Up close with rhinos

Up close with rhinos

A Hong Kong teenager set out alone to learn about conservationism in Africa

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Ernest Ng, 16, went on an African adventure
Ernest Ng, 16, went on an African adventure
Photos: Ernest Ng
Every year, thousands of Hong Kong students travel abroad on study or cultural exchange tours. Ernest Ng Chun-ngai did so, too - except he planned his trip by himself on a shoestring budget.

The 16-year-old, a Form Five student at Caritas Wu Cheng-chung Secondary School, wanted to travel in Africa. So he approached potential sponsors like Kenya Tourism, Gamewatchers Safaris, Porini Rhino Camp and Ethiopia Airlines.

"Ernest knows what he wants to achieve and the sponsors were very impressed," says former travel programme host Trish Thanley, who helped the youngster find sponsors.

The teen, who speaks English fluently, travelled to Africa last Christmas. He was surprised to learn that several African countries, though poor, were ahead of Hong Kong in terms of environmental protection. "I stayed at the Porini Rhino Camp inside the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya," he says. "All the electrical appliances and hot water we used in the tent were powered by solar energy, which is very environmentally friendly."

The tents, he adds, can be removed at will without damage to the environment.

A high point of his stay was watching the sunset from a nearby mountaintop. "We were near the equator and the sun set quickly. It was an amazing scene," he says.

His time in Africa strengthened Ernest's resolve to become a vet. "I saw some northern white rhinoceros, an extremely rare species. They are on the verge of extinction. Their horns are used in Chinese medicine and great demand for them from China is threatening their lives," Ernest says.

He adds: "You can't just expect locals in Africa to stop hunting and begin protecting animals. You need to create wildlife reserves for ecotourism, which will benefit locals. They will then realise that it's in their best interests to protect wildlife."

Ernest also has another mission. "I was lucky enough that some publishers gave me books in Chinese to give away to local students," he says. As China is becoming an important investor in the region, more and more African students are hoping to learn the language and even study in China.

"I chose some books in both English and Chinese about Chinese culture," Ernest says. "I hope the African students who received the books will learn about our culture."

He adds: "I would like to thank the airline for waiving a cargo fee on the books and helping me bring them to Africa."

Ernest says he plans to talk to students in Hong Kong about his experiences in Africa. "I understand that I must spread the message of how important conservation is," he says.

As for the next stop on his travel itinerary? "I will probably head to the Middle East to explore the local culture," the teenager says. "I also want to see the local animals."

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1 comment

amy lee

16:37pm

Ernest Ng's trip to Kenya sounds very exciting and he seems like a brave and resourceful boy. I would love to see the wild animals in Africa!!
Amy Lee