purpose | Travel

Travel with a purpose for rhinos

*This content is brought to you by the Impact Division of the Mantis Collection

unique opportunity to join a rhino procedure awaits you when booking the ‘Rhino Conservation Experience’ at Mantis Founders Lodge, situated in the biodiverse Eastern Cape of South Africa. This Mantis Impact Experience is a four-day immersion into the world of conservation, where you will be learning from expert conservationists, be a part of the action and make a difference.

How does tourism ensure conservation is sustainable?

With tourism having come to a grinding halt while the world continues to battle the Covid pandemic, so too has the primary source of funding for wildlife conservation. This is because the conservation of game reserves is usually funded through a small conservation levy which each guest pays when they go on a safari. Without the pre-Covid volume of travellers, it’s been a challenge to fund essential reserve management functions such as maintaining the fences and roads, continuing with vital research, providing supplementary feed to animals during the current drought, running a full-time anti-poaching team, and taking care of animals’ welfare.

How will booking the Rhino Conservation Experience help?

As local travel starts to recover, conservationists are adopting a new approach by seeking to include guests in these operations. A percentage of the cost per guest directly covers the rhino procedures and contributes to community conservation projects while guests enjoy the opportunity to take part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The experience provides guests with an intimate encounter of this endangered species as well as an opportunity to meet the family of Founders rhinos while learning a great deal about their species and how various technologies, such as AI (Artificial Intelligence), are being used in rhino conservation worldwide.  

Why are rhinos darted? 

Being a high-profile and keystone species, rhinos’ welfare and safety are prioritized. Regular health checks are required where blood samples are taken to test for pathogens. These checks are usually planned to coincide with other necessary procedures so that individual rhinos are not darted too often as this could have negative consequences for their health. Sometimes a rhino’s tracking device may need its battery replaced, or a female may need to undergo an ultrasound scan in the field if pregnancy is suspected – especially during times of drought, such as the one the region is currently experiencing, to ensure that her supplementary feed be adjusted to provide the essential vitamins and minerals during pregnancy. Other reasons could be that a young rhino may need to receive its first ear notch – a way of marking the rhinos for individual identification purposes, a decision may be taken to dehorn rhinos or a rhino could have picked up an injury that requires veterinary attention.

What to expect on the rhino procedure day

The rhino procedures take place on day 3 of the experience, once guests have received a thorough introduction to conservation during guest speaker talks. The wildlife veterinarian will also provide a thorough briefing and answer any questions from guests. When darting rhinos, avoiding the midday heat is important as they are prone to overheat once sedated, so it’s an early start. After the wildlife veterinary surgeon and his team are comfortable with the rhino’s vital signs, guests will have the opportunity to get up close and assist in monitoring for any signs of concern. Guests could find themselves taking the rhino’s temperature, helping to keep the rhino cool by spraying water over it, clearing vegetation around the animal to provide better access for the veterinary team, ensuring the earplugs and blindfold stay in place, monitoring the surroundings for any other inquisitive rhinos – it’s a very hands-on experience.

What else is part of the Rhino Conservation Experience?

To gain a better understanding of the significant conservation history of the region, guests will also enjoy game drive safaris on Shamwari Private Game Reserve, founded by Mantis Executive Chairman, Adrian Gardiner, back in 1992. An opportunity to enjoy local culture through an interactive drumming session is always appreciated by guests.

Tree planting and bee farming are also part of the guest experience, forming part of our community outreach initiatives. The Mantis Collection’s foundation, the Community Conservation Fund Africa (CCFA) establishes sustainable community development projects across the Mantis portfolio of properties, and at Mantis Founders Lodge they support enterprise development through their vegetable and bee farming initiatives.

Director of Mantis Impact, Taryn Ingram-Gillson commented, “Rather than just asking for donations for our necessary conservation operations, we would prefer to invite guests to be a part of the action. I firmly believe that the one-on-one experience that guests will have with our rhinos is profoundly impactful. To place your hand on a wild rhino and feel its heartbeat is life-changing.

To learn firsthand about conservation from our wildlife veterinarian and conservationists is priceless. We want to educate people about our conservation work in a fun, hands-on way so that guests leave as conservation ambassadors.”  

Be part of a conservation legacy. Travel with purpose. 

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