Singing rhinos teach the evils of poaching

Ricky and Rachel, rhinos in love, are torn apart by poachers in a new South African musical, African Adventure, which aims to dramatise the rising toll of illegal hunting on the endangered species.

The children’s play, showing at Jo’burg Theatre, has a simple plot: evil poachers capture Rachel and use her as bait to lure Ricky so they can take both animals’ horns.

But with the help of his friends Lynette the snobby giraffe, Olivia the cheeky ostrich and Malcolm the naughty monkey, the young rhino manages to save his love.

“I believe that not just adults but kids as well need to be aware of what is happening to Africa’s rhinos,” said Tracey Christelis, the playwright, who originally envisioned the story as a children’s book.

The statistics on rhino poaching are increasingly grim, as demand for rhino horn is booming in Asia.

In South Africa, poaching has risen year by year, from 13 cases in 2007, to 33 in 2008, to 122 in 2009, to 333 last year.

And the pace has continued to accelerate. The country has lost one rhino a day to poaching so far this year.

There are around 21 000 rhinos, both black and white, left in South Africa, home to 70% of the world’s remaining population.

Across Africa, there are some 25 000 rhinos remaining, a fraction of the hundreds of thousands thought to have roamed the continent in 1900, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Maureen Schuil, an honorary ranger with South African National Parks (SANParks), drives home the message to kids before the show. “We need to catch guys who buy the horns.” — AFP

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