Denise Eriksson - A fight for rhinos
In the summer of 2014 I travelled to South Africa for a 5 months period. My aim was to learn more about the rhino poaching issue and what is done in order to prevent it. Therefor I visited the anti poaching unit, Protrack. With my own eyes, I wanted to see for myself what hard work goes into protecting this species. And it is indeed hard work, they risk their lives trying to protect the rhinos from poachers on a daily basis.
To begin with, they literally living in the bush. After a long day of hard work they don't come home to a nice little house with air conditioning and running water. No. At first they need to build a boma, which means they have to cut down a bunch of smaller thorn trees and branches to surround the camp, in order to keep predators such as lions outside. Then they can sleep for a few hours, wearing the same clothes and with the boots still on, to always be ready for anything... I must say that I really admire these guys, I mean despite all this hard work, both day and night, they still don't give up.
To a lot of people this might sound terrible, to always be dirty, on those really hot days you can't actually take a shower just to cool yourself down. To have limited food and water with you. So you might also have to find those resources in other ways. And to wake up every morning, knowing that you life may be in danger. So what is it that keeps them going?
In my own experience, I came to the understanding that this is so much more than just a job. It's a lifestyle, a great passion for our wildlife hertige and it is family. There is a bond between everyone, and I think that that bond is an very important part for them to keep going. So when they come to the point that they feel like giving up they will always have the others to cheer them up, letting them know they can do this, and they will make it as long as they have each other. Because they are a family. They are all fighting for something they believe in, for the love of our nature. And that was something truly amazing to see and to be a part of for those two weeks I spended with Protrack.
But my time in South Africa was not over yet. Sure, to learn more about the issue was a big part of my journey there, but the whole point of it was to actually be able to inspire more younger people to get involved to do something as well. Therefor my next step was to start working as a volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to get involved and learn more at the same time as you will have a lot of fun! In my oppinion there is too much negativity in this world, and it takes a lot of energy hearing about all the problems in the world every day. But this is something that will be fun and exciting to do! And I want to show the younger generation just how fun and exciting it really can be to make a difference! To combine an exciting journey with an important work.
This journey was the best decision in my life! I got to know so many nice people and learn so many new things. Not just about wildlife but to grow as a person. And to every day wake up in that incredible enviroment, surrounded with wild animals! Some days I saw elephants in our backyard, a cheetah that made a kill just outside our camp or a whole herd of buffaloes coming down for a drink just outside my bedroom door! A photographers dream!
But the best part of this dream still has to be the rhinos. It's just something special about them that makes me feel like I can't get enough. Maybe it's because of my very first journey to South Africa that I made in 2013. Already then I travelled to work on a project about rhino poaching, it was for my highschool project, and I had always dreamed about going to Africa as well as making a difference. So I thought that this would be a great opportunity to go. Now I just needed to know which animal to focus this project on. Back then, I wanted to do something for all the endangered animals, but I realised quite soon that it wouldn't even be close to possible. I needed to put my focus on ONE.
Eventually I chosed the rhino, since their situation was the most critical one. But the moment when I actually felt this huge love for them wasn't until when I first saw them. The first animal I saw when entered the reserve that time were four white rhino, peacefully resting under the shade of a big tree. That was the exact moment I fell in love. Then I knew that I was on the right place, that this was what I was meant to do. I must say that it is a very, very special feeling, looking straight at what you fight for. You just look at them and think that you just simply can't let them die. Not for as long as you can do something about it!
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