Nedbank Save the Rhino Trail Run is wildly Successful

Words: Sonja Otto ǀ Photos: Bruce Viaene

Trail Running


In the minds of animal lovers across the world, South Africa is synonymous with the ‘Big Five’. Tourists from all over the world continue to flock to the country, mainly because they want to see lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo, and leopard roaming around freely in their natural habitat. In doing so, these tourists create job opportunities for many South Africans.



Unfortunately, it seems that in the foreseeable future, South Africa might only be able to boast the ‘Big Four’. The number of rhinos being poached in South Africa increases monthly despite all the government and other attempts to curb it. It has been reported that a total of 367 rhinos have been killed during the first five months of this year. With only about 20,000 rhinos remaining, extinction is looming. Last year 668 rhinos were killed, compared to 448 in 2011.


With the black market price of rhino horn, now reportedly in the region of $30,000 per pound ($65,000 per kg), which is more than the price of gold, trafficking has become a huge global business. Despite the tightening of security measures and a range of strategies devised to counter the gruesome trend, there is no sign of the onslaught letting up. According to a worst case scenario prediction, up to 911 rhinos could be killed in South Africa this year.


Fortunately, there are many people who are not prepared to give up the fight to save the South African rhino. Two such people are Hano Otto and I from TriSport. We approached Nedbank with proposals for a two-day trail run event, to be held on 20 and 21 July, as well as a one-day option on the Sunday of a 10 km or 23 km; and a two-day mountain bike event on 19 and 20 October, as well as a one-day option of 50 km or 20 km, both at the Legend Entabeni Safari Lodge in Limpopo. With Nedbank agreeing to sponsor these events, all entry fees will be donated directly to the WWF Green Trust fund in aid of rhino conservation.


Lucky Miya and Carla van Huyssteen were the inaugural winners of the Nedbank Save the Rhino two-day trail run at the Entabeni Big Five Game Reserve, in Limpopo, on 20 and 21 July. Miya had no problems whatsoever to win the Men’s race. In the words of the legendary Muhammad Ali, he ‘floated like a butterfly’ up the steep Legend Gorge climb and over the loose rocks and thick sand to ensure his victory. One spectator declared in awe that Miya’s running style was ‘poetry in motion’. He makes running look oh so easy. Miya said, "I really enjoyed the two days of running, especially because the routes we ran were so varied. Running up the steep Legend Gorge climb was a real challenge, but going down the same gorge was actually much harder on one’s legs. The first day’s run was quite technical. You really had to watch your step." One of the most amazing moments experienced by the athletes on day one was when they reached the second water station at the Hanglip viewpoint. From there they could see the true majesty of the bushveld and the Waterberg stretching out for kilometres on end.


Dreyer van Huyssteen finished second on both days and was second overall as well. Mazu Ndandani was third on day one as well as on day two.



Carla van Huyssteen was the first woman to finish in both races. Anita O’ Brien was second in the first stage of the Women’s race, with Takalani Ndandani third. On day two, the three top women were involved in an intense battle, running shoulder to shoulder during most of the race. Van Huyssteen bided her time and when they reached the golf course, she accelerated and left her rivals behind.


Patrick Baransky, sponsorship manager at Nedbank, who loves to be involved in the thick of things, also ran. He said he thoroughly enjoyed himself. According to Patrick, Nedbank is thrilled to be involved with the Save the Rhino Trail Run for two reasons. "Firstly, the event promotes health and wellness and this obviously suits the runners who are keen to stay in shape. Secondly, it is an effort to help ensure the survival of the rhino, which obviously fits in with Nedbank’s green credentials. We have a long-term commitment with various green projects. One of them is the WWF Green Trust."


When asked whether it ever occurred to him that he was running in 'Big Five' country, Baransky replied, "No, but there was a moment when I was suffering so much that I would not have minded if an elephant put me out of my misery. I actually think that we, as runners, were quite safe because we smell funny and also make a lot of noise." There were game rangers with vehicles strategically placed all over the place and even if the runners ran quite close to the elephants and lion’s, the game rangers knew exactly where they were. If it was necessary, the route would have been adjusted and changed to ensure the safety of the racers. Hano and I both felt that a pride of three lions, one male and two females, as well as a herd of six elephants and one rhino went the extra mile to spice things up.


In his briefing, Hano smilingly recounted how difficult it was to keep the routes well marked before the races, to ensure that no athlete got lost. It seemed as if the lions had a competition to see which of them was able to destroy the most route markers. Otto held up signs with big teeth marks in them to make the runners aware that they truly were in lion country. Some of the markers simply disappeared and it was suspected that the inquisitive lions were guilty of the theft. During the second day, a rhino apparently took exception to a sign that was in his way and pushed it down. He did not seem to realise that the intruders were actually trying to ensure his survival.


But it was the elephants that caused Otto to experience some truly nervous moments. They were grazing on one of the game paths on which the athletes were meant to run. Otto’s challenge was to persuade the elephants to make way for the athletes. Luckily, Philip Botha, the game warden responsible for game management, was on hand. He calmly walked into the bush and vocally encouraged the elephants to follow him. And they did! Merely five minutes before the first athlete came jogging along, the elephants were happily grazing a few hundred metres further on. According to Botha, the obedience of the elephants is not so strange. "I have been working with them over the past three years. In winter, when the conditions are dry and the food scarce, we sometimes have to feed them. I guess they have become used to having me around them."


The overall event was a great success and we are looking forward to the two-day mountain bike event in October. We hope to see you there.


For more information on the two-day mountain bike event on 19 and 20 October 2013, visit