In a world struggling with new ways to connect and a country still challenged by past divisions, public art can make public spaces more inclusive and approachable, 1 as well as create an inviting platform for civic dialogue, engaging citizens from various cultural backgrounds in conversation.
When it comes to the horrors we all shy away from, such as rhino poaching, art is an innovative way to create awareness and raise funds. It also supports local creative industries, providing opportunities for artists and designers, and acts as a catalyst for development and economic growth through innovation, attracting visitors and stimulating investment.2
The Rhinos Are Coming (TRAC) utilizes the many benefits of public art for and incredible cause. Creating beautiful rhino statues in collaboration with local artists and displaying them around Cape Town in an effort to raise funds for the Stop Rhino Poaching initiative. Recently partnered with the V&A Waterfront, that sees up to 180 000 visitors every day in peak season, TRAC has found a home for their brightly painted rhinos of art.
In the past few months, TRAC’s rhinos have caught the attention of international corporates; one CEO vacationing in Cape Town, purchased a rhino statue for their global headquarters in the USA.
In the last 10 years, more than 7900 rhinos have been poached in South Africa alone. While the number of rhinos poached have decreased, in 2018 we saw 769 rhinos poached. In 2011, The Western Black Rhino was declared extinct. In ten years, we could see the extinction in the wild of the entire species unless we all band together. Foreign criminal groups have manipulated our poorest and most desperate peoples to poach and brutally decimate our rhino population and stealing thousands of horns.
Marco van Embden, Founder and CEO of Timeless Africa Safaris, stresses the importance of how travel is a luxury that we shouldn’t take for granted.
“The experiences make us richer and in return, I believe we are meant to look after the places and creatures that afford us these experiences. Is this not a world our children will inherit from us?” Timeless Africa Safaris offers responsible travel experiences, as well as donates a portion of their booking fee to stop the poaching, allowing visitors to enjoy the African wildlife while supporting its conservation.
“Conservation is already a large part of a Timeless Africa Safari’s traveller’s experience in Africa; guests are naturally helping support and enable species and habitat protection just by coming here. They stay in ethically, ecologically minded lodges, which also provides for employment and community upliftment. They take tours that help fund the protection of the various species they’ve come to see, and they can take part in community programmes and wildlife initiatives when they actively want to get involved.
I wanted to do more and for me, this meant identifying more targeted opportunities and causes,” Marco states. Marco van Embden initiated and drafted The Rhinoceros Bill of Rights, an initiative that has caught the attention of people internationally. Elise Serfontein, Founding Director of Stop Rhino Poaching says “Marco van Embden has been a staunch and passionate supporter of rhino conservation for a number of years now. He has actively harnessed support for the fight against rhino poaching, creating awareness through his company Timeless Africa Safaris as well as generating generous donations for StopRhinoPoaching.com’s rhino protection initiatives. Marco has also been instrumental in his strategic and financial involvement with The Rhinos Are Coming (TRAC), an awareness art-based project that also supports us. Marco sets an admirable example of how individuals can look within their circle of influence and motivate others to support a cause that is very close to their hearts. On behalf of the rhinos and rangers who’ve benefited from his efforts, we extend our grateful thanks”.
Creative fundraising initiatives like this seem to be the future lifeline of wildlife conservation in South Africa, with companies and organisations like The Rhinos are Coming and Timeless African Safaris leading the pack.