From the Frontline

I can remember a time at Rockwood when I was still farming with cattle and sheep and goats where I sat outside at night and you know looking at the stars during the hearing the sheep and the goats and you know thinking this could have been so much better if we had wild animals here again that’s that’s where the wildlife or reintroducing the wildlife here has started I was always drawn to say exotic animals like Rhino I didn’t grow up in a area where Rhino was natural or what I perceived to be natural they were hunted to extinction in that part of the world 100 years ago my name is Wicus Diedricks I grew up on a farm in the Northern Cape South Africa my first memory of the great outdoors or nature is basically on the farm at night hearing the Jackal far in the distance I reckon that’s where my passion for nature started in 2013 when I bought this land I decided to do something different it was always this romantic beasts that I never saw I think only about a month before I got the first Rhino translocated here I actually saw the first live Rhino and it was unbelievable you know that that first encounter the feelings inside of me [Music] and since then I fell in love with the animals and now it’s I reckon it’s my my greatest passion so here at Rockwood our primary focus is conservation and the general well-being of our animals it takes quite a lot of effort to protect them we have a call it aggressive strategy to keep them maybe in smaller areas where we can protect them better where we can intensify our efforts but not only that we feel very strongly about education and and also about research it’s very important that we that we learn about the species it’s it’s such an iconic species but yet there is so little literature especially when it comes to keeping them in more intensive operations like we’re doing here in July of 2014 my whole life changed the first Rhino was poached here and it was a very very emotional experience it was the first Rhino poached in the whole of the Northern Cape province yeah it was sad you know it really hit us hard when you work with this animals you create a bond you love them so seeing something like that happened to those animals I mean it’s not nice it’s it’s really sad you know standing next to that animal after you know embracing that animal caring for it and to see you know how it was butchered really touched me and you know it just made me realize that that if I don’t start making a difference and you know not just by talking but really making a difference really changing what is happening at the moment we’re not gonna win this fight everyone has a place and everyone has a role to play to save what say yes we are losing the battle there’s no doubt of that and that’s a fact not just for Rhino’s Giraffe other species from the nine subspecies of Giraffe your kids are not gonna see two or three of those subspecies in ten years from now being a conservationist having an endless curiosity to try and understand and preserve and conserve what’s left the reality is in 20 or 30 years from now it’s going to be gone that pristine habitat that that beautiful Serengeti that you’ve dreamed of as a child watching it on television and you go there and you realize when you drive there that you drive for miles and miles and thousands of kilometres you don’t see a living tree you get to the Serengeti or the Masai Mara or Miceli or any of those national parks in East Africa its isolated islands that we are still trying to protect and human nature has got a bad history when it comes to conservation not one of the Rangers comes from a military or a traditional nature conservation background it’s all they were all unemployed people from the vicinity that we trained so they there’s a lot of effort went into that but we also get a lot of return from that because they’re absolutely passionate about what they’re doing and Rockwood has become their family and I think that’s going to be our success in total there’s about 50 people working here full-time you know you can imagine just feeding everybody taking care of all the workers here thanks quite some effort and then we are a semi desert area and in the past a couple of years we had far below our normal rainfall and then we have to feed our animals to get them to survive so our tagline at Rockwood is live for a change and it’s obviously because we want to make a change in the world we live in but also to live for a change and to enjoy what we’re doing and to feel good about what you’re doing and to leave something behind of what you can be proud of when you get so close to Rhino and you look in their eyes you see a certain vulnerability I don’t know they they almost look sad to me that’s the irony about Rhino they are such big majestic animals but yet they’re so vulnerable they’ve been around for longer that than humans have been around and yet if we don’t act in our lifetimes they will be extinct if we don’t get this right there is going to be a lot of other things with much worse consequences that we’re also not going to get right we need to see the social aspect in conservation conservation cannot happen without social upliftment and I’d almost say integration with you in South Africa we’ve got a very successful model because we an own wildlife and therefore wildlife as a value touching the Rhino I know it’s amazing you know very few people in the world us has experienced that so and Rockwood is putting that opportunity for anyone to get involved and want to be involved this is the place to be this is the place to come and experience if we achieve what we set out to achieve and to grow our numbers of Rhino we will have the nice dilemma of having to relocate them to new areas and it will be wonderful to move Rhino into areas where they’ve gone extinct and wouldn’t it be nice not to save the Rhino [Music]

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