Rhino Peak Challenge Media
Written by: Nick Tatham
Conservation at the heart of Rhino Peak Challenge
Underberg – The third edition of the Rhino Peak Challenge (RPC) will see
24 elite ultra-trail athletes and ‘People of Influence’ from the world
of sport and conservation take on the Rhino Peak in the Southern
Drakensberg on World Rhino Day on 22 September to raise funds for Rhino
conservation and the preservation of the critically endangered Bearded
The 2016 edition of the event was unprecedented as it raised R290 000
for its primary beneficiary, The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), who
used these funds to manage and support a variety of projects involved in
the conservation of these two species.
Amongst these projects were the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding
Programme, which raises chicks in captivity before releasing them into
the wild, and the Rhino Sniffer Dog Programme, which trains dogs to
track poached horn and assist in locating orphaned Rhino calves.
The RPC raises funds via a pledge system that is linked to the time it
takes for each runner to complete the 21km round trip up and down the
Rhino Peak. The Elite athletes are given set Goal Times for the run
while the ‘People of Influence’ are allowed to choose their own Goal
Time. The RPC is a 100% fundraiser with no expenses deducted and all
funds administered transparently through the EWT.
With 12 elite runners taking on the challenge together with 12 ‘People
of Influence’, including 2016 champion and current FKT (fastest known
time) holder Rory Scheffer, the 2017 edition has attracted some big
names in South African sport.
Included in the list of influential people is 2007 Rugby World Cup
winning captain John Smit. Smit’s Goal Time for the run is 400 minutes
and, as per the rules of the RPC, all his pledges will be multiplied by
the number of minutes he finishes within that time. (capped at 45
The event has also attracted two of South Africa’s top river marathon
paddlers. K2 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon winner Sbonelo Khwela will take on
the Rhino Peak and, with a strong running background, Khwela has been
included in the Elite group with an enforced Goal Time of 210 minutes.
Having just won his tenth ICF Canoe Marathon World Championship title in
Pietermaritzburg eight days ago, Hank McGregor will also be lining up to
tackle the Rhino Peak with his wife Pippa at his side.
The race will also include a significant number of conservationists,
some who are directly involved in the conservation of Rhinos and Bearded
Vultures and some tireless champions of wildlife conservation.
The likes of Rhino capture and relocation pioneer Dr Jacques Flamand who
has worked as a wildlife veterinarian in the Kruger Park and the Natal
Parks Board, was Director of two wildlife research centres in Saudi
Arabia, served as Veterinary Adviser in Chitwan National Park in Nepal
and currently heads up a black rhino expansion project for the WWF will
take on the Peak at the age of 71.
Joining him on the outing will be fellow environmentalists Dennis Kelly,
Zama Ncube, Shane Raw and Sonja Krüger.
Kelly, Raw and Ncube are heavily involved in the conservation of rhino
in KwaZulu-Natal. Kelly is a section manager for Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
in the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park where he has worked for over 10 years. He
manages the Makhamisa Section of iMfolozi.
Ncube’s involvement in conservation of rhinos began over ten years ago
when he joined the NGO WildlifeACT as a rhino tracker. He continues to
be involved in the tracking and monitoring of rhino but also heads up
community conservation programmes. Here he tries to pass on knowledge to
the youth of the importance of environmental maintenance as well as the
importance of game reserves.
Raw’s love of wildlife stems from his love for the outdoors. Being a
professional whitewater kayaker he spends the majority of his time
outdoors on some of the biggest rivers in the world. He was also
involved in a successful private conservation organisation in Swaziland
for nearly 20 years where he experienced the horror of rhino poaching
which influenced him to take up the challenge of helping to protect
Raw developed the #StandUp4Rhinos initiative and has raised over R100
000 for the plight of the species and this fulfilling experience has
motivated him to do more to save this embattled mammal.
The event’s name suggests that the main focus is on rhinos, however the
Bearded Vulture is an equal beneficiary due to its critically endangered
population of less than 300 adults and its symbolic status as an
inhabitant of the Rhino Peak itself. Dr Sonja Krüger, who initiated the
Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project in 2000, will be back for the second
year in succession.
For the past 15+ years, she has been driving processes aimed at reducing
the population decline, stabilizing the species and growing numbers to
achieve 150 breeding pairs of Bearded Vultures in the Maloti Drakensberg
mountains which is home to the only breeding population in the Southern
Despite Dr Kruger’s efforts there is still a high probability that the
Bearded Vulture will face extinction within the next 50 years if radical
changes are not implemented and the RPC hopes to play a small role in
To make a pledge on one or more of the runners in the RPC before the
22nd of Sept please go to the website at
Click to download the hi-res
Challenge logo - jpeg
Rory Scheffer set the FKT
(fastest known time) for the run up and down the Rhino Peak in 2016 and
will return to raise as much money as possible for rhino and Bearded
Vulture at the 2017 Rhino Peak Challenge on World Rhino Day this Friday,
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