I would love to say this is going to be a warm and fuzzy feeling blog post. I really wish it was. For about 5 years, I have kept this story to my heart and told those close to me or to small presentations. I feel I have doing a huge disservice by keeping this story so close to my heart. Today it’s time to tell you all about it. The day my life changed forever.
If you have a queasy stomach, I would suggest that you still read this post, however the video is VERY graphic and confronting. I strongly suggest NOT to watch it, as you may feel sick to watch this.
In 2007, I took the trip of my life to India. I’ve discussed it on other posts. I’ve talked about the life changing moments and briefly mentioned about the horrific experience I witnessed, but not in the detail I am about to share now. The times I’ve spoken about it, it brought up the emotion, and maybe that’s the reason I haven’t talked about it so much. Bursting into tears during a presentation isn’t always a great look!
So here goes…
My trip to India in 2007 had an aim to visit the national parks of India. To experience them through the eyes of the local and tribal communities, the forest department and the NGO’s (Non-Government Organisations) to find out what was really going on with issues like poaching and conservation initiatives.
When people in the west think of poachers, they think of a tough guy with a gun, in an international organisation conquering the forests looking for tigers and “prized” animals ready to smuggle their parts through to the borders of China. This is so far from the reality. The reality is it’s a local villager that has been approached by a middle man with the offer of possibly a years supply of rice or 20,000 rupees to feed their family. That is a pretty tempting offer for a family man with many mouths to feed.
I got to meet former poachers, and poachers families. They were beautiful people. They just had a family to feed. What they were doing was wrong and illegal. I met NGO’s, that worked with these local communities making a difference, empowering local communities to value their environment and looking at sustainable ways of making a living. For example, there were tribal communities with in depth knowledge of the forests and its animals. They could become the jeep drivers and naturalists on game drives, or they could make handicrafts instead of illegally poaching endangered animals.
In January 2008, I travelled to Assam, and spent time with an organisation called Aaranyak. What an amazing organisation. An NGO that actually is on the ground, involved in scientific research, working with the forest department, making a difference to local communities and their environment, teaching the younger generation of the value of their beautiful forests.
I stayed with Aaranyak at Kaziranga National Park. This forest is a wild, untamed environment, unlike any other place I had been to in India. Tigers, Rhinos, Buffalo, amazing bird life in the wild east.
On this particular day, we went into the park quite early in the morning for an elephant safari. The mist rising over the savannah was mesmerising. We set out to find the endangered one horned rhino.
And then we found not one, but two! A mother and baby rhino. I quite like this picture I took, their bums looks cute. So different from the African rhino. The Indian rhino is much more “ancient” looking, with its plated body.
After this touching experience, seeing these beautiful creatures, we heading back to the research station, I was staying at. Driving along, we were hailed down by a local police officer. He knew the members of Aaranyak very well. He pointed to a the right, a tea estate, to head down there urgently.
So we ran down there as quick as we could. I could see 2 groups of locals gathered around, however I couldn’t see what was happening. The first group we came across were standing around a large hole that was being filled with dirt. We found out it was a poached baby rhino that was being buried. The poaching happened the night before.
I was in shock and saddened by the news. I was scared to see what was happening around the next group of people. I reluctantly walked over. I was with a local reporter as well. He told me a mother and baby rhino had been poached that night.
What I saw next was revolting, inhumane and the cruellest of cruel. The locals looked on in shock, and I cried my eyes out. I was in disbelief. It was the mother rhino. Wounded with a bullet to her head, and a bloody mess where her horn SHOULD have been. The worst part, she was still alive. I was sick to my stomach and thought to myself, how could anyone do this to such a beautiful animal.
The horn of an Indian one horned rhino is quite small compared to that of an African rhino.As I gathered myself, still in tears, l took out my camera and filmed. In disgust at the human race, and feeling for the loss of the mother rhino for her baby. I couldn’t believe she was still alive. Occasionally she would stand up to urinate. The vets were onsite to try and reduce the pain. I wondered whether she should have been put down, but it was not my place to interfere.
The video that follows is after treating the rhino with whatever the vets could to reduce the pain. It’s totally unedited and shows the gruesome aftermath of what this animal is now left with, no horn, in shock and imminent death.
You will see real footage. This video is heavy and you will be saddened, hurt, angry, but it may be necessary to watch to make change in this world. When we experience and see injustices, only then can we make some kind of change, don’t you think?
You can watch it here
This rhino died shortly after this was shot. This poaching was in national and international newspapers in India and around the globe.
This event changed me and my purpose in the world. It wasn’t about living the corporate life anymore. There was meaning for me. The meaning became clear and Mantra Wild Adventures was born. Our business aims to have our clients experience local environments, understand communities through local experiences. Only when you can understand local issues and communities, only then can you really understand the beauty of a place. Our safaris and adventure page lists our adventures and all of these experiences incorporate conservation in some way.
If this story has touched you in some way, please share this below. Share it with your friends and family. I personally don’t know what will happen to this story, but I know it’s important to get it out there in the world. I hope some way it helps.
Travel on Purpose,