|Where:||The Royal Geographical Society, London|
Rhino Lecture by Dr William Fowlds
Introduction from Bear Grylls
Opening and closing words William Travers OBE and Virginia McKenna OBE
Every seat in the house was taken with over 700 guests crowding into the Ondaatje Theatre to witness a memorable and inspirational talk from the renowned wildlife vet and rhino specialist, Dr William Fowlds. The evening was opened by Bear Grylls, brandishing a rhino horn for all to see and declaring that he was proud to be part of the fight against rhino poaching. Will Travers OBE from the Born Free Foundation followed with a notable speech on the current rhino poaching situation and then William Fowlds took to the stage.
Will's day job includes darting lions, elephants and antelopes but last year he was called out to a harrowing situation, unlike anything he'd encountered before. Overnight, three rhinos had been illegally darted using veterinary drugs and the poachers had brutally removed bone, skin and horn with either machetes or axes, leaving the rhinos for dead. One rhino had in fact already died from its injuries but Themba, a male, and Thandi, a female were still alive when they were discovered the next morning. By the end of his talk, there was barely a dry eye in the house as he recounted his personal crusade against poaching and his astounding work in trying to save Thandi and Themba.
William Fowlds also covered his recent lecture tour in Vietnam and his personal crusade to reach out to the younger generation. He demonstrated that real progress is being made, citing the Vietnamese government's new public awareness campaign on the reality of rhino poaching.
William Fowlds left the audience in no doubt about the scale and the horror of the illegal wildlife trade. The images of his heart-rending battle to protect this iconic species did not spare the audience and his passionate mission was applauded by a standing ovation.
Virginia McKenna's difficult task was to follow William Fowld's talk and making the closing remarks, which she carried off with consummate skill and aplomb, launching the "Voices for Conservation" scheme, initiated by Mantis' education arm, Worldwide Experience. Virginia emphasised that the future of conservation and wildlife is in the hands of young people and introduced the Voices of Conservation film, with Bear Grylls' foreword.
This was followed by a lively auction with some stunning prizes, conducted by the ebullient and popular James Lewis of Bamfords. The event was generously hosted by Mantis in aid of Tusk and Born Free and was attended by several celebrities including Kate Silverton and Kerry Holmes. Mantis is also one of the co-sponsors of the Tusk Conservation Awards 2013.