The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
The /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (ARTP) recently entered yet another unchartered territory. From the 29th of July to the 3rd of August 2012, nine staff members from ARTP partner agencies – Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) and South African National Parks (SANParks) participated in intensive emergency medical aid and rescue training at the Ai-Ais Resort in Namibia. The training was offered by two highly experienced rescue practitioners from Western Cape Metro Rescue’s West Coast Region, Morne Basson and Charl Nieuwoudt.
Situated in an arid and unforgivingly rugged area, ARTP has had to deal with a numerous cases of tourists getting in distress. There are quite a number of anecdotes of tourists, especially hikers, getting lost, fracturing limbs, falling ill or running into one or the other medical emergency. Even trusted 4×4’s often suffer breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. The majority of the incidents take place in the world-famous Fish River Canyon.
How ARTP personnel – MET, NWR and SANParks – were able to deal with these cases for all these years is a small miracle. Apart from some first aid training that some individuals had, these staff members have been dealing with rescue and casualty evacuation cases with no formal training and without professional rescue equipment.
In order to address this situation, the Park Managers’ Committee (PMC) of ARTP, saw the need for providing professional training to selected ARTP staff from the said institutions. The PMC, with the help from SANParks, managed to secure the said professional trainers at no cost to ARTP.
The course covered following aspects:
Basic first aid focusing on aspects that ARTP staff can realistically do in cases of medical emergency, given the limited resources/equipment at their disposal as well as the remoteness of the area;
Water rescue – with a focus on the Orange River;
General search and rescue techniques/procedures; and
Rope access and abseiling.
Training involved theoretical lessons, demonstrations and practical work. For example, a highly advanced dummy was used in CPR lessons while water rescue techniques were practised in the Ai-Ais Resort’s massive swimming pool.
Rope access and abseiling practises were first done at 3m-high gabions at Ai-Ais and when the trainers “got the hang of it”, they moved to the small canyon where they had to descend and ascend on a 30m-high canyon wall.
The trainers also advised the PMC on standard rescue equipment required. It is the PMC’s sincere hope that they will succeed in obtaining approval from the respective government agencies to procure this equipment as soon as practically possible in order to be able to better assist tourists to the area.