Written by Sharon van Wyk
In just a few short weeks the world will be taking to the streets in support of our endangered, iconic wildlife species, courtesy of the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos (GMFER), which takes place on World Animal Day – October 4.
More than 119 cities across the world are taking part in this initiative, with one of the latest being South Africa’s very own Soweto, proudly joining a host of other cities across the Rainbow Nation including Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, Middelburg, Rustenburg and Stellenbosch.
Globally, Johannesburg, London and San Francisco are leading the charge. “We need as many people as possible swelling the ranks on the day,” says Rosemary Alles, one of the GMFER chief organisers who is running the San Francisco march. “It’s vital that we make a huge statement that we are not going to accept what is happening to elephants, rhinos, and other species like pangolins and lions,” she says. “What we are doing is a great way to get out there and say ‘STOP!’ to the governments of the world.”
One of the great things about the GMFER is that anyone can get involved, either by joining a march or by organising one in their town or city. It’s as easy as a few keystrokes, visiting the global website and finding out where the nearest march to you is taking place. If there isn’t a city near you organising a march, then it’s also a simple process to register as an organiser and get your own march up and running.
Social media is also playing a huge role in helping the GMFER to gain momentum, with thousands of people from all over the world using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like to drum up support for the event. Several high-profile celebrities have also endorsed it, including British actor and comedian Ricky Gervais, who is an ardent campaigner for animal rights, and conservation legend Dame Jane Goodall. The event also has the royal seal of approval, thanks to the backing of United For Wildlife, the initiative of England’s Princes William and Harry, set up earlier this year.
A global photographic competition with an amazing prize is going to be launched on the GMFER website next week, which will also help raise awareness of the marches taking place across the planet.
Most importantly, the GMFER is not a fundraising exercise, it’s about donating a few hours of your time to show your support for these incredible keystone species, literally voting with your feet.
“We all need to demonstrate that the ordinary citizens of this planet are not happy with the way governments are handling the current poaching crisis which is devastating our wildlife populations,” says South African organiser Dex Kotze.
In order to stress this point, GMFER marches across the world will be delivering memoranda of demand to key governments, on World Rhino Day on September 22 and on the day of the march itself, October 4.
“This is a peaceful, fun initiative aimed at getting people to understand that only by us uniting against the atrocities being carried out on our key, flagship species can we expect our voices to be heard by those who can make a difference to their future, and ours,” says Kotze. “We’d like to encourage everyone to get on their social media platform of choice, take to the streets with us and help to make October 4 a red letter day for elephants and rhinos.”