‘DEAD, DYING AND DESPERATE TO SURVIVE’
The title of the talk, given by Dr. William Fowlds at the Whale Coast Conservation monthly meeting on 13 March, refers to the story of 3 rhinos poached in the Eastern Cape last year. One died overnight before veterinary assistance could arrive, one survived for 3 weeks and the third, Thandi, is still alive and has made a remarkable recovery despite her horrific injuries.
Dr Fowlds related the appalling cruelty inflicted on rhinos when they are poached, often having their faces hacked off while they are still alive and struggling against the immobilising drug or the near -fatal shot that brought them down. Thandi’s will to survive and the medical support she needed were brought home to the audience in vivid visuals and sound. The cry of a rhino, once heard, will not be easily forgotten.
Having been involved directly with several poaching cases and treating the survivors, he is at the ‘coal face’ of rhino conservation. Now, with the aid of Investec Rhino Lifeline he advises on several initiatives aimed at saving the rhino and other species facing similar threats.
According to Dr Fowlds, people are now so blasé about the poaching statistics that it has become necessary to resort to shock value and to publicise the cruel reality that animals suffer when they are poached. The hope is that public opinion, especially in Eastern countries, will eventually change and that using animal products will become less ‘cool’ before time runs out for iconic species such as the rhino, elephants, tigers, lions and bears, to name a few.
The passion with which he talked and his commitment to making an impact on the consumption of this senseless symbol to greed were both affecting and inspiring. Not many a dry eye was to be seen at the conclusion of his talk.
Whale Coast Conservation also took the opportunity to launch our newly-completed rhino conservation video, funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. It features children from local Eco-Schools appealing to children in Asian countries to help to find ways of protecting our rhinos, our heritage. If the tears had dried before, they flowed again.
We were indeed privileged to be able to interview Dr Fowlds on Whale Coast 96fm and to have him as our guest speaker at the Green House. We thank him for his time, his passion, his message – and for sharing it with us.