Save the Rhinos - A week in South Africa
On July 15, a group of 11 senior students from 11 different international schools in Ho Chi Minh City embarked on a most memorable and unique adventure to Durban, South Africa. Each of these students won the Wilderness Foundation essay competition: Vietnam, be my hero! During our week in the Imfolozi Game Reserve, we had multiple opportunities to learn about and observe those beautiful creatures. Ha Chi Nguyen, CIS’ IB Grade 11 student, was honoured to be one of the 11 trekkers and to become a Vietnamese Rhino Ambassador. Here is her testimony...
By Nguyen Ha Chi (CIS Grade 11 student, IB Class)
The trip to the Imfolozi Game Reserve was such a wonderful gift, especially for students who live in a city like ours. The trip was really challenging. Each of us had to carry our five day food supply weighing 20 kilos! We were in a different environment where we had to walk under the sun, and where we slept in the cold of the South African winter. We approached wild animals knowing that they might potentially attack us. However, everyone was extremely excited to see the beauty of nature as we have a huge passion for the wilderness.
I was amazed at the landscape, the plants, and the animals as everything was intertwined. To be so close to buffalo, elephants, zebras, and rhinos in their natural habitat was unforgettable. It was as though we were fated to see them. This trip allowed us a strong connection with the beautiful creatures in this park. Moreover, the sunrise, the sunset, and the Milky Way at night were stunning. Watching those lovely scenes was definitely my favorite activity.
We also learned how to use natural resources to provide for our basic needs. We drank water from the river, we cleaned dishes with sand, we made a fire camp to warm ourselves. When we used man made resources, we brought those materials back with us to show respect to the wilderness and to keep it intact from human waste.
One of our duties along with cooking and washing up the dishes, was doing night watch. While everyone was sleeping, each of us, in turn, was responsible for ensuring the safety of the group at night. We had to tend to the fire and lighten up the place around the camp to spot any animals. Though it was scary at times, it was also an awesome experience. It became one of the most memorable moments for us. Besides, I never expected to have such delicious meals like couscous with biltong meat.
It was amazing to feel connected to this beautiful place. Modern buildings, electronic devices, the pressures of life did not exist. Even time did not dictate its pace to us. We felt alive!
I ran into white rhinos on a number of occasions. We saw them grazing, running and resting. Though we were amazed at the sight of those wonderful creatures, sadness also filled our hearts since we knew rhinos used to exist in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the Vietnamese people’s demand for rhino horn products meant the last rhino in Vietnam was killed in 2009. Since there is still a huge demand for rhino horn in specific Asian countries like Vietnam, rhinos are critically endangered. They are being killed by poachers in South Africa at the rate of one every nine hours. Hence, we could not see many rhinos. Just two years ago, it was possible to see as many as 30 rhinos during a trek but we saw, only 8. The Imfolozi Game Reserve has become one of the hardest hit poaching hotspots in recent times. It’s painful to see the rhino population rapidly decreasing. Vietnam has lost a huge part of its wilderness with the loss of its rhinos.
Even though it is too late to save Vietnam’s rhinos, it is time to make a change! People must seriously think about the impact of the disappearance of those massive animals will have on the environment and on human life. It is our responsibility to stop the killing and to raise our voices to say NO MORE RHINO HORN! I believe we can redeem our mistakes and save this unique anima