Mt Everest trek to raise funds for rhinos

2013-09-17 00:00

TO climb 5 545 metres above sea level in a rhino suit. That is the mission of two Westville old boys, Michael Smit and 2012 head boy Duncan McGladdery, as well as Michael’s mom, Afrikaans teacher Ziggie Smit, who will be taking on Mount Everest base camp.

Their mission is to raise awareness and funds for the fight against rhino poaching. And if attempting base camp wasn’t hard enough, the old boy pair will be donning full-bodied fleece rhino suits.

The three intrepid climbers have had the full support of Westville Boys’ High School. The school’s drama department gave R2 500 from its last production Shake It Out, and a school coin collection and raffle held by the Environmental Club and Interact Task Team yielded another R8 500 — a total of R11 000.

“In March 2009, I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with four other pupils from WBHS and with that the adventure bug had bitten me,” said Michael.

The 2009 climb, organised by Geoff Hilton-Barber, saw five Westville Grade 10 pupils summitting Kilimanjaro, leading five blind pupils to the top.

“The idea for the Everest base climb started in my first year at Tuks University. I got involved with our residence’s rhino project and worked alongside Stop Rhino Poaching in a few fundraising events. Then, at the end of last year, I was elected as head of RAG at Olienhout Residence and decided to merge my love for rhinos and hiking, and began the process of making the rhino Everest climb happen,” said Michael.

Funds raised go directly to StopRhinoPoaching.com, which was launched in July 2010 as an independent web-based platform, dedicated to raising awareness and support for the war against rhino poaching.

Although independent, StopRhino­Poaching.com enjoys a close working relationship with many recognised role players, their opinion and experience proving invaluable when establishing projects and allocating funds.

According to the website, since the start of the poaching epidemic in 2008, South Africa has lost over 2 000 rhinos — a figure that, despite so much effort, increases daily.

• Follow the climbers on @rhinoclimb or on Facebook The Rhino Climb — Everest.

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