Visiting Big Game Parks | IRF Going Further in Africa

Nina Fascione, IRF Executive Director

The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) is going further for rhinos in 2022. In this space and other outlets throughout the year, we will bring you exciting content from our travels, on-the-ground partners, and the latest rhino news. At this moment, Nina Fascione and CeCe Sieffert are in the field, visiting IRF’s program areas in Africa. Nina is writing a travel blog along the way to give you a first-hand account of the trip. Please enjoy her first entry from eSwatini in southern Africa.

Dear Team Rhino,

After nearly two years as the executive director of IRF, I’m finally able to visit our brilliant and dedicated partners in the field (thanks to vaccines and declining Covid rates). During my first global trip for IRF, CeCe Sieffert, IRF’s chief conservation director, and I are in Africa – the first time the organization’s U.S. staff have visited this continent in four years. We are thrilled to be visiting colleagues and partners and seeing first hand vital rhino conservation work on the ground.

Our first stop is Big Game Parks in eSwatini, visiting colleagues Mick and Cotts Reilly who, for years, have done critical conservation work for rhinos and other wildlife. On our first day, CeCe and I were rewarded with sightings of white and black rhinos, hippos (including a baby!), zebras, waterbuck, warthogs, blue wildebeest, impala, duiker, and more! Not to mention two young ostriches wandering around the yard.

One of the things I looked forward to the most on this trip was meeting the K9 ranger dogs who work side by side with human handlers to track poachers and find illegal wildlife products. We were privileged to watch them go through their paces, an impressive display of canine scent ability and excellent training (of dogs and handlers!). The dogs absolutely love their work- they go nuts for the ball and Kong rewards they receive for correctly finding the rhino horn, elephant ivory or the other scents they’re trained on. These dogs play a crucial role in the arsenal of tools, technologies and strategies to stop rhino poaching and we are proud to support them.

We will be sad to leave gorgeous Big Game Parks, but look forward to our next stop (South Africa). As soon as you are comfortable traveling, I encourage you to visit amazing conservation reserves like Big Game Parks. Not only is travel to Africa life changing, your tourism dollars provide vital support for rhino and other wildlife conservation work.  

On safari searching for rhinos!

Stay tuned for Nina and CeCe’s next stop visiting Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa!