Guest blog by Target Ndlovu, Cobra Scout
Having the rhino here on our land comes with expectations, responsibility, excitement. It also creates a dignified face for the community and those around us.
The Cobras’ Perspective
After a long time waiting for the rhino to set foot on our communal land, the Cobra Scouts are finally part of this huge conservation plan. The rhinos’ presence has turned our sweat from training into the real thing of protecting these animals.
The fear of armed contact with poachers, the routine under all weather conditions – are no longer practice – we are living it. However, as dangerous and scary as it may be, we are surviving because it is what we were trained to endure. We know that the animals we are looking after need us to be alert at all times.
The Cobras have shared the conservation message throughout the whole community even though our focus is on safeguarding the rhino. Apart from the pride of being a Cobra, the scouts enjoy the privilege of being employed. Out training provides vast knowledge which will be useful for our life after this type of work. Even though it is an individual’s choice to be part of the unit, our families are happy that we are involved in this project. This has instilled hard work in every Cobra – we are protecting what we can best describe as our own future, our “Kusasa”.
The School Children’s Perspective
These fun-loving souls have satisfied their curiosity by arranged visits to the Sanctuary. During their visits, they shower the Cobras with questions about the animal – how it lives, how much and what it eats and drinks. For the children, it is a first time for everything; the encounter with the rhinos, the one-on-one interaction with the scouts, and learning outside of the classroom. Some children spend their play time imitating the Cobras display drill they see on special occasions.
In my village’s school, a group of children has formed a drill squad with the help of a Cobra living in the area (he is looking forward to starting a junior ranger program in that school). School kids love the conservation idea; some of them wish to join the Cobras when they finish school, while others want to be guides.
They see the Cobras unit as a friendly base which provides opportunities and life purpose. And they see the rhino as a part of their community.
The Community Perspective
Having the rhino for, and in, the community has changed the mindset of the people towards nature magnificently. Almost everyone now respects and keeps a watchful eye on other natural resources as well as the rhinos. The community believes the Cobras Unit is a special group with a special purpose, and the rhino have given them a very tangible purpose. The Community considers the community rhino conservation project as one of their own and the rhino as their own. Previously, they have enjoyed the benefits of tourism such as access to water, improved health facilities, welfare for their kids in schools, and a fast and reliable human/ wildlife conflict response. The Community has had plenty of opportunities to interact with Cobras as well as our two resident rhinos Thuza and Kusasa, and this has instilled the belief that their natural resources are safe. They view the Cobras Unit as a body that will protect their interests in all security-related issues. There is also the belief that the economy of the community will change as long as the project lives on as more and more rhinos return to the area.