A Girl!

May 8, 2007

One can wait a whole lifetime for a moment like this. The woman whom you never hope to meet now sits before you, and she talks and looks exactly like the person you dreamed about. But strangest of all is that you never realized before that you had dreamed about her. Your whole past is like a long sleep which would have been forgotten had there been no memory, but remembrance is there in the blood and the blood is like an ocean in which everything is washed away but that which is new and more substantial even than life: REALITY.


The seed for a great miracle lies in impossibility.

April 23, 2007

They say that the condition for a great miracle lies in impossibility- but nothing on earth can keep me from leaving beautiful Uganda and the rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. But I have been left with no choice. The politics, corruption, lack of support for the project from key role players in the country and an uncertain future for me has left me with no option. I cannot believe that I have made this choice, because it is an opportunity of a lifetime for me and I am so, so passionate about the re-introduction project, but the odds are stacked so incredibly high.

As I write this there is a leopard calling on the outskirts of my garden, the rhinos are happily grazing on the lawn and the whole area around headquarters is crawling with wildlife since the cattle have been moved off the property- the pearl of Uganda I say! But its as if I am sitting in the middle of this small piece of paradise screaming my lungs out for help and support and it continuously falls on deaf ears. Pages and pages of reports and recommendations on how best to do this first of its kind project seems to make no difference- a crying shame, since the potential for this project is unending.

During my short time here I have learnt an incredible amount, met some fascinating people and have been in situations that I would not want my worst enemies to be in- but great none-the-less. To the people and organisations that have supported me and the project, I say a massive thank you. Thank you for listening, thank you for you financial contributions and thank you for flying out from all corners of the globe to see how things are going on the ground.

I have witnessed real injustices, poverty, the arrogance of power, the ignorance of foreigners, the obliteration of proud cultures and beautiful landscapes and my hands are tied to try and educate, protect and create awareness for this beautiful part of Gods creation we call Africa.

Siyabonga. Siyabonga iNkosi!

Steve Erwin?? Jeff Corwin?? Come on. I am waiting!!!

March 8, 2007

In typical Deren fashion I have gone and koeksistered myself royally!! I have probably had one of the most legendary weeks of my life and I will have to sit down and think pretty hard to find something to beat it….besides flying of course!!

The Slate Foundation, whose slogan is “So the children of tomorrow might know thehollywood-shooting-crew-plus-by-lloyd-003.jpg animals of today”, have spent the last week here at the Rhino Sanctuary filming a show that will be broadcast on Discovery Channel together with other animals such as manatees, wolves, wild horses and whales, focusing on educating children on the importance of wildlife conservation. The show revolves around a day in the lives of the biologists, scientists and conservationists who dedicate their lives to save these magnificent animals.

So why have I gone and thrown myself a curve-ball and confused the hell out of myself? Well my whole idea- personally, is to educate people and particularly kids in the role they can and should play to conserve wildlife. Working with Madison, Bill and the rest of the crew made me realise just how powerful film can be in getting this message over to the kids of today. So yes, Deren is considering a career change!

Five days of chock-a-block filming that resulted in around 40 hours of footage and somehollywood-shooting-crew-plus-by-lloyd-005.jpg unforgettable experiences has had a noticeable effect on my outlook on wildlife conservation. When I was first approached by Madison I had no idea what to expect as our last film crew who visited was rather disappointed and the rhinos did not co-operate and neither did I, as I went down with malaria the day they arrived! But these guys were incredible. Passionate, motivated, outgoing and just up for anything- it is just what I needed, and I think at the end of the day everyone involved took something special away from their time with the rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. And me who didn’t leave, my life was was enriched by a tiny self-funded, non-profit and motivated film crew who are striving (and succeeding) to educate the kids of today about our endangered species.

Check out their website. They do some incredible stuff!hollywood-shooting-crew-plus-by-lloyd-481.jpg

To Bill, Madison, Seth, Carrie, Jason and Doc, a massive, massive thank you. See you all in LA sometime. Good luck with all your work and if you need someone in your team in the future you know where to find me! And watch out for those damn sticker bushes!! Keep on keeping on guys!

Consumptive vs Non-consumptive Utilization of Wildlife Resources

February 26, 2007

Are bans on hunting and trade the best way to conserve species?

It is natural for people to jump to the conclusion that they are. After all, if no one is allowed to kill an animal, the thinking goes, surely its population will grow…

To understand why hunting and trade bans are not as effective as they are supposed to be, it is worth considering elephant conservation programmes in Africa, where countries have adopted two diverse strategies.

Elephant tusks (ivory) are used in artefacts around the world and, whether we like it or not, they command a market value similar to many precious metals. As a result, there is a constant international demand for ivory.

Unfortunately, most African economies are poor and wildlife conservation has to compete with many pressing demands for public money, such as the provision of public housing, sanitation projects, health care (particularly related to Aids) and education.

African elephant and her calf (Image: AP)

So conservation projects are going to be most successful if they can be self-supporting; in other words, if they can generate income and provide local jobs.

In southern Africa, countries have followed the philosophy of sustainable use. They have issued permits to sport hunters to kill a limited number of elephants that are pre-selected according to factors like age and sex. They cannot shoot breeding animals, for example.

Sport hunting produces significant income through hunting fees, safari costs (guides, accommodation, trophy fees, etc.) and this is reinvested into conservation programmes. Local people support it because it provides secure employment.

The result is that in Namibia, South Africa and Botswana, elephant populations are well-stocked and healthy, while incidences of poaching have been kept to low levels.

By contrast, Kenya takes a protectionist approach. Killing elephants is prohibited and the country steadfastly argues against international trade in ivory.

An unintended consequence is that poaching is encouraged because local people receive little added value from the elephants and, instead, see a local resource going to waste.

In some areas people suffer when elephants destroy crops and homes. Habitat damage from dense populations also negatively impacts many other species.

Conservation in Kenya has become largely a law enforcement operation and, inevitably, this is a drain on limited local resources.

While elephant populations have recovered, poaching remains a problem and, in stark contrast to southern Africa, people have to be paid to shoot problem animals.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency for nations to practice sustainable use at home while prescribing protectionism abroad.

This is true for African elephants, seals, sturgeon, whales, tigers, rhinos and many of the so-called “charismatic” species.

In the future, the fate of many animals may well depend on the extent to which the public around the world starts to accept the idea of utilising wildlife in a sustainable way.

The Good. The Bad. The F***ed up!!

February 20, 2007

I have eventually reached that point where one decides whats the hell is going on? What is it that I am trying to accomplish? Why am I trying to be different? And why the hell am I trying to beat the odds that are stacked so high against me to succeed in a half-baked pie of a conservation project?

The answer is I have no idea. People may read this; some may be our donors- people who invest heavily in this initiative, people that are conned into investing money into a “worthy”conservation project….a conservation project that Uganda couldn’t give a damn about, let alone the owner of the property. I think they should know whats going on! Anyway. Below is a very brief summary of proceedings in my life over the past five or so months whilst being Executive Director of a joke of a project.

October 2006 – It all begins

The Good: Start at an awesome project. Incredible experience. Good staff compliment- and they are trained!! Working in a new and exciting country and in a worthy conservation project- Re-introducing rhino back into the wilds of Uganda since their extinction back in 1982!!! AWESOME!
The Bad: The house I live in is a shambles. The three vehicles are in a diabolical state and need urgent repair. The perimeter fence has never worked and needs a huge revamp. One of my staff tries to commit suicide. I have no contract or work permit or off shore bank account as promised a few weeks earlier in the interview. The GM of DAS Air (same owner as Ziwa) refused to be signatory on RFU accounts as agreed to two weeks earlier. The official in charge of issuing CITIES permits will not issue a permit to send dung samples of the female rhino back to the states for hormone analysis – strange, because he is on the projects Board of Directors!!
The F***ed up:
DAS Air refuses to pay my pitiful salary as agreed two weeks earlier during the interview process.

November 2006 – The spiral begins

The Good: Disney Animal Kingdom agree to continue supporting the project. New potential investors in Save the Rhino International are interested in getting involved. The vehicles are up and running.
The Bad: Still no sign of salary, work permit, bank account. No CITIES permits. Personal belongings get swiped out of my house. Two solar panels that power the perimeter fence get swiped. Lawyers letter arrives for dispute between previous management and a staff member. My colleague gets badly burnt with petrol. Staff are not motivated to work and hardly anyone pitches to work on time or at all. Staff demand 150% salary increases!
The F***ed up: I am informed that RFU owes US$ 1300 for an outstanding fuel bill.

December – OK here we go!

The Good: I have a friend coming to stay at the end of the month and its Christmas! I get a contract scribbled on one and a half pieces of paper. The boundary fence is up and running for the first time in its existence.
The Bad: Staff are grumbling because of unfulfilled promises by previous management. Via the grapevine I figure there is trouble looming. I give them the option of being patient until we get more donor support, or retrench 9 people. No salary or work permit or CITIES permit yet. Things get stolen out of my house again.
The F***ed up: A staff member who is meant to be on duty and lies that he is not points a loaded AK47 assault rifle at me, I grab him by the collar and pull him out of the room. He lays charges of assault against me. Police make me pay him US$ 4000 as compensation, together with a reference letter of good service and an open invite to come and work for RFU again! In a separate incident other staff members go on strike with the rest of the AK’s and are drunk. I hear that they want to shoot me! For what I have no idea? Police are eventually called in to clear up. It takes them 3 days. I recieve a letter to say thet RFU owes Conrad Motors thousands of dollars for fixing a written off project vehicle that was repaired in early 2006!!

January 2007 – Beyond the point of no return!

The Good: Its a new year. An opportunity to put last year behind you and start fresh! Develop new website fro the Sanctuary. I go to Kenya for a Rhino Management Workshop. We get our first film-crew visiting the Sanctuary.
The Bad: I get Malaria and have to sleep in the passage on a mattress at night with two firearms for safety reasons. Retrenchment goes ahead all staff involved steal most of the equipment assigned to them. They hang around at the main gate for two weeks plotting something, and threatening the other staff if they return back to work. I get UWA in to remove six AK’s from the property and leave us with five. Still no salary, bank account or work permit! One rhino gets gored by another. Our dominant female is getting very thin. Surrounding communities are cutting the fence on a daily basis to push cattle onto the property for grazing.
The F***ed up: Another two solar panels are stolen. One of the retrenched staff sabotages one of the AK’s by removing the firing pin. My head ranger together with the police decide its best to steal one from the Uganda Military against my direct orders not to. Get lawyers letter to say that someone is suing RFU for US$ 14,500.00 for a car accident that happened in Feb 2006!!

February 2007 – The end must be near!!

The Good: I have two mates coming from the UK to help out on the sanctuary for a while. I draw my first salary and decide to back date all my owed money to me by the fund. I am rich!! The cattle are moved off the property, the guesthouses are painted and we get our first guests. Staff get food rations and complain that it is still not enough.
The Bad: Still no bank account, work permit or CITIES permit. The rhinos seem to be getting caught in wire just about every day. Three of the RFU board members have negotiated a deal to bring in another two white rhinos into Uganda and have left RFU out of the loop!! Strange!! Staff still do not pitch for work or complete assigned tasks. I am expected to run Ziwa Tourism and the whole farm for Capt. Joe Roy for free!! You must be having a laugh!
The F***ed up: Another two solar panels get swiped. The project is in a serious nose dive purely because of crap decision making in the past by various individuals. I am happy that others are bringing rhinos in onto public land! Good for them. I am thinking about moving the project or myself somewhere where it will be a success. With the cattle moving off the property so has all the equipment, including tractors, trailers, generators, pumps and tools. As a result the property does not have water, only five hours of solar power during the day, the guesthouse has been closed because of no water and the horses and 40 odd staff are thirsty and grumpy!! Now its becoming a little more than just F***ed Up!!

So in a nutshell that’s what been up at Ziwa and RFU since I have been here! Still keen on investing I ask people??!! “Let me think. Hold on…..Hell yes!!” is the reply I get!! Ha!
RFU and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a farce. There is no intention to complete the goals and objectives set out in the original RFU Rhino Action Plan!! Its only to get one private landowner- who is not putting a cent into the project, to own Uganda’s only six white rhinos and a whole bunch of other game animals in the future and to generate the only benefit from it! I say bugger that. Move the rhinos off privately owned land and onto public land where the whole of Uganda will benefit out of the project, not just one rich individual!

Take it or leave it! These are just my thoughts….. straight from the horses mouth as it were!

I am an African by Wayne Visser

January 20, 2007


Rhinos- Uganda

I am an African
Not because I was born there
But because my heart beats with Africa’s
I am an African
Not because my skin is black
But because my mind is engaged by Africa
I am an African
Not because I live on its soil
But because my soul is at home in Africa

When Africa weeps for her children
My cheeks are stained with tears
When Africa honours her elders
My head is bowed in respect
When Africa mourns for her victims
My hands are joined in prayer
When Africa celebrates her triumphs
My feet are alive with dancing

I am an African
For her blue skies take my breath away
And my hope for the future is bright
I am an African
For her people greet me as family
And teach me the meaning of community
I am an African
For her wildness quenches my spirit
And brings me closer to the source of life

When the music of Africa beats in the wind
My blood pulses to its rhythm
And I become the essence of music
When the colours of Africa dazzle in the sun
My senses drink in its rainbow
And I become the palette of nature
When the stories of Africa echo round the fire
My feet walk in its pathways
And I become the footprints of history

I am an African
Because she is the cradle of our birth
And nurtures an ancient wisdom
I am an African
Because she lives in the world’s shadow
And bursts with a radiant luminosity
I am an African
Because she is the land of tomorrow
And I recognise her gifts as sacred