I’ve recently returned from the holiday of a lifetime in South Africa, a three week trip that allowed me to really get a feel for the country, it’s people, the wine(!) and of course the incredible wildlife.
Working closely with the team at Knowsley Safari Park has given me a deeper understanding of the issues that many species of animals face in the wild… the keepers’ passion for conservation is quite contagious!
On our way through the Kruger National Park to the first safari camp, we were lucky enough to see families of giraffes mingling with zebras, a bull elephant (that took an hour to move off the road – not as fun as it sounds), herds of buffalo, wildebeest and much to my joy, a pair of white rhinos (we were told our ‘luck’ was because we drove through the animal poo on the road at every given opportunity… don’t ask!)
The recent growth of the rhino crash at Knowsley Safari Park has meant numerous interview opportunities from ITV to BBC, Newsround to Blue Peter and has given me a bit of a soft spot for the rhinos (if you see the babies, you’ll see why). On our sunset drive, like every good student, I made sure that I was sitting right at the front of the bus so that I could grill the guide with my questions on the growth of the elephant and rhino horn trade and what we can do to stop it. Worryingly she didn’t see it calming down any time soon, believing that educating future generations was the only way to impact change.
Each camp featured notice boards with information and graphic images of recent poaching activity at the Park. It was devastating to hear of the poaching issues that they face every day at Kruger… I did my tour on the 27th January, and by that point there had already been 32 rhino deaths at Kruger, more than one per day.
The trip has highlighted for me the importance of the work that we do every day with Knowsley Safari Park, whether it be educating the public on the issues out there, or raising awareness of the conservation work taking place by the Park both within the UK and on the ground in Kruger.
It was an incredible experience and amazing to see ‘front line’ the work that the rangers do, but it was also a harsh reality to face… if we allow this to continue, it won’t be long until they are gone.