“Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.” – Aldo Leopold
SHLEEEESHLEEEMAAAAANNNN!!!!!! The Land Rover roars at it comes to life in the still, early morning of the African bush. I can only imagine, it is the early 1960’s and a group of field rangers, game capture officers and trackers in the early morning, prepare themselves for the long, heavy day ahead. A young conservationist by the name of Dr. Ian Player starts the engine, SHLEEEESHLEEEMAAAAANNNN!!!!!! The birds take flight from the noise as the team load up their trusted game capture vehicle, ready their horses and start to make their way into the Imfolozi Wilderness. The men and the Land Rover are all here with one purposes in mind, to do whatever is necessary to bring the southern white rhino back from the brink of extinction, in a world were the price of rhino horn is far higher than the cost of life.
Dledlemane (pronounced shleshleman) is the zulu name for the Land Rovers used and still used in the Ezemvelo-Kwazulu Natal Parks Board for game capture. The name comes from the sound the Land Rovers made as their engines fire up, a true testament to the role these vehicles played in saving an iconic species.
It was not always so easy for the the rangers, when they started Operation Rhino in the 1950’s, most of their tracking and darting was done on foot and on horseback. In the 1960’s Land Rovers were introduced to the team and used for tracking and darting the rhinos. For years the team tracked, darted, captured and re-located Southern White Rhinos in a bid to protect them from the scourge of poaching. The days were spent across the wilderness of the Imfolozi National Park, were the rangers, with great dedication and at great risk fought tirelessly to ensure a future for Rhino’s. Now, around 65 years later, we find ourselves fighting the same battle, however, the darting and capture teams have taken mostly to the skies, making use of helicopters for tracking and darting the rhino’s, with Dledlemane working more in a support capacity for the ground crews.