Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rhino Conservation

In 2009 after a life changing event the place I went to heal was Africa.  I was lucky enough to have contacts in Laikipia Kenya and went to Borana.  We have family connections Michael and Nicky who run Borana took me into their home and together with Michael's parents gave me some space and time to accept what had happened without bitterness.  Above all it allowed me to begin to accept what happened with those African skies, and the constant ebb and flow of nature, life and death played out in front of one's eyes that makes the unreal, real.

I got involved in politics because of Save the Rhino.  A friend had died in Namibia and the fundraiser that I was involved with to make sure that his memory lived on ended with me talking to someone at 3am about politics.  A single mum at the time I was encouraged, if I was talking politics at that time of night,  to get in touch with the Conservatives and so like a single stone being thrown a pond, the ripples spread outwards.  In 2009 I was already on the path that has now seen me elected.  It has been a long journey a journey which has been linked with good friends, and rhino conservation.  The first time I saw a Rhino in the wild was in 1995, in Tanzania.  I can not explain the feeling of seeing two Rhinos meet and rub noses.  It was an experience I did not forget and I am not ashamed to admit that I burst into tears.

This summer I was lucky enough to go back to Borana.  In 2009 talk of taking down the fences between Lewa and Borana was underway.  Now it has happened and a huge conservation area has been opened.  Rhinos are solitary on the whole, they have a temper and are unpredictable.  They are not cuddly, but more prehistoric, lumbering and bulky they aren't "cute" but magnificent, independent and unpredictable.    The barbarism which means they are hunted for their horns is unspeakable.  A rhino horn is no different from our fingernails.  However the huge sums which they are worth mean that Rhino's need all the help they can get to survive, and the group of conservancies in Laikipia in Kenya are doing just that.  Giving the habitat, the protection and the range for Rhinos to survive and perhaps with the help of some us, stopping that knife edge between extinction and survival.

The conservancies in Kenya have suffered from the impact of the terror attacks there, even though they are amongst some of the safest places to be.  Not only because of the armed protection for the Rhinos, but because they cover enormous ground, are not easily accessible for marauding groups, but also because of the social responsibility that all the Conservancies are involved in.  Most provide primary education for local children, and some help and support secondary schools there too. They support guides, including Peter, Albert Laurence and Martin.  They encourage researchers from all over the world to come and study not only Rhino, but the other species that the ecosystem supports.

I realise that my constituents in Cheshire might be wondering what this has to do with them.  Chester Zoo has for years had expertise in Rhinos and has worked closely with Save the Rhino to stop the extinction of this and other species.  I will be supporting Borana through Save the Rhino. I want to do so not only because I see the other species that supporting Rhino also help conserves, but because I identify with that slightly bad tempered, lumbering, shortsighted unpredictable Rhino.  I can't think why....but would encourage you to support them too.