VAALWATER — World Rhino Day is celebrated internationally on 22 September. Waterberg Academy, in conjunction with Save the Waterberg Rhino, commemorated World Rhino Day at the school premises on Thursday 19 September by hosting various stakeholders in the Waterberg community.
Save the Waterberg Rhino was started in November 2012, and their mission is to help raise awareness and support the war against rhino poaching.
Save the Waterberg Rhino enjoys a close working relationship with Supporting Rhino owners, Private Reserves, South African National Parks and general security in the Waterberg Biosphere.
Mark Godfrey, Principal of Waterberg Academy, welcomed everyone and the Head Boy of the school opened with prayer.
Col Potgieter, Provincial Commander of Search and Rescue, introduced all the participating teams.
The day was marked by a display of the South African Police Services with their K9 Unit, bomb squad, tactical team, horse riders as well as helicopters.
Various scenarios were staged and demonstrated, such as a rhino poaching, a fight at a nearby shebeen and a potential drowning among others.
Major General Jan Scheepers, Acting Provincial Commissioner, welcomed all stakeholders and everyone present. He expressed his hope that everyone will be more active in the prevention of rhino poaching after what they saw.
“It is an honour and privilege to address you on World Rhino Day. I believe that the children are the leaders of tomorrow. You are the people that will be responsible for protecting our wildlife, our fauna and flora and rhinos in future.
“As parents, we need to be responsible and make sure our children get a proper education. Without education, there will be no future – not for you, not for your neighbour, not for this country.
“As adults, we are primarily responsible for protecting the endangered species, so that our children will one day inherit a healthy environment from us.
“Wildlife in SA creates tourism opportunities for this area, and it contributes to the economy of this country.
“I was always under the impression that we are looking after rhinos, but the reality is that they are looking after us.
“If there were no rhinos, there would not be people from all over the world visiting South Africa. If there were no tourists who come to visit our beautiful country and our wildlife, we would have been without jobs, guesthouses, and beautiful game farms.
“Wildlife is important to us – it pays for your education; it pays for your lifestyle; it creates future opportunities for our younger generation.
“After what I’ve seen here today, I was impressed – not only by the security forces but also by the community at large. If we are united in the fighting of crime with the ability that we have here – there is no opportunity for crime.
He furthermore said things in South Africa go wrong because law-abiding citizens are keeping quiet.
“We are not reporting to the police, our teachers or the wildlife rangers when we see strange people in our community.
“When you know your neighbour is running an illegal shebeen or assaulting his wife and raping the children, you cannot keep quiet. Today, I want to say – let’s stop keeping quiet. Let our voices be heard.
We, as a community, need to stand together.
“Liquor, drugs and violence in the community are destroying our future. Let us please report it, let us work together,” Genl Scheepers urged.
He said that he is humbled and inspired by the excellent facilities in the Waterberg area.
“You can stop the poachers. There is no way that they are going to get away forever, but we need eyes and ears. Our young children and everyone else – you need to be our eyes and ears so that we can make sure that we prevent it. You are the leaders of tomorrow. You will also be the ambassadors of this country when it comes to wildlife”.
Genl Scheepers concluded by saying that he had the opportunity to judge some of the rhinos that were made by school learners in the area from recovered material, and it inspired him.
Waterberg Academy in Limpopo is a proud member of WESSA (Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa) and is one of the few schools nationally who proudly fly the Eco Flag after being one of the few schools to attain the Silver Decade Award and status in 2018.