Rhino Girl' Strives To Save Endangered Species

“The rhino is more valuable than gold,” Charlene Hewatt, quickly tells her audience comprising citizens from all sectors of Zimbabwean society.

“Unlike what you know about the rhino horn it is compact matted hair and not an aphrodisiac. Its extinction, however, is forever.”

Hewatt, better known as “Zimbabwe’s Rhino Girl”, recently addressed Zimbabwean executives at the Rotary Club of Hunyani about her fundraising trip overseas.

She poured her heart out telling more than 30 guests how she had managed to weather the storm “from the snow in Germany to the extreme heat in Sudan” – the “most trying time in my journey”.

Hewatt spent six weeks abroad – two weeks in New Zealand and the rest in Australia, where she was privileged to watch the World Cup Rugby Finals for 2011.

Clad in a red T-shirt and jeans, Hewatt said she had managed to influence 15 Rotary Clubs in Australia about conservation in Zimbabwe.

“I believe Africa is so special, there is very beautiful wildlife, people and scenary,” she said.
“More publicity about Zimbabwe is, however, needed around the world. My passion is conservation. You cannot save the rhino if you have not lived their lifestyle.”

Hewatt told guests that the White Rhino has “a wide lip” while the Black Rhino has a “hooked lip”.

“Both species are in danger right now,” she said.

“In Zimbabwe the Black Rhino population has fallen from 2 000 in the 1990s to 450 Black Rhino and 200 White Rhino left today,” she revealed.

Hewatt traveled to New Zealand and Australia in a bid to raise funds for various conservation projects especially in the Zambezi Basin in Southern Africa.

“When she talks about her life work experiences in conservation and communities her deep passion, is so evident and inspiring to others,” one of the organisers said in an  interview in Harare.

Hewatt is currently Chief Executive of Environment Africa and is a conservationist and sustainable and development practitioner.

Her trip abroad had been to try and raise awareness and funds for wildlife conservation in the Zambezi Basin in Southern Africa.

She cycled more than 22 000 km some years ago from the United Kingdom through Europe to the Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s most prestigious tourist resort facility, to raise public awareness and funds to fight poaching.

Poachers, especially from neighbouring Zambia, have killed more than 600 Zimbabwean rhinos, making the animal virtually extinct.

Hundreds of poachers have, however, been killed by members from Zimbabwe’s armed but controversial Department of Parks and National Wildlife.

Some forces have, unfortunately, also been killed in the battles making the Victoria Falls area “dangerous” for tourists who were beginning to shun one of the Seven Wonders of The World.

During her ride internationally, Hewatt, and in subsequent years, has had the privilege of meeting many world figures such as the Pope, the great George Adamson and the global icon and South Africa’s first President, Nelson Mandela.

“I also met Zambia’s Dr Kenneth Kaunda who helped me sing ‘Happy Birthday’ holding his famous handkerchief,” she says amid  laughter from invited guests.
“I also met Mandela and we plegded to plant one million trees in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”

Hewatt has won local and international awards including the Junior Chambers International Award for the Most Outstanding Young Persons of the World.

“As Africans we must move from aid to trade,” she said.

“We have to move from the begging bowl of Africa for which are famous. We have vibrant tourism, agriculture, mining and many other goodies here in Africa. Extinction is forever and we must always remember this fact.”