While sipping a beer on the verandah of the Victoria Falls Hotel last week, my long standing friend, Mike Myers, who has been in the safari industry for the past 30 years, told me of  two rhino recently released in Botswana who had gone walk about.

Apparently these two animals were planning an unauthorized cross border immigration into Namibia. The communities and safari industry operators in the Delta were concerned and this information reached the Botswana President, Ian Khama.  He reacted immediately and incisively by deploying two battalions of soldiers and two helicopters tasked with the responsibility to capture and relocate these animals before they left the country. On his instruction, the exercise was carried out with military precision and the two wayward Rhino were returned to safe haven in the heart of the Delta.

The significance of this story was, for me, much more about symbolic leadership of a country than saving two Rhino. It was so refreshing to hear a positive story about a President working in the interests of his economy, his country, his people  and the protection of his wildlife.

White Rhino by Rich Laburn

Earlier in that same week, I met with another longstanding friend, MAP Ives, who has spent a lifetime working in conservation in Botswana as head of Wilderness Safari’s sustainability programs. MAP described to me the three critical things that stand out in Botswana making it such a conservation success story:

  • Unequivocal, political support at the highest level.
  • Full access to state military resources as and when needed at short notice
  • Complete integration and alignment between government, community and private sector.

In short, Botswana represents a fine African conservation success story and an excellent example of a cooperative strategy at all levels of  community, stakeholders, business, conservationists and politicians. The people of Botswana talk glowingly about their President and his commitment to protecting the Okavango Delta as a treasure for the whole world.

As I ended my 7 day safari in this amazing water wonderland, I pondered whether other African political leaders might consider the simplicity of what Ian Khama had done. Recapturing  two free roaming rhino using military resources and the message which this story sends to the global audience. A message of hope, servant leadership and wildlife  protection.

White Rhino by Rich Laburn

Returning to South Africa, I was pleased to find out that new legislation had recently been signed off by both Mozambique and South African government officials, imposing more onerous legal consequences on convicted poachers.  Closer to home, the integrated anti-poaching approach, which we have been implementing using effective intelligence structures, boots on the ground and hearts and minds community partnership projects, suggests that the tide against the scourge of rhino poaching in our local region may be turning – and for a brief moment, as this years Earth Day rolls around, the rhino in Londolozi are safe.

Earth Day is a day on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection and here at Londolozi we continue to remain vigilant as ever and look to our political leaders to hear and see the same simple, symbolic messages and actions of support and leadership that President Khama sent to those on the front line of Rhino protection in Botswana.

In closing, I’d like to express my thanks to both Wilderness Safaris and Great Plains for their superb and wonderful hospitality during our visit to the Delta. I extend to them my heartfelt thanks and congratulations for the remarkable conservation work they continue to do and for working so hard to keep this rare and precious jewel of the Delta safe for us all.


Written by: Dave Varty

About the Author

Dave Varty


Dave's story is too full and rich to tell in a brief blog bio. Suffice it to say that it is due to his passion, hard work and lifelong dedication to conservation that Londolozi is what it is today. One of the co-founders ...

View Dave's profile


on Earth Day – A Story of Inspiration

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Ian Hall

It is always the bad news that gets the publicity. Nice to see some good news, especially after the news that is coming out of Zimbabwe on Yahoo yesterday about the effects of land encroachment on elephants and the increase in poaching as a result.

Gretchen Pachlhofer

Great news. While at Londolozi I remember the veil on all your faces when the helicopters flew over the reserve. Every time a helicopter flies over us here in the US, I say a silent prayer for the victims of poachers.


Dear Dave, I am sure it was heartening to hear that the Rhinos were being cared for at the highest level,, I too am heading to Vic Falls and on to Hwange for the first time since UDI hoping to witness how well Zim is taking care of its precious resources… thenn on to Capetown..Keep up the good work at Londolozi.

Lyn Pieters

Sara I do Hope you have a marvelous time in Zimbabwe. My family own a lovely lodge called Nehimba in Hwange National Park. they and others in the hospitality industry are continually doing everything possible to protect our wonderful diversity of wildlife. the park is looking splendid after wonderful rain and Hope you have a chance to see our lodge whilst you are there. Ian Khama is a truly inspiring man and Botswana is privileged to have him.

Arden Zalman

Thank you, Dave, for spotlighting the most magnificent creature (in my opinion, since I have a rhino tattoo on my right ankle). Poachers must be stopped immediately!

Susan Nethery

Hooray & bravo for Bots…..the animals are doing well!! but the people are not doing so well. Botswana has one of highest number of HIV/AIDS in all of Southern Africa.

Mike Bargh

Hi Dave, regards to your family. Wonderful to know how a government and should be a lesson to all governments all over the world , to protect there countries for the future benefit of the survival of this beautiful world we are so privileged to be a part of! Nice to hear that Map and Mike are still involved and doing such good work and have devoted there lives to this cause. I was so blessed to be a part of Londolozi and miss it so much. I also had the privileged to work in the Tuli block for a short period.

Lyn Pieters

Lovely heartwarming story. thank you Dave Varty. thank you Ian Khama for your dedication.

Wendy Hawkins

Thank you Dave for this Inspiring story. God Bless Ian Khama. His parents must be watching him & know that they did a wonderful job in raising such a caring son to watch over his land. I wish we could send all our beloved Rhino’s to Botswana, so they can be protected.

Lyn Pieters

Heart warming story. well done Botswana you have a great man in Ian Khama.


Thank you for sharing the good news on the conservation front.. It is all a matter of education in Africa and the countries that indulge in the use of these precious resources.. I hope that Botswana and their leader, Ian Khama, can stand as an example to the rest of Africa on how it is possible when all work toward the same goal.

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