CONSERVATION

Rhino in his genes

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If the name Grant Fowlds does not ring a bell, you are clearly not that up to speed with conservation in southern Africa. So allow us to introduce to you our new conservation columnist, the internationally respected, Mr Grant Fowlds, a passionate and pro-active conservationist who travels the world in the plight for saving endangered species. Closest to his heart lies the critically endangered rhinoceros.

 

Grant Fowlds comes from a dedicated rhino family who pioneered with others a wildlife project called Amakhala Game Reserve – now a leading tourism brand in the Eastern Cape. As a speaker and ambassador for Project Rhino, he has spread the word to audiences in several countries including consumer countries of South East Asia.

He relates his first-hand experience of growing up in a natural environment with the consequences of 21st century greed for animals in the exploding demand in all forms of animal trafficking. His presentation is centred on the vast increase in rhino poaching in the last decade, where animals are in serious threat of extinction.

As an African linguist, Fowlds shares the vision of African explorer and philanthropic adventurer Kingsley Holgate to reach One Million Youth in Community Conservation for rhino, elephants and gorillas as well as other endangered species in a Simple Art Project in Schools. He has been working in rural communities throughout southern Africa in human wildlife conflict, demand reduction and alternate sources of income via tourism and building range expansion parks.

 

Serious threat of extinction

Our columnist is fiercely focussed on highlighting the alarming increase in rhino poaching, a scourge which has put these mighty animals at serious threat of extinction. He is a partner of Rhino Art. Rhino Art’s ‘Let the children’s voices be heard’ project aims to gather the largest number of children’s ‘Art Voices’ ever recorded, in support of rhino protection, and to use these heartfelt messages from the children of Africa and elsewhere in the world as a rallying cry against rhino poaching.

Shortly after his return from a recent successful trip to Canada and the US to raise funding for conservation, Fowlds told Explore writer James Saunders that people, even in the travel industry, do not acknowledge how important animal conservation is for the tourism industry in Africa – especially considering that our international markets flog to this continent to experience its wildlife.

“Responding to today’s escalating rhino poaching threats and other wildlife crimes requires a new approach, one that needs us to all work together to save a species that has been with us for more than 50 million years.

“In the last five years, South Africa has lost more than  6 000 rhino, equating to almost three per day. The tipping point, in which more rhinos are being poached than are being born, is approaching for our white rhino and black rhino populations. If the poaching continues to escalate at the current rate, we will see the demise of the rhino in major national parks with only small handfuls surviving in well protected areas. It could take decades for the populations to recover,” he says.

Fowlds’ work can be divided into three categories: conservation, consulting and speaking.

“Unbeknown to me, the real conservationist was born when I was a young boy growing up on the farm that gave birth to Amakhala Game Reserve. A combination of declining agricultural margins forced my hand into this sector through a tourism opportunity. Wildlife management started two decades ago and during this time the focus has been on sustainable tourism – it has to pay to stay.

“My love and passion for the wild and responsible tourism has resulted in an opportunity to consult in tourism. This coupled with game introduction and reserve environmental planning has seen my career take me to parts of west, southern and central Africa. I have been a consultant in marketing responsible tourism and an avid supporter of a green and sustainable model,” says Fowlds, who also works closely with all the biggest local and global conservation agencies, including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

As a speaker he has given presentations in locations far and wide, both in South Africa and abroad, including:

  • The University of Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Biodiversity Agency, Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Universidad Belgrano, Beunos Aires
  • Top Service, Brazil
  • Kangaroo, Brazil
  • South African Association for Conference Industry (SAACI)
  • Kashmir World Foundation, Washington DC
  • The University of Richmond, USA
  • Rotary New South Wales, Australia
  • Rotary Christchurch, New Zealand
  • Cavalry and Guards, Piccadilly (London)
  • Eton College, Windsor
  • Sky News, United Kingdom
  • Harvard University, Boston (Massachusetts)
  • Madiba’s Brooklyn, New York
  • WTM Africa 2015
  • WTM Africa Thebe Reed Exhibition 2016
  • Universidad San Sebastian de Chile
  • Press Conference at Beatrice Hotel Kinshasa, DRC
  • Bill Buchanan Home, Durban
  • University of DUT, Durban

 

James Saunders

 

ACCOLADE

In November this year Grant Fowlds will be launching his book, Saving the Last Rhinos - the life of a Frontline Conservationist, which he co-wrote with acclaimed journalist and author Graham Spence.

Saving the Last Rhinos follows his life from childhood to present day with all the ups and downs of conservation in Africa as well as all the crazy stories that go with it. This is a revealing look into the life on the frontlines of the rhino wars like never told before. In a recent piece about Fowlds, aptly named The true face of modern conservation, Spence writes:

“… The guy at the heart of it, conservationist Grant Fowlds, was brought up in the countryside, speaks Xhosa and Zulu flawlessly, and is at the frontline of the conservation wars. Unlike extremely courageous game rangers, he is not fighting it with a gun, which is also vital.

Instead, his weapons are two stark contrasts: the classrooms where he goes to remote schools and gets pupils to draw rhinos depicting what the animals mean to them; and the air-conditioned boardrooms where the resources needed to win this war will be financed.

It’s a rollicking adventure more than a memoir. From smuggling out rhino horn from Vietnam’s black market to trekking with DRC gorillas accompanied by survivors of Africa’s most brutal war that cost five-million lives, it spans several decades of a rich and varied life.

Much of what is happening to the people he works with has happened to him. He’s survived murder attempts. His home’s been invaded. His farm has been expropriated. You would think he would be despondent.

Not at all. In fact, the polar opposite. He has kept the faith ... the faith that Mama Africa will come right. Africa is in his blood, from bird-hunting with Bafana friends in the Xhosa outback, to selling goats in the wild sticks of Zululand, he knows first-hand the folklore, the myths, the beliefs and the legends of those forgotten people, the raggedly-poor majority who live on this continent.

He had no university degrees, no fancy public relations or community outreach diplomas — yet it is grass-roots conservationists like him who are able to straddle the gaping chasm between the hardscrabble peons who live off the land, and those in suits who decide the future.

That is the true face of modern conservation.”

 

 

 

 

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