Dete, Zimbabwe, February 2011


Providential Painted Dogs


The Painted Dog Conservation Project (PDC), not far from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, is definitely one of the most successful conservation projects in the world and this visit, with my friend Renaud Fulconis (www.awely.org), is once again proof. 


I will never forget my first visit here and the children who sang about AIDS during the last evening of an incredible bush camp organized by the PDC.


How many 10 to 12 year olds around you talk about AIDS?  In Zimbabwe, sadly, it is a daily reality. This “silent epidemic” most often hits the children hardest, psychologically and often physically.   


For many, AIDS is a disease of the past, but this virus is more dangerous than ever, everywhere and for everyone.  Educate yourselves, talk about it, especially youth.


St Patrick's Hospital and the PDC actively participate in education, distribution of condoms to help prevent the spread of the disease and treatment (antiretroviral therapy).  Early detection is important in order to be able to act and save lives.  Many people, especially women, are encouraged to undergo testing and to speak more freely with others, and to broach a subject that is taboo because it is so dangerous.


What does this have to do with Painted Dogs?  It is finally clear that to help an animal survive is to assure a good balance with the local community.  The benefits to the local population thanks to the presence of Painted Dogs offer enough reasons to save them.  Greg Rasmussen, Peter Blinston, and the entire team of the PDC understand this and actively participate in www.wild4life.org, an admirable program largely supported by the Wildlife Conservation Network (www.wcn.org). 


On the return trip, I thought to myself that one of these children that sang their despair over AIDS during my first visit will, perhaps, be saved by this program, thanks to these providential Painted Dogs.





Lewa, Kenya, November 2010


Sad trip


Stumpy, my friend the Black Rhinoceros, was killed last night.  Savagely massacred by poachers who gave her no chance. After having also injured her one and a half year old baby (who is now doing better), they cut off her horn which will likely be sent to China to be made into powder to be used in traditional Chinese medicine. 


Stumpy was 41 years old and gave birth to eight babies during her life.  She is the third rhinoceros to be killed in Lewa in the past year, the first in the entire history of the reserve.  Proof that 2010 was a terrible year for rhinoceros in Africa. The numbers are unbelievable. The projection is that by the end of the year more than 300 rhinos will be killed in South Africa, practically one a day!  Zimbabwe is also affected and Kenya has had around 20 cases. 


Why?  Because each gram of horn is more expensive than gold!  Chinese demand is increasing and people continue to believe that rhinoceros horn can cure maladies like cancer, which is totally false.  Lewa is going to further reinforce security in this “war of the rhinos,” and continue it's work with the local population. 


It is also crucial to educate the population of China.  In 5 or 10 years there will be even more people that have the financial means to purchase these products and the demand for rhinoceros horn and elephant tusks will increase.  This is a problem that must be attacked from all sides.  As long as the demand is high there will be poachers ready to make some “easy” money. 


Today another Black Rhinoceros was born at Lewa, like a symbol of resilience of a fragile species whose future is in the hands of Man.  In South Africa, many schools have already taken action to “say no to poaching.”  The dream is to have the same type of program in Hong Kong and China.  I can promise you that this dream will become a reality in the coming years, bird's word!   






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