Dream and believe in rhinos in the bush, says Vilane

2014-06-24 00:00

DURING his time as a game ranger, mountaineer and expedition guide, Sibusiso Vilane came face-to-face with the horror of rhino poaching.

Speaking at the unveiling of his three- quarters life size rhino sculpture at King Shaka Airport yesterday, the man who reached the summit of Everest in 2003 and again in 2005 said he had been escorting guests on a game drive when he spotted what he thought was a rhino enjoying a wallow in a muddy pool.

When they came close to the animal, however, they discovered it had been killed and its horn removed.

“It was one of the most distressing sights of my life working as a ranger in the African bush,” Vilane said. “I never thought I would ever take a drive to see such horror.”

More recently, while taking his children for a visit to a game park he recalls “driving around for hours and never seeing a rhino”. It was, he added, a sobering moment.

“If we don’t step up and work to support all the initiatives to stop rhino poaching then we will face the reality of having no rhino in the bush,” he said.

Vilane is the latest ambassador to join Wildlands Conservation Trust’s Project Rhino, a fundraising campaign based on the Cow Parade concept, which aims to highlight the plight of South Africa’s rhino, to create public awareness around the crisis, and to raise money to support rhino conservation efforts.

Each of the sculptures made for Rhino Parade expresses the ambassador’s message around rhino poaching.

Vilane’s rhino features climbing ropes, representing the safety equipment for a climber and the hope that the rhino’s future can be made safe.

There is also a quote by the adventurer which says, “If you can dream it, then you can achieve it”, which sums up his belief that if all South Africans pull together, the future of the rhino can be secured.

Vilane — who started climbing in 1996 by summitting peaks in the Drakensberg — said: “You and I can’t sit back and say it’s okay because the Parks Board is doing something or the government is doing something,” he said.

“We all need to make a noise about it and we need to teach our children to have pride in their rhino … we need to give them the picture of what will happen if there are no rhino in the bush, that no one will come to our country, our continent...”

Money raised from the Rhino Parade is used to fund Project Rhino initiatives, which include using radio tracking to give field rangers better knowledge about a rhino’s movements and behaviour, and to help those engaged in the anti-poaching fight to deploy field rangers at strategic locations.

Did you know?

• Sibusiso Vilane is one of a handful of South Africans, and the first black African, to achieve the feat of climbing the seven highest peaks on each of the seven continents: Kilimanjaro (Africa); Everest (Asia); Aconcagua (South America); Elbrus (Europe); Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania); Vinson (Antarctica); and Denali/McKinley (North America).

• On January 17, 2008, Vilane and his Team Extreme partner, Alex Harris, became the first South Africans to walk to the South Pole completely unassisted.

• In early 2012 he completed the three poles ‘challenge’ when he trekked to the North Pole. The Three Poles are the North Pole, the South Pole and Everest.

• In December 2013 Vilane was appointed as Chief Scout for the South African Scouts Association.

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