South African native to swim 15 km in Ontario for rhino conservation

WATCH ABOVE: 44-year old Geoff Hodgson was born and raised in South Africa. His passion for the mistreatment of rhinos is so strong he’s decided to take on Lake Kashagawigamog this Saturday. The 15 km swim will raise funds and awareness for Rhinos Without Borders. Susan Hay has the story.

TORONTO — After nine months of waking up at 4:30 a.m. to start his training, Geoff Hodgson will attempt to swim 15 km across Lake Kashagawigamog this Saturday, for an incredible cause.

Hodgson’s swim will start at a bridge in Ingoldsby, Ont. at 7 a.m., and finish in the park at Head Lake, in the town of Haliburton, between noon and 1 p.m.

“I grew up in Africa, I spent a lot of time out in the bush, looking at a lot of animals and the rhinos are part of the big five, and it’s a tragedy what’s happening to the rhinos,” said Hodgson.

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“In the last five years, poaching has increased from seven rhinos a year to over 2,100 rhinos a year”.

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Hodgson aims to raise $7,500 to donate to Rhinos Without Borders, an initiative of the Great Plains Foundation.

Hodgson has always been an avid athlete, but never a swimmer.

But his passion for the mistreatment of rhinos is so strong, that he felt he had to do something.

So after struggling with a number of knee issues, he decided to take up the sport of swimming last November.

“He’ll have no problem finishing the race,” said Eric Vanderbeek, Hodgson’s swim coach.

“It’s just gonna be all mental, trying to stay focused because it’s a long, quiet way for the five or six hours when you’re out on the lake by yourself.”

Caitlin Carter, a Great Plains Foundation board member, said “there are approximately 20,000 white rhino left in the wild, and 4,000 black … that’s it”.

Rhinos Without Borders was started to offset a “detrimentally high increase in rhino poaching in certain areas of Africa,” and takes “an emergency intervention approach” Carter said.

The ultimate goal of this initiative is to relocate a minimum of 100 rhinos from high-poaching areas in South Africa, by airlifting the animals to safe havens in Botswana.

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“It costs $45,000 to relocate one rhino, my goal is to raise $500 a kilometre,” said Hodgson.

“Hopefully with the help of all the other people raising money, we’ve just added to the pot”.

Contributions to this cause can be made to Trevolta, a commission-free donation site, and are welcome before and after the event.

Hodgson asks that people who donate add a message in the comments section about his swim so he is able to track them.

“There’s a lot of people who want to make a small difference,” said Hodgson.

“I think if we all did a little bit, we could get a long way.”

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