There are very few occasions in life where we are able to merge two of our passions and formulate these into a lifestyle and career. However, Isabel Gisepie and her husbandLloyd have done just that by using various sporting activities such as cycling, running and horse riding to raise awareness about the ever increasing threat of rhino extinction.
“Lloyd and I did a journey with our horses around South Africa in 2009 to raise awareness of African Horse Sickness”, explains Isabel. “However, when we returned to our horse trail business based on a reserve in the Eastern Cape in 2011, we were hit by a shocking and sad reality. The 11 rhino that used to live on that reserve had been killed and this sparked a fury of anger and sadness, along with a feeling of complete helplessness.” It also sparked the wish to do something about it and after moving away from the Eastern Cape to the Natal Midlands onto a farm, Isabel and Lloyd began the Rhino Knights campaign. The Rhino Knights Campaign is an awareness and survey campaign around southern Africa in order to aid efforts to save rhino from extinction. Though the endangerment of rhino is widely known, and they have been countless efforts to educate and inform the population of the severity of this problem, Isabel’s campaign is slightly different to the rest.
“From Durban I have run and cycled 9,259 km’s through some of the most beautiful countries in the world to raise awareness for Africa’s wildlife locally and internationally.”
Through media articles, interviews (radio & TV) and public events in the different countries the team raised awareness and promoted rhino conservation across the globe.
The Peterhouse group of schools, located in Marondera, Zimbabwe, were particularly inspired by Isabel and her team. Their perseverance and dedication sparked a trend, and a group of girls who are involved with the Peterhouse Equestrian Centretravelled on horseback from the school to Imire Bush Camp to celebrate the rhino conservation there. Shannon Bibby, who not only took part in the ride but also lives at Imire, commented that meeting Isabel was the highlight of her year. Though she described the ride as “gruelling, especially in the blazing sun”, she also emphasised how amazing it felt to be actively taking part inconservation. “It is easy to sit and complain about what is happening”, she says. “But Isabel showed us a way to do something about it, and as a result Imire will be hosting an annual horse ride to raise awareness about the rhino issue”.
Since then, various other Global Marches have taken place in support of the cause. Isabel received constant support and sponsorship prior to, and during her journey. People came together to promote her cause and help her achieve her daily fitness goals. The Rhino Knights campaign perfectly highlights the way in which the integration of sporting activities into a campaign can unite people in a way that was not possible before. It gave Isabel “a sense of purpose, because I was active in my attempts to make a change”. If other teams and individuals got involved, our fight against rhino extinction could be so much stronger, and from there the possibilities for other world changes are endless.
After their marathon journey of 18 months and 4 days, Isabel and her family are back in Durban, where she continues to educate the local population on the importance of wildlife conservation.