The combination of man and motorcycle is a long association and an everyday event, but the working union of animal and motorcycle isn’t. However, in the hands of a dedicated group of people, BMW Motorrad machinery is actively being used to make aware and deliver support of the fight against the tragedy that is rhinoceros poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn.With rhino poaching on the increase, the very life sphere of the rhino is in danger of extinction. In an effort to stem and ultimately halt this shameful activity, a group of South Africa residents decided to form an organisation entitled The Rhino Ride, the premise of which was to help raise awareness of the plight of the remaining South African rhino population.One of the proposed aims of The Rhino Ride was simple but unique. By visiting major European motorcycle tour operators specialising in African tours, they hoped to raise funding in a simple and sustainable manner. In effect this means tour operators can contribute over the course of the year up until the next ride (and beyond) for every person that they send to southern Africa. As a purely self-funded organisation any monies realised would not go directly to The Rhino Ride project but allocated to wildlife protection foundations that meet strict criteria set out by The Rhino Ride. In the early half of 2014, the Rhino Ride’s first project was close to fruition.The Rhino Ride’s riding team was to be made up of two men, Nicki de Wet and Andre Barnard Jnr, with female and recent bike licence holder Riette van Zyl. With tour company details, names and their hearts full of hope, the three friends were ready to visit Europe. But there was a slight concern in the form of transport once they’d reached Europe and the countries earmarked to visit (Netherlands, Belgium and Germany). With this in mind, The Rhino Ride approached BMW Motorrad with a request for motorcycle loans while in Europe.“Two people were absolutely instrumental in making this project possible,” says Andre Barnard Jnr. “We approached BMW Motorrad in South Africa where I got to meet the Marketing Manager, Greg Coetzee. I had less than 30 minutes to pitch the project to him during a trip to Johannesburg. Greg in turn put me in contact with Michaela Briggs of BMW Motorrad Brand Experience. We met in Munich prior to the ride to discuss the details of the project. She was absolutely brilliant and a joy to work with, and the end result was that BMW Motorrad was able to supply two machines to enable us to carry out the project.”In July 2014, the riding team arrived in Munich and linked up with staff from BMW Motorrad and collected the allocated test fleet motorcycles. “Our initial idea,” says Andre, “was to have three GS models – two R 1200 GS and one F 700 GS. But at the eleventh hour, Riette decided to pillion instead of riding herself, not really trusting her riding skill on foreign soil so soon after getting her license. In retrospect it turned out to be the best decision because the days got long and with all the daily meetings the distances grew and tiredness crept in.”In just under one month, the team of The Rhino Ride met and spoke with many touring promoters. Support for their project was plenty – not just from the companies but everyone they met on the ride. But the goal for touring companies to contribute over the course of the year up until the next ride (and beyond) for every person that they send to Southern Africa was deemed a huge success. Verbal and written agreements will soon be underlined with contracts.Talking about future plans, Andre Barnard Jnr says: “As The Rhino Ride project is self-funded and all about the cause, we do not accept any funds or sponsorships ourselves. Instead contributions go directly to the foundation of choice. When we started The Rhino Ride we only supported The Wilderness Foundation. Since then we have also signed up Chipembere Rhino Foundation in South Africa with support effective from 2 January 2015. Being from Namibia, I also wanted to include a rhino foundation in Namibia, especially now that poaching is rife here following years of no such issues. We should be able to make an announcement in the next few weeks on the name of the foundation.”The Rhino Ride team are currently looking at undertaking a similar ride in 2015, taking in the same countries – to keep the momentum going – and possibly the UK as well. Locally in South Africa, the team has also gained further support from the bike touring industry which aids connection to the European partners. Part of the 2015 plans is to ride in such a way to bridge the time between the Touratech Event and BMW Motorrad Days 2015 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where The Rhino Ride is hoping to exhibit with project partners.The Rhino Ride has also teamed up with Swartberg Biking, an upmarket motorcycle tour operator in South Africa. In October 2015, Swartberg Biking will offer a special rhino-focused motorcycle tour throughout southern Africa. Among other rhino-related inclusions, riders who join this tour will have the opportunity to spend time with the Rhino Anti-Poaching Unit on a private game reserve in Victoria Falls to experience first-hand the team in action. The proceeds of this tour will be donated to rhino conservation. This tour is also promoted in the Touratech worldwide brochure for 2015.Meanwhile, the friendship between BMW Motorrad and The Rhino Ride has grown stronger. The riding team was recently invited to the opening of the new Donford BMW Motorrad flagship store in Cape Town, the first of its kind worldwide. With close ties being forged between the dealership and The Rhino Ride, it looks likely that a wider Motorrad fan base will get to hear more about the fantastic work undertaken by The Rhino Ride ...Website Facebook
January 2015 | © BMW Motorrad
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