Emotions run high as Chinese students learn about rhino conservation
Johannesburg - Students from several universities in China visited South Africa this week, ahead of World Rhino Day on Saturday, to learn and then educate their own communities on environmental and rhino protection matters.
China is one of the largest consumers of rhino horn. The initiative is to inspire change and help protect Africa’s natural heritage.
“Hovering in the helicopter over the rhino poaching crime scene, I wasn’t sure what I should feel. Everything was mixed up. I felt shame, sadness, and devastation welling up at the same time. Our species is supposed to protect animals, and what we are doing here is just not right," said Hu Kai, a student from Shanghai, China.
The initiative uses the creative skills of Chinese youth to inspire change as a formal part of their university curriculum. It is the outcome of a partnership between the Peace Parks Foundation and Tongji University.
This year the group travelled to Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal, which is also known as the birthplace of the rhino.
Through workshops, students engaged with experts who have been working in conservation for many years. They heard personal accounts of the costs involved in anti-poaching operations, the sacrifices it demands, and the rewards when animals are saved
“This is an opportunity for them to come to the South African bushveld and immerse themselves in the subject of rhino conservation. Their time here is spent gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of that which influences and informs some of the design activities that they are engaged in China,” Peace Parks chief operations officer Brad Poole said.
Ezemvelo's park manager for the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Jabulani Ngubane said he was happy to see people from China change perceptions, especially those of the youth, because "if you want to make a real investment that is where you start", he said.