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This is the seventh in a series of posts reporting on the Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge fact-finding mission to South Africa.

CHALLENGE UPDATE: Over 85 teams from 20 countries and 6 continents have signed up to compete.

Africa's most colorful modern day explorers, Kingsley Holgate with children featuring their artwork against poaching.

Africa’s most colorful modern day explorers, Kingsley Holgate with children featuring their artwork against poaching.

EASTERN CAPE, SOUTH AFRICA — The passing of Nelson Mandela weighs heavily on us and we thought it fitting to highlight his lifelong commitment to wildlife conservation. In 1995, as president of South Africa, Mandela supported the founding of Open Africa, a group that develops tourism to boost the local economies of impoverished African communities. Without this economic tie-in, wildlife conservation would not be receiving the type of attention it enjoys today. In 1997, Mandela collaborated to launch the Peace Parks Foundation, which supported the concept of transfrontier conservation areas (TCFAs) (cross border areas identified as being highly valuable for conservation).

So as a fitting tribute to a great friend of the animals, let’s highlight some of most important educational initiatives that are raising awareness for wildlife conservation and counter poaching. Efforts like Project Rhino and the Kingsley Holgate: Voices of Children Rhino Art help bring down to the community level. The program seeks to expand to more parts of Africa, please consider donating.

As I learned from speaking with organizers, the children wrote the song featured in this video.

Many children also wrote detailed messages in their drawings. Nomvelo in 5th grade wrote: “In five to ten years time there will be NO RHINO – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.” In small print in a shape of a heart, she added: “People please stop chopping down Rhino Horn – PLEASE.”

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Nicholas Mondlane from a school near Kruger National Park writes: “Let the Rhino – God’s animal – survive: Let us be together. President Nelson Mandela said: Freedom for All – Not this killing of the animals.”

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15 Year old Affection Sibiyi wrote: “Poaching Rhino horn is wrong – it kills or makes the rhino to suffer – if we poach horn we hurt it – Stop it!”

Another art message read: “Please stop killing Rhinos – we want our children and grandchildren to see live Rhinos, with their own eyesight. Not just in photos. We beg: Rhino poaching must stop NOW.”

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A Swazi girl’s message made the economic argument: “Our Rhinos are good for the economy; they bring tourists and money to Swaziland. Hands off our Rhinos. If you hear of poaching tell the teachers and the police.”

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A Shangaan child, living in a Mozambique village close to the Kruger National Park border asked: “God stop the killing of Rhino. It’s a bad thing. Already I have lost two brothers,” she said, referring to her brothers having been shot by anti-poaching units in Kruger. Her mother fetched them in body bags from the Giriyondo border.

The Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge now has over 85 teams. The word is getting out. We believe we are at a critical mass where important innovation is possible.

Justin Leto

Justin is the Co-Founder of Nova Labs, a makerspace and community innovation lab located in Reston, VA. He also serves as U.S. partner for the Reserve Protection Agency (RPA), the SANParks-endorsed sponsor of The Wildlife Conservation UAV Challenge. He can be reached at jleto [at] nova-labs [dot] org and on twitter @letojj.


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