As the 2016 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge at the Eston Farmers’ Club on Sunday 7 August draws nearer, event title sponsors, Illovo Sugar and 18km race route partners, Tala Collection Private Game Reserve have reaffirmed their commitment to the protection of the region’s rhinos.
The 3000 hectare, KZN Midlands based private reserve doesn’t have any large predators but is well stocked with a diverse range of game, the rhinos being the most popular of the reserve’s wide variety of attractions.
With the endangered species under constant threat, the sugar giant continues to the throw its weight behind the fight against the poaching of Eston’s population of prehistoric creatures.
“The responsibility of protecting our endangered rhinos is everyone’s and Illovo believes that all corporates need to assist in some way in the conservation of our environment and animals, especially those that are under threat,” explains Illovo Sugar Marketing Manager, Darrell de Wet.
“Tala is situated in the heart of the Eston community and this tourist attraction contributes to the overall well-being of this community.
“The Eston Illovo Sugar mill is in close proximity to Tala and with Illovo being passionate about adding value to all the communities in which we operate, it made sense for us to partner with this reserve in an effort to not only support a worthy cause of protecting our rhino, but to assist the Eston community as a whole as well,” he adds.
Ahead of last year’s Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, Illovo confirmed their provision of funds for the darting and tagging of Tala’s rhinos with the tagging seeing each of the five rhino fitted with a hi-tech GPS system, allowing for their monitoring 24-hours a day.
“If the rhino can be monitored at all times they can be better protected,” says De Wet. “Illovo also support Rave Rhino Protection, who provide the man power and equipment to safeguard these rhinos at all times.”
“The bracelets allow the rhinos to be tracked at any given time, thus enabling the RAVE caretakers to find them quickly and easily, even in the middle of night,” explains Tala Collection Private Game Reserve General Manager, Mike Nunan. “It also allows us to track a history of their movements, so that we can check on grazing habits and group dynamics.”
More recently, Illovo has also been involved in a conservation project, assisting Tala to remove alien plant growth from their reserve and preserve their natural vegetation.
“Protecting the rhino is not only about keeping them safe but also about preserving the land so that they have the necessary space and vegetation to flourish in their habitat.
“Illovo funded a team of local community members who were employed to assist with this project, providing Tala with the labour they needed and in turn promoting skills development for their community members.
“The alien plant eradication programme is currently taking place and will continue for the next few months.”
As their relationship continues to strengthen through their joint sponsorship of the Illovo Eston MTB Challenge, Illovo Eston mill and Tala continue to work closely together, particularly in the fight to protect the Tala’s magnificent rhinos.
“Without the support of Illovo, who also support the RAVE security personnel, the safety of these beasts – a national asset – would be at far greater risk,” describes Nunan. “Illovo’s support is invaluable and allows the Tala Collection to share these wonderful animals with the general public.”
“We look forward to continuing working together with Tala and taking on new projects to assist the reserve as and when the need arises,” confirms De Wet.
The 2016 Illovo Eston MTB Challenge takes place on Sunday, 7 August and plays host to the 60km Illovo Eston Marathon, 40km aQuellé Half Marathon, 18km STIHL Tala Family Ride and 10km Omnia Kids Ride. Entries can be submitted via www.roag.co.za and more information can be found at www.illovoestonmtb.co.za.