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Sides of a Horn – Guest post by teenage conservationist Bavukile Vilane

Following the release of the controversial new film ‘Trophy’ last month, guest blogger Bavukile Vilane offers his voice as an advocate of the film ‘Sides of a Horn’, which claims to deliver the real truth behind the opposing views on the rhino horn trade. Will it deliver where Trophy fell short?

Sides Of A Horn film art

The Rhino Movie: Sides of a Horn is based on actual events, the dramatic film details the rhino poaching epidemic from the perspective of the three characters most directly affected: the ranger, the poacher, and the rhino.

When I first saw a mini trailer for the film on social media when the Kickstarter campaign had just started I wanted to get involved. I emailed Toby Wosskow, (very great guy indeed) who is the film’s writer and director. I then got involved in raising awareness for the film and the Kickstarter campaign so that all the funds could be met for the making of the film. Together we accomplish great things, as conservationists, I believe the only way to overcome barriers is working together one step at a time.

Writer/Director Toby Wosskow meeting with royal family. Photo by Dino Benedetti – © 2017 Sides of a Horn

On Friday, 20th October, the narrative short film received full funding and is moving into pre-production. 235 passionate philanthropists and wildlife enthusiasts from around the world have contributed over $57,000, making Sides of a Horn the fifth highest funded short film of all time on Kickstarter. After sharing the build-up to success countlessly on social media, I was very happy when it became a success. I had wished I was done with school and fully working on the production myself because I love editing and producing videos etc.

The short film is set to begin filming on location in South Africa in early-2018, and a feature-length adaptation is to follow. It is the first film to present an unbiased narrative of South Africa’s rhino poaching war.

Writer/Director Toby Wosskow location scouting. Photo by Dino Benedetti - © 2017 Sides of a Horn

Writer/Director Toby Wosskow location scouting. Photo by Dino Benedetti – © 2017 Sides of a Horn

Wildlife crime is the world’s fourth largest illegal industry (behind drugs, human trafficking and the illicit trade in arms) , and it is at an all-time high. A single rhino horn can fetch up to $300,000 (U.S. dollars) on the black market in China and Vietnam. By weight, it is worth more than gold or cocaine, and the demand in the Far East is fueling a war on the ground in South Africa. The human death toll is rising, but it is the rhino that faces extinction.

Team with a rhino. Photo by Dino Benedetti - © 2017 Sides of a Horn

Team with a rhino. Photo by Dino Benedetti – © 2017 Sides of a Horn

Sides of a Horn will expose the social impact of the rhino horn trade in a similar way that Blood Diamond did for the diamond trade—humanizing those on the ground, creating awareness, and catalyzing positive change. The team of U.S. and South African filmmakers are partnering with influential conservationists and global organizations to release the film around the world with a direct call to action.

The project will be filmed in the townships impacted by the crisis and in the game reserves that combat poaching on a daily basis. Months of research, countless hours on the ground, and relationships with local community leaders aid the team in keeping authenticity at the forefront of the project.

Discover more about the Sides of a Horn project here.

 

Bavukile Vilane

Bavukile Vilane is a 16-year-old with big dreams for the future. “I want to change the world”, he tells me. “I have always been interested in many things and Software Engineering was something I was going in to. So why Conservation? Because I believe there can be conservation everywhere, even in Software Engineering! It all started after I watched the Blood Lions documentary which also featured My father, possibly the greatest role model for most of the things I do. After watching Blood Lions, I had to join their youth for lions as an Ambassador and moved on to joining The Roots and Shoots SA Institute by Dr Jane Goodall and later The Crash Kids Against Rhino Poaching. I still have many plans for conservation and the role I can play. It all starts somewhere though. This is my story and it is only just the introduction to a lot of great chapters that I want to complete. There’s a lot to be done and it is about time the youth acts… It is, of course, our future. I alone can make a difference, but only together can we bring real change.”

Bavukile has his own platform, Conservation In Heart, and YouTube series: ‘Conservation Life‘. Find out more by clicking here.

 

Learn more about the trade in rhino horn

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Volunteering with the Zambia Primate Project — Guest post by Tom Hicks

The Zambia Primate Project is one of the operations run and sponsored by the Born Free Foundation. Based in the Kafue National Park, the project focuses on the rescue, rehabilitation and reintroduction of Vervet monkeys and Yellow baboons throughout Zambia.

The project is run by Cosmos Mumba, an immensely talented Zambian conservationist (see video below). In 2015 he was nominated for the 2015 African Conservationist of the Year award by the Tusk Trust. Cosmas is a leading light in the conservation of primates and works very closely with Dr Cheryl Mvula from the Born Free Foundation.

Together, the Zambia Primate Project and the Born Free Foundation work tirelessly to conserve both the habitat of the vervet and baboons, and the wild populations.

They seek to achieve this through education, in-situ work and a welfare programme for those primates in need of intervention and rescue. In August 2016, I was granted the remarkable opportunity to work in-situ at the release site in the Kafue National Park, where the team work closely with Game Rangers International.

I arrived at Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, and was greeted by Cosmos, who was waiting to take me to Lilayi. This is the location of Game Rangers International’s elephant orphanage. The orphanage is now also a refuge for rescued and confiscated pangolins, whose population has dramatically decreased over past years. They are always looking for volunteers and donations, so I would encourage anyone to find out more about there work by clicking here.

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The release camp in the Kafue National Park

Cosmos and I then set off on the 4-hour drive west to Kafue, where I would be staying at the release camp. My eyes were opened to the work and commitment exuded by the team, made up of Cosmos, Mathew, Dalisou and Caribou. They live in camp for most the year.

We visited the release site of a troop of Vervet monkeys who were reintroduced into the wild in February 2016. Each individual monkey has a story to tell, sadly usually of tragedy. They are rescued, rehabilitated and reintroduced back into the wild.

The team can recognise individuals within the troop by name. Immediately I was inspected by the lead males of the troop, grunting and softly barking while they all circled me. Cosmos and his team found this very amusing, as did I; it’s something that must happen to every volunteer. I felt as if the troop were sizing me up and deciding whether or not they liked me.

With introductions out the way, I was allocated Blacky to observe; one of the adult females in our focal studies. This formed the bulk of my job for the month. I would monitor individuals in the troop and note each minute what behaviour they were performing. This meant we could gather enough data to allows us to track individuals progress and identify any health issues.

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Working with the team at Kafue

The process of rehabilitation is often very hands on, as the primates being treated are usually in poor health — both mentally and physically. This, in turn, builds an exceptionally strong bond between the team and the troop.

Although this could lead to problems when it comes to encouraging the troop to evolve and become completely independent; the operation here is conducted to the highest degree of professionalism, and no such issues were evident.

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The team’s bond with the Vervets is extremely strong. Cosmos personally views them as his family. This was first demonstrated to me upon my encounter with Mysozyo, who is an adult female.

She was rescued from terrible conditions: chained outside a shop and used as a status symbol.

She was in extremely poor health when Cosmos first met her, and he cared for her through rehabilitation and reintroduction with the troop.

When I first saw her, however, she wasn’t alone. Mysozyo had mated earlier in the year with one of the lead males in the troop and had given birth to a truly “born free” infant, which Cosmos named Ndiase, meaning Gift.

This marked a huge step for the troop as it shows they are capable of wild natural behaviour.

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Image title: Born Free, Photographer: Tom Hicks

Now that I have returned from my time in Zambia, I have had time to reflect on just how impressive and successful the whole operation is.

I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the team; as an aspiring conservationist, I feel I have learnt an infinite amount from actually working with the team on the ground, rather than simply learning the theory behind it.

I would encourage anyone to get involved with charitable organisations such as these, whether it be donating your time, or as a beneficiary. It is hugely rewarding, and sadly still very much needed.

My connection with the troop and the team is one that I treasure immensely; it has inspired me to train to run the London Marathon in support of Born Free Foundation later this year — if you’d like, you can sponsor me here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Tom-Hicks3

Finally, to Game Rangers International, Born Free Foundation and the Zambia Primate Project, I can only say thank you for the opportunity. I feel incredibly grateful for the immense benefit I have gained from the experience and education you offered me. I sincerely hope to take you up on the offer to work together again.

If you would like to enquire about the chance to work with the Zambia Primate Project then find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/ZambiaPrimateProject

Or through the Born Free Foundations website: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/primates/campaign-action/zambian-primate-project/
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TigerTime now — Guest post by Christopher Marsh

TigerTime now is a campaign established by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and it is a key player among charities fighting to protect and save tigers in the wild. The campaign involves raising awareness and funds — with the help of events, fundraising auctions, education programmes, animal adoption packages and an ever-growing online presence — highlighting the key issues that need to be tackled.

At the centre of the campaign is the aim to fund conservation projects around the world, most notably in Russia, India and Thailand and to urgently ban the illegal trade of tigers; their bones; skins and body parts.

tigertime-twitter

It’s main website, which contains vital information and education tools, is tigertime.info and is managed by Vicky Flynn, a passionate advocate for tigers.

As one of its many official supporters, my role is to lend my voice to the campaign; raising awareness of its cause, and contributing by raising funds to help its mission in preventing the rapid decline of the species and ensuring that the tiger does not face extinction at the hands of those who seek to make profit from tiger parts or by using these endangered animals for entertainment, particularly for tourism ventures.

The exploitation of tigers for tourism purposes is far-reaching, including anything from circuses to the ‘selfie’ culture; a running trend of putting these animals under poor conditions through which they can be forced into use as props for tourists and photos.

The campaign is on a mission to put a stop to these crimes against the tiger.

TigerTime now conservation projects also look to successfully bring these animals out of danger; relocating them back into the wild, or housing them in sanctuaries, where they will be safer and out of harm’s way from hunters and profiteers.

I loved tigers growing up as a kid, and I’ve always had a fascination with nature and animals, stemming from watching David Attenborough documentaries in complete awe, trips to zoos or coming across wildlife out and about. But my love for the tiger truly came to fruition once I became more aware of humanity’s affect on them, and becoming more informed about how some people in the world treat them as nothing more than trophies or trade deals.

tigers-photo

This really startled me and I just could not fathom how, in a world of such beauty, awe and wonder, humans could dismantle their existence and bring themselves to kill such fiercely majestic, wonderous creatures. It was heartbreaking and it hit me hard, and so I knew that I had to do something about it, no matter what means I had to do so. This truly encouraged me to seek out others who shared the same passion.

I came across TigerTime now and I reached out to them so that I too could be involved and contribute to their mission by any means necessary. My recent involvement includes raising funds through pieces of artwork, where TigerTime supporters, including myself, were tasked to create a piece of art to be auctioned off for their annual ‘Stars and Stripes’ charity auction; which took place both online and at the Mall Galleries in London.

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The Water Roamer, TigerTime charitable auction submission by Christopher Marsh

My further involvement and plans at this present time will include more fundraising and being a continued voice for the campaign. I urge anyone with an equal passion for animals to join our campaign in saving the tiger from extinction by signing up here. For me, a world where tigers do not exist, where they are taught only as an extinct animal existing only in pictures, is incomprehensible.

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Guest post on Scarphelia – passing on the volunteer spirit

Last week I wrote a guest blog post for an amazing lifestyle and philosophy blog I follow, called Scarphelia. As it’s in keeping with the attitudes and thoughts I try to share on this blog, I thought I’d re-post it on here too. I hope some of you can relate!

SCARPHELIA

Ambition & Adventure – Guest Post #1


by Kate Snowdon

‘There are two things in life that drive me. Ambition and adventure.

It’s ambition that gets me up in the morning; that’s made me set so many career goals, and that’s led to me achieving exactly what I set out to achieve at school, college, uni and (hopefully) thereafter.

But adventure is like my secret fix.

For someone so sensible and academic, admitting that I’m addicted to an adrenaline rush, to the point of having found myself jumping from planes, cage diving with great white sharks, and throwing myself from buildings, bridges and platforms of all kinds (including the world’s highest commercial bungee jump) and even having more than 15 hours in a tattoo shop chair, is usually a bit of a surprise to people.

I feel alive in my work and love what I do, but I just feel MORE alive when I’m challenging conventions and boundaries. Like I’m enjoying a new level of consciousness.

I think it’s that new state of consciousness – like another layer to life – that I also feel I’m entering when I’m travelling. I’m a collector of countries and experiences and a meeter of people: and that thrills me. New people and new places are amazing.

From the Spanish lady in a hostel in NZ, that had had to have her leg reattached (via 80 operations) after a motorbike accident; or the man in South Africa who’d just got back from volunteering as an engineer in Afghanistan after both his parents died suddenly in unrelated incidents; to the Dutch life coach, whom I had many fire-side conversations with as we travelled with another through the endless red sands of the Australian outback – the reasons that people find themselves with nothing but a rucksack and a compass are always fascinating.

One of my favourite kinds of people to meet, are volunteers and missionaries.

Now, I am in no way a religious person – after years of being agnostic I eventually moved over to being an atheist – and I don’t really feel any huge sense of moral duty (or subsequent righteous glory) but I just get one of my adrenaline rushes from throwing everyday life and conventions to the wind, to do something else – for the love of it. And those like-minded people I meet along the way often have really spiritual or philosophical personality types.

Coming from your average lower middle class ‘find a way to “get by” off of your own back and make sacrifices to do so’ kind of family, I’ve always resented the idea of money a little bit. The idea that paper or cheap metal can make the difference between living your dreams and merely surviving (or worse, not surviving.), so the freedom and liberation that comes from ignoring… no, rejecting… money in my ‘different layer of consciousness’ is awesome.

I think that’s why I love to travel to far away places and work for free and ‘for a greater cause’ – because that’s just where I’m drawn to when I ignore every boundary and convention of life’s unwritten rules.

It’s led me to singing nursery rhymes in a Jamaican school, watching a lion on an operating table, climbing a mountain, buying masses of thrift store toys for disabled children, bottle-feeding baby elephants, educating poverty-stricken communities in an ‘AIDs Awareness tent’, giving away all of my socks (and half a ruck sack of clothes to use for materials) to make sock puppets at an orphanage, riding on the roof of a lorry and pouring in buckets of water onto over-heated eland (big massive antelope) and for four very long hours; counting cockatoo against the Aussie skyline.

The strangest conclusion I’ve come to from these hair-raising, people-meeting, volunteer expeditions is the theory that good deeds are passed on.

That’s not me claiming to have invented karma; this is something different. The idea that one good, out of the ordinary deed can inspire someone else to carry out another. Imagine, for example, the aforementioned lady from the motorbike crash – if she’s volunteering in at a school, because the ambulance drivers that saved her life were volunteers and she feels inspired, then maybe one of the school children would remember her kindness, and go on to volunteer at a soup kitchen. If one of those homeless people turns their life around; they may go on to volunteer with anti-social or ‘at risk’ teenagers, and so on.

I’m not on some mission to save the world. But imagine if by some ‘moral’ chain reaction, we just made it a little better.’

– Kate Snowdon

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For me, ever since I met her, Kate has been a constant inspiration, an enterprising mentor and moreover an idol of mine. After meeting at the start of this year, I couldn’t have possibly asked for anyone greater to help steer me on the right path and the path to my future.
I was honoured to have the opportunity to present the Blogging Masterclass alongside her in March, and even more honoured to have her as my first silver-grid guest blogger on Scarphelia.
I can only hope one day I follow in her footsteps and can create a just as impressive impact on the world – as you can see, she certainly has the right idea!
Scarlet-Ophelia.