What a privilege and pleasure it was recently to engage with the students and staff at St Stithians Boys’ College in Johannesburg, including John Kinghorn (head of the school’s environmental committee, pictured below providing an informed introduction). Dave and I had been invited to share a presentation in aid of helping to save rhino, which are increasingly threatened with extinction from horrific poaching for their horn. It was fortuitous that we had already joined forces with Jason Hartman, joint 2009 SA Idols winner and avid conservationist, as well as Damien Mander, founding director and chairman of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.
Given the massive scale of illegal wildlife trafficking, the IAPF’s mission is urgent and critical. Their highly skilled, dynamic team “meets this challenge head on by logically tackling the economic, social and ecological issues associated with environmental threats.” They are led by Damien, who has extensive military experience, having served in the Royal Australian Navy and Special Operations unit within the Australian Army, including spending three years serving in Iraq. In addition to working closely with other conservation organizations, the team is dedicated to specialist training and assertive action, for which they are extremely well equipped.
In line with the fact that community welfare is integral to successful conservation efforts, the IAPF teamed up with Jason Hartman, who has contributed to community upliftment through the creation of sustainable vegetable gardens and planting of trees. His own charity is Men of the Trees, part of an international organisation. He also recently launched Conservation Guardians with several global board members, in order to support anti-poaching – in particular of rhino – and other environmental issues in Southern Africa.
Jason’s musical success includes a number of hit singles, opening for Kelly Clarkson in March 2010, opening for The Eagles during HRH Prince Albert and Charlene Wittstock’s wedding celebrations in Monaco, and playing live at the Grand Prix there. He also starred in A Million Colours, follow-up to the famous 1970′s e’Lollipop movie, released in September 2011 at the Toronto Film Festival. Shortly afterwards, A Million Colours opened the Hollywood Black Film Festival in LA, as the first foreign film to do so.
It was no surprise that our St Stithians audience was captivated by Jason singing in their magnificent chapel, accompanied by a brief but impactful IAPF video. Dave shared insight gained over our 15 years of wildlife photography and videography, in particular the past year of intensive filming with rhinos. As a natural progression to this work, we recently established the Wild Imaging Trust, with the purpose of supporting sustainable solutions that serve the planet by holistically benefitting conservation, education, eco-tourism and community, and collaborating as appropriate with organisations that share similar objectives.
The partnership between the Wild Imaging Trust, Men of the Trees and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation underlies our next epic conservation project, Rock ’n Ride 4 Rhino, which entails a 9,999km motorcycle ride around Southern Africa, planned for 9 April – 1 September 2013. One of the primary objectives is to reach 90 schools and around 70,000 students, to educate and engage our youth in creating a national culture of conservation. If the calibre of John Kinghorn and his committee are anything to go by, as well as the welcome we received at St Stithians Boys’ college, then tremendous hope exists for this ambitious, far-reaching goal.
Our resounding conclusion is that, working hand in hand, we can definitely make a positive difference.