Askari Wa Kifaru

The story so far: Rhino, lion, elephant, leopard and buffalo are the Big Five of Africa. But even their enormous size and power do not help them to fight man armed with a gun. These animals are hunted by greedy and cruel poachers who sell their horns, tusks, meat or skin for huge sums of money. SPOOK members are in South Africa now to save the big black rhino from becoming extinct. Kea has a plan which he now shares with a rhino, Askari Wa Kifaru and his friends. Can this idea really work? Read on…

Weta jumped up and down, his long antenna shaking in excitement. “What is it? What is the big plan?” he asked eagerly. Kea’s round eyes gleamed in the beam of the torchlight. “Weta, imagine you are a poacher… you are mean, greedy and you will stop at nothing to get what you want. At the same time, you are afraid of being caught and punished. What is the best way to catch you?”

Weta was puzzled. “But I am not a poacher,” he protested.

Tuatara cut in, “Stupid! Kea only asked you to imagine yourself to be a poacher.”

The oxpecker thought deeply about this question. “You know something – if I were a poacher I wouldn’t dare enter the forest. I will find an easy way to get rhino horns or elephant tusks.

Umm… I may buy them at a shop!”

Kaka screeched in delight. “That’s it! We will set up a shop outside the forest that would sell ‘spare parts’ for animals.”

“That was exactly my idea. Of course, the spare parts wouldn’t be real but they would be original duplicates,” exclaimed Kea proudly.

Ms. Kiwi nodded in approval. The oxpecker and the Moa-ists set to work quickly. They painted a big sign board which read ‘Lost your horns? Tooth missing? Tusks gone? Antlers broken? No worries! Visit our new outlet – SPARE ME – to get replacements. Follow the signs!’ P.S. Poachers may also buy rhino horns, elephant tusks etc. with little effort and no risk. They placed the sign board under a lamp on a highway close to the forest.

In less than a week, the SPOOK team set up a shop for ‘spare parts’ inside a shanty hut at the edge of the forest. There was an air of suppressed excitement in the air. Would poachers really take the bait? It hoped so.

On a cool night, the animals heard cracking of twigs under someone’s feet. “Shh!” said Kea, “here they come! Everybody to remember his role!” Soon two masked men appeared with rifles under their arms. They shone their torchlight inside the hut.

“Hey, do you sell rhino horns?” asked one of them in a low gruff voice.

Kea nodded. “A set of two, one long and one short will cost you five US dollars, Sir. Ms. Kiwi, can you bring out one set please? ” The bird brought out a set after removing ‘Made in China’ sticker.

The men’s eyes widened in disbelief. This was their lucky day. They grabbed the plastic horns and dashed out of the hut, only to be surrounded by forest rangers.

“Well done, Askari Wa Kifaru! You brought the rangers in time. You deserve your name ‘Guard of the Rhino’,” cried Kaka.

It was indeed a happy night for all the animals of the forest and the big rhino dozed in the tall grass peacefully.

Published as part of a series titled SPOOK Nook in Young World, The Hindu on June 11, 2015.

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