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Mon Sep 01 23:04:04 SAST 2014

Girls lead charge to save rhino

AARTI J NARSEE | 13 June, 2013 00:42
A male White Rhino calf stands up next to his mother at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo in this handout picture obtained by Reuters. The calf, who has not yet been named, was born on May 14.
Image by: HANDOUT / REUTERS

"I don't know if I will be here tomorrow so please make the world hear my plea and last words. Your friend, Mr Rhino."

These words are from a poem 11-year-old Aaminah Patel wrote to raise awareness about rhino poaching.

Aaminah, and her eight-year-old sister, Afeefah, were recognised yesterday as Rhino SA "Little Champions" at Robertsham Primary School, south of Johannesburg.

Aaminah said her concern for rhinos started when her father showed her a video.

"I wanted to cry. The rhino's whole face was cut out and it was bleeding to death, struggling to breathe."

Afeefah was recognised last year for the letter she wrote to President Jacob Zuma pleading with him to save the rhinos.

In response, SANParks awarded Afeefah the Corporate Contribution to Conservation Award at its annual Kudu Awards.

She donated R5000 of the R20000 she received to the Unite Against Poaching fund.

More than 400 rhinos have been poached since January 1 and it is predicted that the number will reach 800 before the year is out .

Afeefah, who often visits the Kruger National Park with her family, said: "It makes me sad. I like animals; the rhino is my favourite."

Irene Huysamen, chairman of the Green Wall of Africa SEE Network Projects, told the children yesterday: "These rhinos belong to you, each and every one of them. One rhino is being killed every eight hours. This time tomorrow many of them will not be alive."

Rhino SA president Robin Cook said it was predicted that rhinos would be extinct in 17 years.

"One day your children will ask you: 'Mummy, Daddy why can't we see any rhinos?' Do you want to say, 'Because my generation didn't do anything to stop it'?

"At the rate the rhino is being massacred it will affect the economy and tourism of our country," Huysamen said.

Rhino SA is trying to "mobilise the youth" to raise awareness of the plight of the rhino. Initiatives include a R20 donation for "walking, talking rhino badges", sending letters to the president and starting rhino clubs at schools.

Shiraaz Patel, Aaminah and Afeefah's father, said: "If we can get more rhino 'Little Champions' it will be meaningful. Each and every child should take the journey forward and save the rhino."

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