In recognition of Heritage and Tourism month, Wayne Bolton, Gqeberha businessman and founder of ‘One Land Love It’ (OLLI), a non-profit focused on rhino conservation, completed his third awareness campaign for rhinos and rangers this World Rhino Day. He connected Namibia and South Africa – the primary custodians of the World’s rhinos – a 2510km journey by mountain bike starting from Swakopmund on the 20 August and ending in Nelson Mandela Bay on the 22 September, averaging 100kms per day.
Bolton’s previous cycling expeditions in 2015/2016 and 2017, where he cycled a total of 8000kms by mountain bike around South Africa, were initiated to create awareness around the rhino crisis and the shift from conservationist to soldier that rangers face. Through both journeys he highlighted the work of SANParks and private parks in the fight to preserve our rhino.
The increase in rhino poaching this year in SA and Namibia, along with declining rhino population statistics in SA, gave rise to the third expedition. Called the ‘Forever Rhino Ride’, Bolton along with his family extended a call for ordinary people to act now on behalf of this ancient species to ensure that they remain with us forever. Accordingly, Bolton symbolically linked the oldest desert in the world, the Namib, with the Karoo.
With the endorsement of MEFT (Namibia’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism) Bolton was given permission to cycle through the Namib-Naukluft National Park representing the Namib Desert – the 60km stretch to Sossusvlei with its extraordinary red dunes a highlight of the journey. He then continued to link the private parks of NamibRand and Gondwana in Namibia.
In South Africa, a milestone in the journey was arriving at SANParks Karoo National Park – after which he connected the private park, Samara Karoo, and finally joined SANParks Addo Elephant National Park. He was privileged to cycle through parks accompanied by rangers and at times cycled with them and Park Managers, even enjoying a fly by from the Senior Section Ranger in the Karoo National Park.
Weaving his way across two countries, starting at the Atlantic and finishing at the Indian Ocean, provided much time on the road to experience the raw beauty and diverse landscapes of these two incredible countries, along with the warm and generous hospitality of the people he and his team engaged with.
The initial 760kms of dirt road, corrugations and soft sand, along with elevation and strong headwinds made the journey particularly challenging, but the extraordinary surroundings were a reward for the difficulties of the journey. “It was on the tough days that mental strength was imperative.” Bolton said. The now sun-bleached, pink, beaded rhino given to Wayne in 2015 by ‘Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary’, aptly named ‘Five’ (when ‘Five’ is gone we only have the ‘Big Four’) attached to his handlebars, was a constant reminder of his cause. “I cycled in memory of my late dad who nurtured my love for Africa and whose legacy I am determined to pass on to my children.”
Arriving to an enthusiastic welcome and the unfurling of the South African Flag at the Donkin Reserve in Nelson Mandela Bay on World Rhino Day was a fitting tribute to the goals of this expedition. Together with conservation stakeholders including: SANParks; Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency; Discover Mandela Bay; Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality; Economic Development, Tourism and Agriculture; and private parks represented by Shamwari along with support from Amakhala and Kariega Game Reserves – Bolton connected the ‘Forever Rhino Pledge of Unity in Conservation’. The plaque, in two parts, representing black and white rhino, was carried by Bolton from Swakopmund where the black rhino half was handed to him by ‘Save the Rhino Trust’ representing MEFT with whom they have a MOU. The Pledge highlights the significant responsibility Namibia and South Africa play in assuring the survival of our rhinos and the need for collaboration and united efforts by all. Bolton said: “I was particularly motivated to see the commitment of our participating parks to rhino conservation and the enthusiasm of the general public in both countries to get involved.”
At the finish children representing local schools added their signatures to the ‘Forever Rhino Children’s Promise’ which gives our youth an opportunity to add their voices to this fight. They joined their commitment to those of children who signed the promise starting at Mt Etjo in Namibia, in the Karoo, and in Nomathamsanqa (a conservation community bordering Addo Elephant National Park). Signatures will continue to be added as ‘One Land Love It NPC’ engages with more schools following this expedition.
On completion of the ‘Forever Rhino Ride’, Bolton has cumulatively cycled a total of 10 510kms for rhino and rangers over a series of 3 expeditions averaging approximately 100kms a day – connecting SANParks, private reserves and countries – critical role players in the preservation of our rhino. A family showing that ordinary people can make a difference for an iconic species before it’s too late.
Rhinos have been here forever but unless we do something urgently their future is uncertain. What we do today can alter our forever… extinction cannot be our legacy!
In South Africa members of the public can report any suspicious activities around wildlife to the environmental crime hotline which is 0800 205 005 or the SAPS number 10111.
In Namibia contact Wildlife Crime Help and report any suspicious activity that threatens the safety of our natural heritage by sending a toll-free SMS to 55555.
One Land Love It NPC uses funds raised through donations to further the fight against wildlife crime. To donate or find out more, visit www.move.oneland.co.za
“What we do today can alter our forever – extinction cannot be our legacy!” OLLI