News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Sunday August 18th 2019

Couple to run, cycle and ride 10 000km for Rhinos

Lloyd Gillespie and Isabel Wolf-Gillespie visit orphaned rhinos at the Hluhluwe Nature Reserve. They are planning a trip around Southern Africa to raise awareness and funds for rhino protection. Photo: WCN

Lloyd Gillespie and Isabel Wolf-Gillespie visit orphaned rhinos at the Hluhluwe Nature Reserve. They are planning a trip around Southern Africa to raise awareness and funds for rhino protection. Photo: WCN


Natal-Midlands husband and wife team Lloyd Gillespie and Isabel Wolf-Gillespie are planning to ride, run and cycle right through Southern Africa between May and September this year to raise awareness and funds to help protect endangered rhinos.

Planning an approximately 10,000km journey, the Gillespies are hoping to cover 100km per day. In order to do this they are going to be attempting to run a half marathon (21km), cycle 50-60km, and ride their horses for a further 20km for every day that they are on the move.

“There are going to be some rest days,” says Isabel, “and a back up vehicle for the horses.”

Isabel’s primary concern is not her ability to bear the intense exercise, but, like a true equinophile, for the comfort of her horses.

“The most important thing for us is that the horses are never pushed to do more than they can do.”

The couple will be taking four horses on their epic journey, two each, and the horses will divide the daily 20km rides, doing half each. In July 2009 the Gillespies (unmarried at the time) set off on a year and a half trip on horseback around the perimeter of South Africa in aid of African Horse Sickness (AHS), an endemic horse disease.

Big Ben, Himba and Roan were three of the horses that went on the Riding for Horses ride, and 2 Socks is joining them as a Rhino Knight stead.

Starting the journey in Durban, the route will take them to Cape Town, then up into Namibia as high as the Kunene River on the border of Angola and then past Victoria Falls along through Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and then south back to Durban.

On the last leg of the journey the couple will be visiting Hluhluwe iMfolozi Game Reserve, which has become synonymous with the Rhino Conservation movement after the project Operation Rhino (which relocated Natal rhinos in small breeding groups across the country) was launched there in the 1960s.

Rhino Knights’ Run’n Ride for Rhinos is supporting three charity initiatives, the “three cornerstones of Rhino conservation”.

“The first is the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation, which keeps anti-poaching helicopters over the reserves in Zulu Land. The second is an intelligence project: The Magqubu Ntombela Foundation, which gathers information from local communities around the game reserves – they are the ones with a lot of information about strangers in the area. It is an initiative of Dr Ian Player.

“The third project we are supporting is Edu Wild, which is a chapter of The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization. They are making an educational film about Rhino conservation for the East. The demand for the horns comes from Asia, so it’s really important to try to educate people in those countries where there is high demand for rhino horn. There is also some interest in having a production company come on the Run ’n Ride with us and make a series on the journey,” said Isabel.

Rhinos have lived on earth for around 50 million years and man is their only natural predator. Poachers killed over 455 rhinos in South Africa last year, and another 57 rhinos have already been illegally killed this year, driven by demand from affluent markets in the middle and Far East for the horn.

The Gillespies are currently trying to raise sponsorship. They are trying to get South African Sport onboard by contributing a small amount of the entrants’ fees from all the sporting events held in the country.

“If we could get just R1 per entrant per sporting event, that would make a huge difference,” says Isabel. “There are 20 000 participants in the Comrades Marathon, R1 from every entrance fee would be a huge for us.”

The next three months are going to be the most important for the couple’s training. “We’re going to be running 15km every second day and spinning a lot at the gym. We’ve also been talking about dietary requirements – there is going to be a high energy out put, so we’ll have to put a lot back in.”

Lloyd Gillespie’s training, however, has had a bit of a slow start: “we got married last March,” says Isabel, “Lloyd was doing the Impi Dance with all his cousins and brothers and he smacked his foot on the ground. It’s only just coming right now.”

Members of the public are being encouraged to sign up and join the Gillespies on a leg of their remarkable journey.

Dr Ian Player, an internationally renowned conversationalist, who has been involved in Rhino conservation since the 1950s, is supporting the Run’n Ride initiative.

Player has been a mentor for the couple, “he gave us advice and shared his incredible knowledge on the three projects we are supporting”, says Isabel.

“In my eyes they are heroic people, but they take little credit for themselves and instead they praise the wonderful horses that they ride upon,” writes Dr Player.

The couple are focusing their time on getting ready for the Rhino Knights’ Run’n Ride for Rhinos and on their Equine Outreach Project, which runs equine health clinics and education and skills development for people with horses in the rural Transkei.

Katie de Klee




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