconic animals.
Pidwa Wilderness Reserve is home to monitored populations of brown hyena, lions, cheetah, elephants and white rhinos. Although these are some of the most valued and treasured species on the African continent, they are all sadly facing threats in many different ways. One of these threats in particular became all the more prominent just earlier this week, when devastatingly, Ondi, one of the reserve's female Rhinos, was poached for her horn. Her body was discovered with a bullet wound, removed horn and mutilated nose. As if this turn of events wasn't awful enough, just a few days later, the week old carcass of one of the reserve's rare male rhinos was discovered, also having been poached for his horn.

The team are overwhelmingly distraught that this has happened, but such occurrences only serve to highlight the vital importance of the conservation and protection work that the Askari Wilderness Project carries out. The tireless monitoring, tracking, data collection and reserve management that is undertaken by both the staff and volunteers at the project is crucial, if this kind of thoughtless poaching is to be prevented in the future.
Being aware of the exact movements, behaviour patterns and breeding habits of these animals allows the reserve's team to protect them more effectively and with more success, and to stop deaths like Ondi's in the future. The volunteers who continue to work on and support this project are simply invaluable to this overall effort. Although devastating, the losses of these rhinos must be used to raise further awareness and support for the fantastic and infinitely commendable work carried out by this truly special project.

If you are interested in being a part of Askari's incredible work, read more about the Wilderness Conservation Project here.

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