Sitting around a campfire, getting ready for a midnight patrol, a young boy of about 11 years asked me: “What does Shinkwe mean?” To get to my answer I must first explain how I and this young boy mutually agreed about the meaning.
Around January 2016 a cow on this specific project of “Renostermaan” (Rhino Moon) was shot by poachers, for the second time, and she again survived, but was severely wounded. Her owner and ground crew hectically tried to find her, to locate the area where the poachers had breached and to make the area safe for the other rhinos.
She was darted from a helicopter and treatments started immediately to save her life. During this time our team was on the farm for a normal bushveld get away, not even realising that there are rhinos on the reserve. However, we could tell that something was seriously wrong; it was as if a dark cloud hovered over us. Hush-hush conversations were held and then the reserve owner decided to let us in on the secret. Apologising for her absence, she informed us that they had a security breach and a rhino had been shot and wounded.
Was it easy to see a person with such mixed emotions – heartbroken, mad, exhausted, panicked and trying to keep everyone safe? To put it in perspective – a poacher is not just a criminal, they are some of the most fearless and heartless criminals you can find, and would not hesitate to kill. So NO, it wasn’t easy to see the owner in such a state. At that moment we realised, this is what many private rhino owners endure on a daily basis. They really care for their rhinos. They monitor them daily, getting to know each rhino’s character, whilst being in the wild and roaming free. They get attached to them, love them and each and every expense they have to pay towards their rhinos, they will. It is their passion to keep them alive!
So this was the birth of “Renostermaan”. We started with awareness towards private rhinos, by getting the public involved and supporting these reserve owners with our presence during the full moon periods. We do this by assisting with patrols, financing the feed, security and other expenses since they receive no external support from government. These gestures assist the private owner to help their rhinos, to keep going on when all seems too much. We strongly believe that the future of rhinos is within the hands of private ownership in South Africa.
So coming back to the story – what does Shinkwe mean, this being the name of the rhino cow that was shot and survived? We don’t know, everyone tried to google, used translations and asking around, but one thing is for sure – Shinkwe means – Hope for a second chance.