Giving the rhino fight horns

Volunteers for SAFFR, Phil Hair, Tracy King and Lynette Smith.

Without drastic intervention, the gruesome fate of the rhino is sealed.

Realising it will take a Herculean effort to spare this noble animal, members of the Southern African Fight For Rhino (SAFFR) launched its nationwide petition in Newcastle last Friday.

“We believe it is now time to make this our fight!” exclaimed Alexia Abnett, owner of the non-profit organisation.

Volunteers spent two days gathering signatures for the petition, which will be handed over at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at its convention, beginning on September 24.

The CITES COP17 takes place in South Africa this year.

“Our wildlife is part of who we are as South Africans. When, oh when, did we lose the heartbeat of Africa?”

Unable to attend the launch herself, due to an operation, Mrs Abnett was represented by Tracy King, who has decades of activism under her belt.

While SAFFR covers a broad spectrum of matters, rhinos are its main focus for now.

“Our mission is to have the rhino updated to an Appendix 1 (critically endangered). After this, we will move onto the wild dog and other animals.”

Through the initiative, dubbed a grassroots African campaign, Mrs Abnett believes the fight to save wildlife has to come from South Africans themselves.

Both she and Mrs King feel the Government’s hand must be forced.

“It has continued to listen to only one side of the story, with regard to the rhino and their sustainability to carry on living in the wild.”

One of the chief problems is the apparent refusal to implement laws to make game rangers more effective, which results in many losing their lives.

With back-up, support and equipment, Mrs King said the tide could be turned.

“There’s a huge war out there. It’s scary.”

She continued to say better security, harsher repercussions and more prepared rangers would be far better than current plans of burning rhino horns and ivory.

Even drying out rhino horns has not worked, Mrs King added.

“In fact, burning these is an insult to the animals which died, and it drives up the price.”

With only a handful of volunteers, the work of SAFFR is arduous.

In addition to a lack of manpower, Mrs Abnett has effectively funded the organisation’s work single-handedly, to the point where it has become difficult to continue.

But persevere, SAFFR must.

“We welcome any international people, strong and well-known activists… We welcome youthful academics, future leaders who want to make sure that even after we are dead and gone, we can die peacefully, knowing our wildlife is safe.”

Should you wish to lend support to the online petition, and to SAFFR itself, visit

Bruce Douglas

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