守望地球

Into the Wilderness, Saving Black Rhinos

Into the Wilderness, Saving Black Rhinos

九月 29
13:33 2013

Into the Wilderness, Saving Black Rhinos

图/文   守望地球青少年科考志愿者 Angela Zhang

angela1Enjoying the morning breeze of Kenya, I climbed atop a tree branch. Accompanied with deer grazing below me, I watched the sun rise slowly before my eyes. I could feel the cool wind gently brushing against my skin. Birds were singing on the tree branches above me, and the wet bark from the morning dew were felt upon my fingertips. This was the first time in years that I felt this close to nature.

We all come from nature, yet we have all been, in many ways, destroying our own natural environment. Enough is not enough — greed and arrogance have led to excessive desires for more. The human race has sped in science and technology development to fulfill our own needs of making life easier. But we have largely neglected the negative consequences we have made to the natural environment and the habitats of other animals. In Beijing, seeing a blue sky during the day or stars at night is just as rare as seeing endangered animals in the wild, such as Black Rhinos.

angela2We have initially damaged the natural order of nature, so it is also our obligation to restore and preserve what is left now. I decided to join Operation Earth and participate in the project of saving the Black Rhinos. Since we cannot revive those that have already gone extinct, what we can do is to protect and conserve those that are still alive. Indeed, there are many species on earth that are critically endangered but as an individual with limited abilities, I cannot save them all at once. So I have chosen to focus on one species and tried my best to help them live.

The Black Rhino population has declined drastically mainly because of poaching. Their ivory horns,which can be as long as up to half a meter, have attracted many groups of people that want them in their own possession. Some carve the ivory into an art piece and display it to show off their wealth. Others think that they are panaceas that could cure all diseases. For whatever reasons, the Black Rhinos are being brutally killed for their ivories and have reached the status of critically endangered with a population of only 3000 remaining. It is time for me to do something about this Rhino crisis!

angela3I departed from China in mid-July and arrived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy research center with 12 other students after a bumpy-road ride. As soon as I got off the bus, I noticed buffalo skulls hung up on the door beams. Looking into their eye-sockets, I shuddered with anxious excitement. During the first night, as I curled up in my sleeping bag in awe of the coldness, I could hear rustling sounds and occasional animal growls near my tent. I thought to myself: “This was going to be an adventure like no other.”

Our main job during the 8 days was to patrol and record information about Acacia trees. Since these thorny trees make up 75% of the Black Rhino diet, it is very crucial to examine the number of existing damaged or undamaged Acacia trees. By recording the height, diameter, damage status, and ant type that nested within the tree, the research center could monitor and evaluate how the Rhino protection project is progressing.  After trained by the conservancy on how to correctly use a compass and GPS to locate the Acacia trees, we split into four teams and went to work each morning to record the tree growth, damage type, ant type and seedling distribution. I felt very comfortable working with my team, as we worked with tacit agreement, naturally splitting the jobs up and finishing our tasks with enthusiasm and high efficiency.

angela4Above the dormer of the car, I sat overhead on the edge silently taking photos of lions that were only 5 meters away. Everyday after completing our daily tasks, we had the opportunity to be taken on game-drives to cruise around the conservancy to search for wildlife and look forward to unexpected surprises. As the sun slowly sets, painting the blue sky red, the cool breeze gradually becomes brisk, spearing into my very bones. Sitting up top, despite freezing cold as ice, I sill stood out to enjoy every moment of being out in the open, marveling how magical nature could be.

The happy days past by quickly, as it was time to leave Kenya. Looking back, there were times where we laughed joyously, there were times where we were scared, and there were times where we felt truly proud of ourselves. But we had to say goodbye at last. It is hard to say goodbye to those you want to stay with, but it is more painful to ask those to stay when you know they must leave. All unwilling to slip into that desolate hole, no one broke into tears. Avoiding an accidental spill out, each of us swallowed our sadness in. Instead, we stood in silence, gently hugged one another, and waved goodbye.