When Carole Cerny first came to South Africa in 2012 as a volunteer with Global Vision International (GVI) to work on a lion monitoring project, little did she know that her life would change irrevocably. She would discover her future life’s work after being exposed first hand to South Africa’s ongoing poaching crisis which is ravaging the last remaining rhinos in public and private wildlife parks. She enrolled in a one year field guiding course with Bushwise in January 2015, recently graduated and has moved on to start an important crowdfunding campaign for rhino conservation in Africa.
“The first six months of the course were led by amazing trainers who taught me way more than I had ever expected about the bush and wildlife. Ethical guiding and a respect for the environment were highlighted in both theoretical and practical training, something which was and is very important for me,” explains Carole. “We covered many aspects during the course, such as ecology, astrology, ethology and tracking aptitudes to give us a holistic understanding and a full awareness of our surrounding.”
After completing her training, Carole did her placement at LEO, to ensure that she gained the practical experience required to live her dream. LEO, a research programme that monitors lions and rhinos, is where she learned more about black and white rhino behaviour and how to handle herself in the bush should she ever encounter rhinos on foot.
Wanting to further her goal of making a meaningful contribution to conservation and protection projects, she contacted Craig Spencer, head warden of Bulule Nature Reserve (part of the Greater Kruger Park) and founder of the Black Mambas, the first nearly all female anti-poaching unit, to work with him and his team.
Over the course of the past six months, Carole soon realised why Craig’s work has been widely recognised and his passion admired. Hitting the ground running, Carole felt an immediate achievement in her day to day role which is as diverse as the role of rhino conservation itself: from reserve maintenance, animal tracking, animal darting and grass surveying.
Now that her six month goal has been achieved, she leaves behind a legacy for the Black Mamba’s after starting a crowdfunding initiative to buy camera traps that monitor rhinos in a less intrusive manner and fit into the existing camera traps and game paths already covering much of Balule. Carole further explains that the use of camera traps allowed the team to deploy the anti-poaching teams around those “hot spots” which have been identified, in part, by the remote cameras which are monitored around the clock by the team at Balule.
While the idea of crowdfunding to mobilise charity and education projects around the world isn’t new, this kind of fundraising project is new for many South African projects and is similar to the Asian elephant conservation documentary that found 152 backers and raised US$10, 710 in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society or the Azores bullfinch project which raised US$13,535 with 426 backers for conservation fieldwork in the eastern mountains of the island of Sāo Miguel in the Azores (Portugal).
To date her campaign has raised a respectable US$2,480 of the US$6,420 goal to purchase the estimated additional twenty-five camera traps plus a supply of batteries needed to operate the campaign. The camera traps, whose batteries have about a month use are used for the monitoring of endangered species, sweeping for snares, collecting as much data as possible and educating surrounding communities of Balule and the Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Units.
You can support Carol’s campaign to buy camera traps for Balule here.