Integrated tourism group Tourvest said today it was a privilege to have been involved in the inaugural World Youth Rhino Summit and believed that the event would help considerably in reducing the demand for rhino products overseas.
Gary Elmes, chief executive of Tourvest’s Accommodation and Activities division, which was one of the major sponsors of the event, said the white rhino was a symbol of South Africa’s conservation success and that the country’s abundant wildlife was one of its biggest competitive advantages over rival destinations.
The inaugural World Youth Rhino Summit saw a delegation of 150 youngsters from across the world congregate to discuss the rhino poaching crisis with conservation leaders and develop their own opinions and strategies on the plight of rhinos.
The three-day event took place at the iMfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal where, in the Sixties, the last few remaining Southern White Rhino were found. Thanks to a large-scale rehabilitation programme called Operation Rhino, headed by world renowned conservationist Ian Player, population numbers of the species quickly recovered through their introduction firstly in national and provincial parks and then on private land. Today, South Africa has the largest population of rhino in the world with some 20 000 individuals.
According to the NGO Stop Rhino Poaching, 2 674 rhinos have been poached in South Africa from 2000 to 2013, with 1 004 of these taking place last year alone. This year, 787 rhinos have been poached as at 22 September, representing a rate of just under three per day.
“We’ve been involved in rhino awareness programmes for some time, mostly with the Kingsley Holgate Foundation’s Rhino Art – Let the Children’s Voices Be Heard through the company’s Shakaland and Lesedi cultural villages as well as being involved in our own anti-poaching programmes,” Elmes said.
“The youth that attended the conference were selected for their leadership potential with many of them coming from those Asian countries where demand for rhino horn is the highest. We believe that this world-first conference has planted the seed which will see these future decision-makers return to their home countries, spread the message and help influence behaviours and beliefs that will help stop the poaching,” he said.
A Vietnamese representative, Bui Thi Kieu described the event as a real eye opener. “One of my relatives uses rhino horn to cure cancer. I haven’t talked to her yet but after this trip I will try to convince her rhino horns have no medical value,” she said.