HOEDSPRUIT – What started off as a distant yet passionate dream, will at last hit the road early in May when Paul Jennings and Sboniso Phakathi don their walking gear for a three month walk on the N1 from North to South to highlight the plight of rhino populations in South Africa.
Paul and Sboniso (better known as Spoon) will take to the road in Musina and trek all the way to Cape Town in just on three months. Along the way they will stop at schools to talk to children about the importance of protecting rhino now and for future generations.
On Saturday, April 2 Dr Ian Player hosted Spoon and Paul at his home near Howick ahead of their walk from Musina to Cape Town.
‘We all share this earth and evolved together. We all have an equal right to a place under the sun and all wild creatures are man’s brothers and sisters’ is the message that Dr Player sends out to South Africa with the passionate walkers.
Dr Player went on to wish Paul and Spoon well on their trip by saying ‘it is imperative that the plight of these animals is brought into the spotlight, and the Rights for Rhinos walk will achieve this.’
When Paul told Dr Player the amazing story of how this extraordinary walk had come to realization, both men agreed that it was the hand of God that had brought all the necessary parts of the puzzle together in a way that will have an incredible impact not only on South Africa, but hopefully on the rest of the world as well. Hoedspruit was also an imperative ingredient in getting the walk off the ground.
Paul, a game ranger in Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife from 1999 to 2007 has always dreamt of a career in conservation and has a deep passion for protecting South Africa’s natural heritage. Due to a reshuffle in the organization Paul left his work in conservation for a job at a wood chipping mill in Richardsbay.
‘I still live in Umfolozi though and I haven’t been able to contribute actively to the plight of rhino. But I felt an urgent necessity in my heart that there must be something I can do to help’ says Paul in an interview with K2C in January.
In January Paul’s idea of the walk was still just that – an idea. While visiting some friends in Hoedspruit from his Ezemvelo days, Bruce and Wendy van Schoor (who affectionately refer to him as Chewy), the mother and son egged Paul on to go for it and so Bruce introduced Paul to K2C. A big challenge was still to find a suitable partner to walk with him. Spoon regularly sends anti-poaching and other editorial contributions to K2C, so his name immediately came to mind!
After about 5minutes the match was made with an instant connection, both Spoon and Paul have their roots in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal and speak fluent Zulu.
Spoon’s employer, Vincent Barkas from Protrack not only decided to grant Spoon three months of leave, but will also pay Spoon his full salary and provide support to the initiative in any way that they can.
‘Spoon is passionate about conservation and all the wrongs in Africa. He is also able to reach people and make an impact on them. I can’t think of a better person for the task’ says Vincent proudly.
‘I feel so privileged to play a part in something that has the ability to turn a desperate situation into a learning curve for all South Africans. I’m looking forward to being able to touch so many souls!’ says Spoon.
Nissan has agreed to sponsor a support vehicle for the Rights for Rhinos walk.
‘I was supposed to go on holiday to Namibia when I went to visit Bruce and Wendy in Hoedspruit! Now Spoon and I are almost off to visit our first school in Musina’ says a very excited Paul.
Although Paul and Spoon are walking from North to South, a trip of almost 2000km, they hope to also spread a wave of awareness from East to West.
For more info visit www.rightsforrhinos.co.za
By Desiré Wright
Vol 9, Issue 17, 8 April 2011