The Wilderness Foundation Global is proud to announce that acclaimed artist and filmmaker Andrew Levitas and his wife, Classical superstar Katherine Jenkins have become their first GlobalPatrons.

The couple travelled to South Africa to research locations for Levitas’ upcoming feature film Reignmaker, based on the illegal horn and ivory trade. They were joined by Andrew Muir of the Wilderness Foundation at Shamwari Game Reserve for a hands on education to the rhino poaching crisis, as well as introductions to key people involved in preventing rhino poaching on a daily basis. Shamwari Group has raised a staggering R10 million to date to help save the rhinos and have introduced solar powered vehicles, which will aid in anti-poaching.

The experience included a rhino darting exercise as part of one of the projects run by the Wilderness Foundation in order to collect DNA tissue samples, as well insert a microchip into t

he horn of a white rhino. These activities assist in the successful prosecution of perpetrators of rhino poaching and forms part of their Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative.

The co-founder of the Wilderness Foundation, the late Dr Ian Player, was a globally recognised conservation legend. He was a visionary and an activist who profoundly influenced conservation and changed the lives of countless people. Dr Player, through Operation Rhino, led the team that saved the rhino from the brink of extinction in the 1950’s. The rhino is in crisis again, and if we do not take drastic measures, it will become extinct within the next few years. The Foundation is actively involved in a range of activities focused on protecting this majestic species, which include on the ground anti poaching activities, increased security and law enforcement, supporting policy development, as well as various awareness and demand reduction campaigns globally.

The rhino poaching crisis (as well as other wildlife crime) is of international significance and affects all levels of society. Wildlife crime is the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $10 billion annually, and resulting in another rhino being killed every 8 hours, with this number growing.

In 2007, South Africa only lost 13 rhino to poaching. This number increased to 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009 and more than doubled in 2010 to 333. In 2011 we lost 448 rhino and in 2012 we thought we reached the turning point at 668. But 2013 increased to 1 004 and 2014 to 1215 rhino killed for their horns.

“As patrons of the Wilderness Foundation Global, Andrew Levitas and Katherine Jenkins will initially support the organisation in creating awareness of the rhino poaching crisis,and they will also assist in networking as well as fundraising activities across all the Foundations programme activities and overall focus on people and environmental issues”, says Andrew Muir, CEO of Wilderness Foundation Global.

“Although we have been around as a movement for over 60 years, Wilderness Foundation Global is a new global brand borne out of Africa, and we are excited to have two stars of the calibre of Andrew Levitas and Katherine Jenkins as patrons. Andrew and Katherine really care deeply for people and environmental issues, which are at the core of our work and we are proud to be associated with them.”

Katherine and Andrew explain ‘We are in the midst of an epic slaughter and groups like the Wilderness Foundation are doing important work both in terms of raising awareness and with boots on the ground. We are honoured to be joining in their efforts in what is not an African issue but rather a global responsibility.

Andrew & Katherine assisting vets with inserting a microchip into a white rhino. Photo credit - Margot Muir.

Andrew & Katherine assisting vets with inserting a microchip into a white rhino. Photo credit – Margot Muir.